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Event Management Tips: Planning for and Managing an Incident or Emergency On-Site During an Event

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In my last tip I outlined the importance of having a back-up plan when organising an event. In that post I reviewed the natural occurrences that can disrupt an event, such as adverse weather, and man-made concerns like bomb threats or terrorist activity.

In this blog I am going to discuss why it is important for Event Managers to plan for a major incident or emergency, especially in these days of terrorist attacks. It is the event manager’s responsibility to make sure all visitors and workers are not exposed to health and safety risks. This includes during the event and during the setup and takedown of the event for those who have access at those times.

The level of planning for an emergency will be dependent on the size and scale of the event as well as other factors including the degree of risk, the audience, the location of the event and its duration. A safety plan should be created that references all these aspects.

It is important to communicate all your plans with your employees and the events team during the planning. The plan should designate who is responsible for the various aspects of safety if an incident arises, as well as the communication paths and decision-making structure.

Good communication and liaison is important in order to share how risks will be controlled with the venue, management, emergency services and suppliers. It is also needed to communicate your prepared safety plan effectively.
This link gives an example of a guidance note for event organisers when producing an event emergency plan.

Planning for incidents and emergencies at an event

emergency excit

Planning for Event Staff:

  • Create an event handbook
  • Know your location – understand the threats
  • Check venue security provisions are in place
  • Instigate a direct line of reporting in an emergency
  • Make sure all staff have emergency phone numbers for both event staff, venue and emergency services stored in their mobile phone contacts
  • Make sure staff know the emergency exits and first aid points
  • Confirm staff next of kin and passport details are up to date
  • Carry some cash at all times as this may be needed in an emergency
  • Download CitizenAid app on mobile phone
  • Risk Assessment: Consider the key risks, both for staff and delegates, include contingency plans to deal with situations of limited impact as well as responses to more serious emergencies
  • Produce and share emergency procedures with your staff, as well as incorporating the venue’s emergency procedures. Ensure that all relevant staff members understand what they should do in the event of an emergency, no matter what their normal working role is, including raising the alarm. Identify to them the location of exits and emergency equipment. They should know from whom they should receive instructions etc.
  • Have a pre-event briefing with all staff, show the National Counter-terrorism office video Run Hide and Tell
  • Pre-event make sure you charge phones and battery packs
  • Have radios on back-up in case the network goes down
  • Be mindful of local staff who may be affected as the incident is occurring in their local area or city

The Emergency Plan

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This should cover the following depending on the size and location of the event:

  • Mobilising onsite resources to attend and tackle the incident
  • Removing people from immediate danger
  • The management of any casualties including providing medical assistance
  • Raising the alarm and informing the public and telling staff what they need to do. It is worth having a code that you only use to tell staff there is an incident
  • Alerting and assisting emergency services
  • Incident control
  • Traffic management, including emergency vehicles
  • Controlling crowds and attendees including evacuation if safe to do so. If the incident is terrorist related you may need to instigate lock-down – follow instructions from the emergency services
  • Evacuation of disabled people and other vulnerable classes of people including children who may become separated from their parents. Plan for additional assistance requirements
  • Handing over to the emergency services where applicable
    Dealing with displaced and non-injured attendees; if in lock-down provide refreshments
  • Protecting property
  • Ensure that the plan is flexible to cope with changes in events
  • The plan for emergency situations should set out the overall framework for the initiation, management, co-ordination and control of personnel and assets in an emergency onsite

Emergency Procedures

  • Check all escape routes are available, well lit, unlocked and unobstructed
  • Appoint people to be responsible for implementing the emergency procedures in the event of an incident or emergency
  • Ensure that a clear management structure is place, identifying the key decision makers
  • Discuss plans with the police, fire and rescue service, the ambulance service, emergency planning and, for fixed premises such as stadiums and arenas, the venue management
  • Agree with the emergency services on issues such as access routes to the site, the use of any grid-referenced maps, rendezvous points, and transfer of authority for a major incident from the event organiser to the emergency services
  • Stopping the show/conference: Identify key people and initiate a show-stop procedure, communicate with presenters and attendees; have an agreed public announcement for this.
  • Evacuation – Remain calm and encourage attendees to keep calm. Work as a team. If evacuation is required direct people towards emergency exits
  • Lock-down: After stopping the conference or show direct people to a safe area within the building; explain to attendees why it is not safe to leave. Provide refreshments if required. Keep in contact with the police and emergency services regarding the situation
  • Review after the incident. If incident impact has been limited you may be able to start the show or event again. Only restart after consultation with emergency services. Make sure staff and services are ready and in position for the restart
    After an Incident
  • If evacuation proves necessary, make sure delegates are assembled in the correct holding area, check everyone is alright. Listen to emergency services for information about when to release attendees
  • If in lock down make sure attendees have refreshments, if in a hotel check whether bedrooms are available, work with the venue or hotel operations management
  • Only allow people to leave when instructed to do so by the emergency services
  • Assist delegates if they require accommodation, transportation, flights etc…
  • Have a debrief afterwards with events staff as well as venue see what went well and what can be improved upon.
  • Review incident and emergency plans for future events

