Tag Archives: Tips

Guest Blog: How to pick the perfect giveaway for your event

Swags gotta have swags!

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If you’re anything like me, and by that I mean cheap and love freebies, you would relate marketing events and fairs to a shopping trip for practical stuff you’ll need for the coming year or so. When I’m at such events, I’m usually also on the lookout for freebies I can get concrete use out of. Swags such as pens, notepads and T-shirts are very common at events and for good reason – they’re things everyone needs on a daily basis. In other words, they’re practical. But practical as they are, you don’t always have to go for the same old pens and T-shirts. If you prefer to stand out, you could opt for more creative giveaway ideas.

The basic aim of a swag is to lure event-goers to your stand. That’s the very first step to getting people interested in what you’re offering. Hook them in with a good freebie and proceed from there. From the point of view as a freebie-consumer, you could have the most mundane and mainstream product/service and your stall could be the dullest one in the entire event hall. But if you’ve got an attractive-enough giveaway, I’m making a bee-line for you.

The last event I’d gone to was a work fair some two months ago and while I was looking forward to seeing what job offers there were out there, I was personally more excited about the freebies. They definitely fulfilled their aim of luring me to the different job stalls as I managed to score a number of interviews. But I was perhaps a little over-excited about the freebies which may have compromised my composure during the interviews!

When it comes to choosing the perfect giveaway, you could always go safe or go for something less conventional. With so many options for you to choose from, it can be rather overwhelming. Here’s one easy tip to follow – swags needs to have swag. Given that I’ve never had a green thumb nor been a fan of flowers, a great example of what your giveaway (from my point of view) shouldn’t be like is a pot of flower. The best swag should satisfy the basic criteria of being practical, light, small and easy to print on and cost-effective. A pot of flower is simply the exact opposite of these.

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What the perfect giveaway should be

Practical

A pot of flower sits in the corner of the room and serves no purpose besides taking up space. Plus, I’d have to water it every day – what a chore!

This is key. Items such as T-shirts, pens and thumb drives (they could only be 512mb and I’d still take them in a heartbeat) fair well as popular giveaways for this very reason. They’re items people can use over and over again. I’ve been using pens I got from such fairs for as long as I can remember and in fact don’t even remember the last time I actually bought one.

Light & small

Imagine lugging a pot of flowers all around the fair and on the bus/train home. Sure, it could make for a good conversation starter but I’d very much just prefer a photo of it, thanks.

Nobody, not even freebie-loving me goes to an event with a huge bag with which I can fill freebies. That’s just a tad bit too excessive. That being said, a giveaway needs to be small and light enough in order for it to be practical enough to be taken away.

Easy to print on

Hey let’s print our logo on this petal and have it wilt and fall! No.

If you haven’t already figured this out, your primary purpose of having a stall at a marketing event is to – duh – market your brand! The whole purpose of giveaways is to *drumroll* give away an item by which event-goers will remember you. And if your brand or logo isn’t indicated on the giveaway, chances are that nobody’s going to remember where they got the swag from.

Cost-effective

Forget the pots, flowers are expensive enough – ask anyone with a girlfriend.

You’re guaranteed to be the most popular stall in the event hall if you’re giving away a trip for two to Las Vegas as a promotional item. But unless you’re also harvesting bills or Bill Gates from your pots of flower, that’s obviously unfeasible. Since you’re going to be giving away these items for free, you have to consider the trade-offs. It’s important to not go overboard. Set a strict budget and stick to it.

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Another great example of a good giveaway is food. It’s practical in the sense that it satisfies hunger, is a light snack and small enough to fit in your stomach. That’s unless, of course, what you’re giving away is free steak in which case does not satisfy criteria #4. I remember being so hungry at the job fair that I was absolutely famished by the time I got to the PepsiCo booth. I needed to satiate my hunger and drown out the dreadful melodies being churned out by my stomach juices. That resulted in my shameless munching on Doritos as I was speaking to the PepsiCo representatives – probably why I didn’t get the job. But hey at least I got a free bottle of Mountain Dew after – score! Kinda.

Other items I picked up from the fair include this four-coloured-inked pen and heart-shaped notepad. They do satisfy the criteria of a good giveaway but given that I already have loads of pens and notepads lying around at home from previous fairs, I haven’t had much use for them just yet.

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Hands down my favourite giveaway from the job fair is this tote bag from Estrella Damm’s stall. Given that many supermarkets are now charging consumers for plastic bags, this is an extremely handy item. You’re saving money as well as the Earth! Plus, it can be used to carry all the other freebies from the other stalls, unless someone inadvertently picked up a pot of flower. It’s also simple and versatile enough design that I’d carry it on a regular day out as well. In fact I loved it so much I took a second one when everyone had their backs turned – or so I thought. Suffice to say, I didn’t get this job either!

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In a nutshell (just FYI nutshells don’t make for good giveaways), the main purpose of a freebie is to market your product/service. You want your presence to be felt everywhere. Think of a marketing event as a point where you disseminate information regarding your brand. You’re there to promote yourself and besides networking and chatting with event-goers, another way to do that is through these freebies.

