EA Network Corporate Event Planning Guides. Chapter One - Event Objectives

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1 EA Network Corporate Event Planning Guides Chapter One - Event Objectives By Jonathan McIlroy, Director, Executive Assistant Network Introduction Deciding on the key and minor objectives of an event is the single most important aspect of your planning. If you don t know exactly what outcomes you require from your event then planning for it is impossible. Like many things in event planning, the best place to start is at the end. If you were to consider putting together an evaluation form for attendees at the event or consider a report you have to provide for your manager after the event, what would you hope feedback about the event would say? Depending on the type of event, the feedback you hope to get might vary considerably. Consider comparing organising a private retreat you have arranged for executives from your organisation and from a major competitor with organising your company s Christmas party. For the former event, the key elements will be about the suitability of the space, the discretion of the staff, the responsiveness or proactive attitude of the staff basically about making sure attendees have no reason to be distracted from their discussions to think about minor seating, audio visual or catering arrangements. You may have no idea what the meeting is about, but you can be sure your executives don t want anything to happen that might negatively reflect on them. After this type of event, if your executives have nothing to say to you, you probably did a great job. And the Christmas Party? Well, attendees at that event will probably be slightly more forgiving about the quality of the food, or even the quality of the wine, so long as they aren t left hungry, thirsty or bored. Spend more time thinking about the perfect environment for people to relax and have fun than on the menu and the drinks and you will probably come up trumps. Event types and objectives Corporate Events can form an important part of a company s public relations strategy, marketing strategy, corporate profile building efforts or even business negotiation sessions. And, bizarrely, often the smaller the event, the greater its importance. So what might different objectives for a corporate event be? Here are just some of them: Entertain clients or staff Thank staff or clients Team building, staff motivation or culture building Training or skill building

2 Communicate company information or values to staff Celebrate a company achievement Cement existing business alliances Launch new products or services Promote company expertise or research findings Negotiate new business alliances or arrangements Planning or negotiating internal and interdepartmental strategies and alliances These are just a few of the different objectives you might have for an event and obviously none of these are mutually exclusive. You might have an event where you are told you will have to work with various different parts of your organisation to incorporate the communication of new core values to staff with some skills building, team building, staff thanks and staff entertainment. So if the objective is the key to every other part of the plan, including venue hire, catering, etc, then to achieve each of the objectives for the event you almost need to think about each objective separately and plan the ideal event for each element before looking at commonalities to see if you can combine them. This may not always be possible, in which case, as the event organiser, you need to inform your executives which objectives you may not be able to fully deliver on and why. Life is sometimes about exigency and often you will need to compromise on certain objectives due to cost or incompatibility with other objectives but you need to document these issues at the outset so everyone is aware. It s too late after you have booked a venue, corporate trainers, catering and beverages, audio visual and entertainment to realise that you can t deliver on one of your core objectives. Forget the details for now Once you start thinking about your event in terms of outcomes you will be amazed at how you start to look at planning events in a different way. For example, you would be amazed at how many people get caught up in the detail and start thinking first and foremost about the venue or other such details without thinking about the broader implications of that choice. Just because you find the venue of your dreams does not mean it will be compatible with all your objectives. The caterer at the venue might have an inappropriate menu or the in-house audio visual set up might be inadequate. Some venues are great for the fun side of an event but not other aspects. For example, if your CEO also needs to briefly get up to discuss a new merger or acquisition, the company results or new values and direction for the organisation, can the venue facilitate this, without a purpose built stage or podium, in such a way that the message doesn t get lost or without the presenter seeming small and inconsequential? Having learned from experience, never put a larger than life person in surroundings which diminish their stature. In summary, ahead of working out your Objectives, then considering these in line with your Event Budget and Resources and your Event Timeline, don t get hung up on the actual event details. Just because you have found the chicest or most unusual new venue in town does not mean it will be appropriate for your function.