Find out more
B2B Event Management Logistics Tips – Risk Assessment, Health and Safety, insurance and contingency planning

Health and Safety Executive and Excellent Government website on event safety and emergency procedures

Managing an event

Incidents and Emergencies

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Why it is so important to have a back-up plan when organising events, and how to deal with problems

Now that winter is here it has reminded me how important it is to have a back-up plan. Unforeseen circumstances can affect your event causing them not to run to order.

Along with risk assessment and health and safety is always advisable to have a plan B.  So many outside circumstances can affect your event.  It is also very important to make sure whatever event you are holding that you have the right kind of insurance cover which includes cancellation.  You should also have all the details of attendee emergency contact details and a detailed process for a disaster with line of management contacts and a plan for implementation.

  • Natural Problems -Weather is a factor outside of our control, especially if organising an outdoor event, you should always have an alternative plan in case the event cannot go ahead outside.
    • Snow can affect not just transportation of delegates getting to an event; it can delay speakers or key attendees attending.  Remember to consider the date and time of year you are holding your event. How probable is weather going to affect your event by blocked roads due to snow or heavy rain causing flooding.
    • Winter time can also be a time when people tend to get colds or flu.  Have a back-up if your key speaker is unable to attend.  You may have to change to another speaker or the order of the programme.
    • Heatwave – It is lovey to have sunshine for your event but too much heat can also be dangerous.  Make sure you have plenty of cover and shade, fans or air conditioning, plenty of water for people to drink.
    • Fire can also affect a venue or area, be aware of previous history of any of these events to the venue/location.
    • Drought can cause water shortages and some areas have to reduce the availability of water.  You may need to use bottled water instead of jugs of tap water for drinking.
    • Strong winds can affect power as well as transportation to an event and if you are holding an event outside you need to make sure all power cables and marquees and free-standing temporary buildings, posts, signage, fencing etc… are anchored.

 

  • Man Made Problems – A Strike this can affect the venue, staffing, and public transportation to an event.
  • Terrorism – if travelling abroad check with government websites regarding travelling to certain countries.
  • Politics – streets being closed due to protestors, check with local authorities and police as to what is being affected.
  • Power outage – hopefully this can be temporary but always check with venue what they do in the event of this happening do they have back-up generators?
  • Fire – At venue make sure that you are aware of all emergency exits and also the drill in where to meet should this occur.
  • Health – If required have a medical team and ambulance on site.  Ill health or food poisoning, check all food standards and certification, know where the nearest Dr Surgery, hospital etc…
  • Security – make sure that you have the right level of security in place whether it is security on access or if an exhibition make sure expensive equipment is secured.

On the whole most of the time the event will run according to plan, but the better prepared you are the better the outcome should the unexpected happen.

 

Corporate reasons for having a conference

Conferences-And-Meetings

There can be many business reasons why a company should consider having a conference, and events are an important part of the marketing mix.  Listed below are some marketing reasons for holding a conference or seminar that a company or organisation may use to promote.

Reasons for a conference could be:

  • A medium for passing on information, specifically for new products and services
  • Internal communication to employees regarding internal information, such as training, boosting morale, making announcements, launch a new culture
  • Used by associations to network and educate their members
  • Yearly or quarterly way to communicate with their sales force, partners or distributors
  • A forum for discussing world issues or topical subjects

An example of benefits for the business client to attend a software companies conference or seminar

  • Excellent communication forum for the end user, ability to meet senior managers from the corporation,  to get advise, discuss business propositions, get answers straight from the software engineers, product developers
  • Ability to fast track communications to the highest level
  • Good for the client to feel that they are having an impact on the future direction of the company and its products in relation to their requirements
  • Excellent for networking and meeting other users and hearing their business experiences, share ideas, solutions to problems
  • Good for education and increasing knowledge of the products and business environment
  • The event enables the attendee to build up a picture of the quality of the company products or services

Benefits from the Companies perspective

  • One of the marketing vehicles for increasing regular communications with both current, new and potential customer
  • A platform enabling the company to know the client better and understand their business needs for the portfolio of products and services that they are developing
  • Make the customer feel that they are being listened to and giving the company first hand research into the future product direction
  • Excellent PR opportunity to made customer feel important and build on loyalty and customer relationship by sponsoring a drinks reception and dinner
  • Good opportunity to get the TPV/Resellers involved promoting the companies products and making them more involved with the clients, as well as strengthening the business alliance
  • Opportunity to increase sales of products with users through workshops demonstrations
  • Event feedback should be measured against the objectives to understand the bench mark for the next event.  All events should be reviewed and measured to see if it has been a good marketing vehicle for ROI, and how to improve on future events.

First things to consider when producing a memorable small business event

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When organising a small business event much of the time is spent in the planning of that event whether it is a workshop, seminar, small exhibition with speakers, and your events success is all down to the planning and in the details.

First decide upon your target Audience:  You need to define who your target audience is.  This will be the start for all your other decisions, such as format, content, price and location etc..  Being structured will enable you to stay focused on achieving your goals.

Have a clear business purpose for holding your event:  You have to be clear on why you are doing this event, as every decision will support your mail goal:

  • Is it a medium for passing on information, educating your market
  • New products or services release
  • Create brand awareness
  • A way to meet new customers/prospects and gather sales leads
  • PR opportunity, a way to make customers feel important build on loyalty
  • Involve third party vendors and resellers, strengthening business alliances

Create SMART goals:  always start with strategy; this will need to be measurable.  You need to know what is you are trying to achieve, outline what you are aiming for, then make sure that you follow this through to enable you to reach your goals.

Check other industry event when they are scheduled:  Check the calendar for dates, no bank holidays, or school holidays etc..   Check other events that your target audience might be interested in attending.

Know your budget:  Know how you are going to pay for the event.  The cost will depend on the number of attendees you will have.  Is the event funded by sponsorship, ticket sales, collaboration with other companies?  You will need to create a budget before looking for a venue.  Remember to add all expenses not just the meeting room such as food and beverage, audio visual etc..

Decide on type of venue for the event:  Know your event size, location, how easy is it for your attendees to get to this venue?  You may have to be flexible on this depending on availability and how the event may change in size.

Make a checklist of the details:  The checklist needs to contain everything you are planning for the event.  Are you are going to do all this your-self, or just certain parts? Event management logistics that needs to be considered include:

  • Programme content of the event
  • Putting together a Gantt chart showing time lines with action points, responsibility and critical dates
  • Marketing the event – the invitation process to include attendee invitation and registration
  • Registration management – client lists
  • Venue liaison to include:
    Room set up
    Audio Visual requirements
    Food and beverage
    Running order for breaks, luncheon, reception
    Logistics of getting materials to the conference venue
  • Speaker management including co-ordination of speakers, presentation, hand outs
  • Production of delegate documentation including delegate packs and badges

The organisation of an event is a project planning process.  Like all projects it will grow and develop and you have to be flexible but still keep your eye on the ball as with all events that are going to happen at a certain time and all has to be ready and in place for this time.  Checking and re-checking is so important to make sure that you have covered as many eventualities.  Remember your events success is in the details.

 

Tips on Running a Successful Conference: Measurement of Return of Investment ROI on a conference

In this blog we will follow on from the previous tip where we looked at setting Objectives for ROI to review the measurement of ROI objectives, incorporating different  levels of ROI Methodology used to measure ROI of an event.

As mentioned in the previous tip on setting objectives for ROI which is another way of expressing the contribution to profit made by an event.  The profit is the net value created by the event minus the event costs.  ROI is the profit expressed as a percentage of the cost of the event.

Measuring Level 0, Target Audience

  • The target audience should be the right people attending the event.  They are the ones with the greatest learning and behaviour gap in the potential participants.
    • The target audience is therefore defined by a method of deduction from desired behaviour (level3) and required learning (level2)
    • Measuring that have the right target audience, the post event evaluation could ask the question ‘To what extend is the topic of this session relevant to you job?’ Or ‘ How much of what was covered in this session did you already know?’

 Measuring Level 1, Delegate Satisfaction and Learning Environment:

Normally the delegates satisfaction is measured by asking the questions as to whether they were satisfied with the facilities of the venue, the logistics of organising the conference, such as registration and information sent, content of the sessions, the topics covered, quality of speakers, enough time for discussion and Q&A, was networking beneficial?

The learning environment is very important in the learning of the delegates and the changes in their behaviour which will provide value to the stakeholder.