3 Objectives planning As previously mentioned, creating a great event is about process and steps. First you work out your event objectives, then you consider these in line with your available budget and resources, and the time you have available to plan the event, and only then do you start looking at the details. Starting with the first of these, how do you ensure the event objectives are met? Well, again, whilst it may seem obvious, produce an event Objectives Summary sheet for yourself so that you know you haven t missed anything. If you imagine that instead of you organising the event you hired a professional event manager, how do you think they would start? Probably by asking you a lot of questions about why you are holding the event, who you are holding it for, what you want to achieve from the event, when it is to be held, an estimation of where you want the event to be held, or at least the rough vicinity, and other basic questions. You should do the same. Answer all these questions and then produce a summary detailing all these basics including, most importantly, what you think the major objective is your Objectives Summary report. This is the first part of your Event Plan. Once you have done this get it signed off by your executives or, if that isn t appropriate, get a colleague to have a look and do a sanity check to ensure you haven t made any obvious mistakes. This is the time where you get to find out if management haven t properly explained what they want the event to achieve. I m sure you don t need to be told that what they see in their minds and what they have communicated to you aren t always one and the same. And it is better to find out now and make changes to your plan than after you have booked a venue and paid a deposit. Example Case Study Event Objectives Summary X Company Pty Ltd (Global Multinational Company - Head Office Sydney) Brief provided in consultation between the CEO and his Executive Assistant Nature of Event 1 st Annual International General Managers Meeting. To be held in Australia. What is the event designed to achieve? Intended to communicate corporate strategy for the following year - to announce a new executive structure and to introduce new individuals - to provide a forum for the best performing divisions to discuss their activities to build better relationships between divisions in different countries to encourage better information flow between different divisions and different countries specific focus on new marketing strategies and approaches to encourage and support new younger managers and to use their vitality and enthusiasm to enthuse the whole company to celebrate previous year results and to have fun!!

4 How long is the event to be held? 3 Days and 3 Nights but not full time Is this to be strictly a formal affair? Absolutely not need to ensure attendees are relaxed need attendees to get to know each other better which can t be achieved in meeting rooms encourage the work hard, play hard mentality Who else is involved in planning the event? COO overall sign off on all aspects in charge of main sessions agenda and planning Global Marketing Director in charge of developing workshop sessions on marketing initiatives and strategies Who is attending? 51 senior managers and directors from 11 countries any person at General Management level or above from each office Is there a set budget for the event? No need to put together a plan to accomplish goals as cost effectively as possible without compromising on staff comfort or enjoyment and submit to COO for sign off When is the event to be held? Second week of November commencing Monday (date) and concluding Wednesday evening (date). Only 8 weeks away. Where is the event to be held? Australia somewhere. Needs to be reasonably near an international airport, in a suitable climate to allow for outdoor team building activities and entertainment. Case Study Background and Summary This is quite an unusual event because of the different personalities involved. The event is the brainchild of the CEO and as such he wants to keep involved so has asked his EA to organise it. The company is about to go through a major global restructure in terms of its executive structure and as such only a few people in the company can be privy to the full details of the event. An announcement regarding the restructure will only be communicated to global management one day before they fly to the event as a couple of very senior staff will have their employment contracts terminated in the restructure and consequently will not be attending the meeting. At this early stage even the CEO s EA is unaware of all the details. The only people with all the information are the CEO, COO, Global Marketing Director and the board. Looking at the summary provided by the CEO it is clearly not sufficient for the EA to get a clear understanding of all the objectives to allow her to fully plan the event. In terms of what actually happened, the EA in question had meetings with the COO and the Global Marketing Director and asked them similar questions to those she had asked the CEO and from these compiled one comprehensive Objectives Summary report.

5 The result was an event held at the Marriott Resort on the Gold Coast. The mornings consisted of some plenary sessions conducted by the CEO and COO and which afforded certain others in the company the opportunity to present case studies. The plenary sessions were held in a meeting room at the hotel with full stage and audio visuals. The Global Marketing Director and her senior manager hosted two short early afternoon workshops in smaller rooms with no stage or audio visual requirements which staff alternated between on different days. Entertainment included three dinners, one of which was a private function at Seaworld, some sporting activities including a golf challenge and a softball tournament and lots of informal entertainment including a night at the Casino and a private cocktail function at an exclusive bar as a welcome on the Sunday night. As well as organising all aspects of the event the EA made all necessary travel arrangements for all staff from around the globe to ensure they all made it to the hotel on the same day and departed on the same day. This was also so that arrangements for those who wouldn t be making the trip could be altered at late notice. Conclusion No matter the size of the event you are planning, following the same procedures and making sure you know exactly what it is your executives want to achieve from any event is vital. We recently had a conversation with two EAs about a specific private dining area in a top restaurant in Sydney. Both had received very different feedback from their executives about the restaurant when they had used it at different times. One loved it and one hated it. In delving deeper it became apparent that this had nothing to do with the service or the quality of the food but everything to do with what each executive had been trying to get out of the lunch and the size of the space relative to the number of people attending. My last piece of advice on this is to try and educate those you work with about what it is you are trying to achieve and why. Any event you produce will only ever be as good as the information brief you are provided by your executive. Until they understand that it really does matter that you know exactly why you are booking a venue you can t be guaranteed to always get it right.

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