Level 2 – Learning

  • Learning in events comes under that of information, skills attitudes and relationship learning, this can be done by self reporting.  Questions such as indicate on a percentage scale your level of knowledge or skill both before and after the session.
  •  Attitude learning, can include questions which indicate changes in brand perception, where the respondent expresses his degree of agreement or disagreement with an attitude statement, using the Likert statements.
  • Relationship learning refers to the building of affinity between people, getting to know others, trust and liking, the answers could be scored on a scale from very low to very high

Level 3 – Behaviour

  • Behaviour is the application of learning but either stop doing something, doing something differently or something new as a form of their learning experience.
  • Behaviour is often best measured by observation, e.g. if the delegates has learnt how to set up a website, and he claims to understand and remember well enough the steps and procedure to put into practice, by using learning measured by self reporting you could at some time later see if he has used the processes learnt

Planned Actions

It is useful to measure the intended application immediately after learning, with question such as ‘How do you plan to use what you have just learned?  Also by suggesting possible actions and asking delegates to consider whether they are likely to follow this through, question delegates if there are any barriers to these planned actions or if there are enablers

Level 4 Impact

  • The business impact is the very reason for which the event was designed, such as increased sales to new clients or wider range of products to existing customers, increased customer penetration, or customer loyalty. Internal events such as team building are likely to reduce costs as their business impact.  The impact data may be obtained from accounts of the company sales performance.
  • For measurement of business impact then one has to isolate the effect of the meeting to know if the sales when up after the customer event that it was this and not for example a new advertisement campaign. The best method of doing this is to have a control group, comparing the results from one group which attended and the other that did not.  For this to be reliable then the groups need to be closely matched to see if they respond in the same way or if other influences and difference was due to the event.
  • Some business impacts are monetary like sales, others which are intangible need to be converted into money values for ROI calculation. Such as reduced employee turnover or absenteeism after an event, motivation of staff.  This can lead to time saving cost per hour, recruitment by the HR department.
  • Impact values when expressed in monetary value deducted from the total cost of the event you will get the profit or loss for the event. The profit or loss value is the same costs as the percentage of the ROI figure.  The return is the impact value and the investment is the total cost.

The benefit of applying ROI methodology will always out way the costs.  It forces you to be precise in setting event objectives when planning the event, these are clear and measurable, resulting in the event programme focusing on achieving them, thereafter improving each event when applying the measurable results

Conference & Seminar Tips: Social Events at a conference

Social Event information required before the conference

  • When you are planning what social events you are going to do in conjunction with a conference you need to decide are they optional or part of the programme? Are they sponsored or do the delegates pay for these?  Are they on-site at the conference venue or at another venue?
  • Once the above has been decided they you can plan what sort of event to have in the programme, what are the objectives, budget  what is the theme,  is it for delegates only or can partners accompany the delegate?  If off site you will need to arrange a site visit to chose the  appropriate venue for the event.  Other  arrangements will include transportation and any entertainment, decide on F&B, plus staff to manage the event.
  • Once the social programme has been decided and arranged then it is important to get all the information from the delegates prior to arriving onsite.  A booking form should be available on the website to sign up for the event.  Information required on the booking form should include:
  • An information sheet outlining the social event or activity, so delegates can understand what they are signing up for
  • Name and contact details of delegate, time and dates of activities, if bringing a partner their details also required
  • Dietary and or any allergies, disabilities
  • If activities are to be organised do they bring any equipment or require specific clothing,  or are these provided?
  • If a drinks reception or banquet dinner is  part of the programme, you might decide to send a personalised  invitation
  • A spread sheet database should be set up to record all the information so the event manager has this data to refer to when onsite and when letting venue know of numbers
  • Confirmation email should be sent out to confirm booking and any relevant information the delegates needs to know about the event or activity
  •  Relevant transportation if required needs to be booked.  If the event has a late evening finish then transportation should be arranged so that delegates can leave before the end if they so wish and if coaches used then they should arrange to drop off passengers at different hotels if required .

On-Site Management

  • Depending on size of conference recommend  to have a manned information/hospitality desk in the delegates hotel, where delegates or partners  not involved in the conference can go for information on what they can do whilst at the conference city and join any site seeing tours, activities that have been arranged.
  • If using a local DMC make sure all communications numbers of guests involved are up to date with regard to the partner activities, tours, lunches etc…
  • Make sure that staff involved in managing social events are well briefed and know exactly how many delegates and guests are involved.

Conference and Seminar Tip: On-site Management of Food and Beverage

Food and Beverage Management

  • The management of F&B is probably one of the more important aspects of running a conference as delegates will remember the quality of the food as well as its quantity and variety and the punctuality of service — did the food cater to their needs and was it well presented and inviting to eat? If all of this is correctly managed the delegates will certainly feel better disposed towards the event experience.
  • It is very important to have established a good rapport with the venue banqueting manager so that the venue can understand what is required. This is necessary both pre-event in the planning and as regular follow up. During the event daily onsite meetings should take place. Good communication is essential in order to deliver the required service, provide updates on the number of attendees, finalise room layout, choose the menu, highlight delegates with specific food requirements, and to ensure that the drinks policy is understood.
  • When the delegate registers it is important to find out if they have any special dietary requirements or food allergies and to gain insight into the background and culture of the delegate in case there are implications for their food and drink needs and preferences. If specific Halal meat is required it is probably best to specify that all the meat ordered should be Halal. Specific cultural requirements must be considered so that, if necessary, pork is not on the same buffet table as other vegetarian or meat offerings. Most chefs will allow for vegetarians but if more of the delegates prefer vegetarian options to the meat choices then numbers and quantities must be adjusted.
  • If food is served as a buffet it needs to be clearly labelled to help those with allergies. The ingredients of served dishes must be clear. Serving utensils and dishes must be kept separate where necessary.
  • Most venue banqueting staff will require final numbers at least four to seven days in advance; this will be the number that your bill will be based on. It is important for the event manager to keep a tally by spreadsheet or using conference management software that details which delegates will be present for which meals. This is especially true if there is a mixture of day and 24 hour delegates, and some delegates are on dinner bed and breakfast while others are on bed and breakfast only.
  • The event manager will need to keep good record spreadsheets on the different meals to include numbers, menu, times and types of service. All should be included in the event running order for each day of the event. This needs to be kept up to date and amended as required.
  • The event manager should allocate a specific person responsible for F&B at the conference. This person should liaise every day with the venue banqueting manager double checking menus and the number of delegates as well as making clear any specific dietary requirements. They should prepare a daily update of menus, the numbers of meals required and people attending. They also need to check the room set up of tables and chairs, the number of waiting staff and the food set up before each meal. Correct room sizing for each type or food service has already been discussed in On-site management of room set up in this series of blogs.
  • Banqueting includes tea & coffee breaks and lunch and dinner. If delegates are staying overnight it will also include bar service, room service and breakfast.
  • Breakfast is normally served as a buffet for fast turnaround. If possible have a private breakfast area for conference guests away from hotel residents as they will need to be served quickly before going into the conference.
  • Coffee and tea breaks. Make sure that soft drinks and water are available and that there are plenty of cups ready and full hot coffee thermos flasks or waiter servers for the break. Put coffee dispensers at the back of the room to draw people in and put condiments at a separate table to help reducing queues. This is more important for a large conference if all the session breaks are at the same time. Delegates like to network at the breaks and there should be plenty of time allowed for them to get their coffee as well as to find the next session room.
  • Lunch. A buffet is recommended as it is usually time efficient and delegates like to be able to choose either a hot dish or a salad as well as the quantity they are served. Make sure that if lunch is seated you have enough place settings for all the delegates. If the lunch is a stand up fork or finger buffet make sure that you have bar tables or places where empty plates can be left. Also ensure that there are enough buffet tables for the number of guests to stop long queues for food. Normally only soft drinks and water are served at lunch.
  • Drinks Reception. Decide on the beverage policy and what drinks are to be offered: this can be a package price, flat delegate fee based on a range of drinks offered, or a per bottle price with specified consumption. Make sure that you have enough drinks and canapés as the amount consumed will depend on length of the reception. Check that there are plenty of soft drinks for those people not drinking alcohol.
  • Dinner is often plated and menu is pre-chosen, with specific attention given to menu variety so food is different for each day and meal. Dinner tends to be more relaxed, and often alcohol is served. A good rule of thumb for quantities is  half a bottle of wine per person. One point to note is that when using a waiter to serve wine consumption tends to be less than when leaving the bottles on the table. Make sure that water is available on the table.
  • Beverage & bar service. During the planning of the conference a decision needs to be made on what is being paid by the hosted organisation as an open bar and what is paid by the delegates, for example by way of a cash bar or payment of drinks at meal time. A drinks policy must be understood by the venue and it should be made clear who has the authority to sign off of any extra drinks, as explained in the blog on pre-planning f&b at a conference.
  • Good communication, and keeping everyone who needs to know informed of what is happening, is paramount.

Reference reading:
John G Fisher – How to run a Successful Conference