Have you ever seen anyone give away a pot of flower as a freebie? Have you ever shamelessly stuffed your face with food giveaways? What’s the favourite giveaway of yours that you’ve taken? What are some of the most unique freebies you’ve seen around? Do share some of your freebie stories with us!

AUTHOR BIO
Lin’s an all-rounder in terms of physical shape. Her weekly schedule revolves around Printsome, football and abhors cutting her nails.

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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

Conference and Seminar Tip: Management of a Vendor Exhibition at a Conference

Exhibitor Management

  • Before the conference and exhibition venue selection, consideration should have been made on how many exhibitors are expected and what size of exhibition hall or meeting room is appropriate.
  • Adequate space needs to be available for coffee breaks or if lunch is taking place in the exhibition area in order to encourage attendees to visit the exhibitors.
  • A site plan of the exhibition space looking at access for build-up and layout of stands must be created and made available for exhibitors. The plan should show details of services such as electrics, communications, with appropriate consideration for health and safety.
  • When selecting a venue consider any requirements for areas and rooms for communications, the exhibition manager’s office, and storage.
  • Prepare a preliminary budget, and finalise it once you have completed a final site visit. Review all costings and income involved.
  • Design and implement a website for the conference to incorporate a section for exhibitors with relevant on-line documentation specific to them as well as the usual section for attendees.
  • If required select an exhibition stand builder & designer for designing the exhibition floor layout, bearing in mind the conference theme and corporate branding.
  • Organise security and cleaning for exhibition area.
  • Review the budget throughout to make sure it is not being exceeded (an adequate contingency amount should have been incorporated at the outset).
  • Arrange in plenty of time for the shipment of items for exhibition.
  • You will need ongoing meetings with the venue management to detail what is going on in the exhibition area and timings and requirements etc.
  • Before the conference date the exhibitors should have already been sent detailed information, or had access to the website of exhibiting at the conference. This should include:
    • Location – hall or exhibition room with layout of stands and tables as well as coffee stations, lunch and bar or café locations, and networking facilities designated as appropriate, making sure that there is adequate space for exhibitors.
    • Application forms for exhibitors with costs of the various exhibitors’ packages detailing what is included in each one e.g. stand shell, or space or table, furniture, electrics. Also put this information on the conference website and make it available as a PDF file to download.
    • Details concerning internet access, communications, branding for corporate and sponsors to incorporate signage and conference theme.
    • If using shell schemes, details of what is included and ordering instructions for additional or optional items.
    • A contact list of the exhibition management as well as a contact list of exhibitors.
    • Supplier list from the venue with order form and deadline dates for ordering.
    • Exhibitors should be sent a timeline detailing the deadlines for actions to be completed before the exhibition.
    • Exhibition information including the times and dates of assembly & dismantling of stands, opening times of the exhibition etc.
    • Technical logistics information – exhibitor manual, important information & instructions.
    •  Health and Safety information and instructions about what is or is not allowed on-site, any loading restrictions etc.
    • Marketing promotions including: sponsorship items – promotional branding opportunities – exhibition manual with company profile – products and downloadable PDF files.
    • Accommodation information and booking information for exhibitors and staff.

On-site Management

  • Arrive in plenty of time, before the set up by stand building staff or when the hotel is involved in setting tables, meet with the venue and check state of room for any damage, make note and agree with venue management.
  • The exhibition manager needs to be on site for set up of exhibition stands and also during dismantling as well when exhibition is live.
  • Work closely with stand building staff or venue management making sure layout is according to plan and if necessary amend any site plans.
  • Work closely with exhibition stand designer & service suppliers make sure all is set up before exhibitors arrive on site to do their own set up.
  • Check on electrics and communications; have suppliers on call for any unexpected issues.
  • Set up the communications office, exhibition staff office, and storage area if required.
  • Liaise with exhibitors regarding storage and arrival of any freight for them.
  • If required attend exhibitors briefing meeting.
  • Be on hand and available to assist with any exhibitors queries.
  • On the final day make sure no exhibitor tears down before close of the exhibition.
  • Assist exhibitors with tear down and taking goods for collection.
  • Check room or hall is in the same condition and clear when leaving the venue.
  • Good communication, and keeping everyone who needs to know informed of what is happening, is paramount.

Conference and Seminar Tip: Risk Assessment, Health and Safety, Insurance and Contingency Planning

Event management is much about managing risks as it is the event itself. Event Managers have to expect the unexpected and for this planning and preparation are the best tools. You need to have a contingency plan in place for various scenarios. The skill of an organiser is to negotiate the optimum solution in each scenario and finding what is best and safest for the client.

Risk assessment information can be gathered during the pre-event delegates registration and site visit to venue:

  • Each delegate should be asked details of their dietary requirements and any allergies, and medical conditions that you need to be aware of, as well as emergency contact and name of next of kin. If delegates are arriving from abroad then they must take out travel and health insurance.
  • You should arrange to have people on-site at the event who have first aid training. You need to know who they are. Check with the venue who they have who are first aid trained. If it is an outdoor event with a significant risk of personal injury have an ambulance in attendance, for example from St John’s Ambulance. If the event is residential then a note of a doctor on call with contact details, the nearest medical centre address and phone number, and the nearest hospital with address and phone number. The organiser should make the delegates aware of the emergency numbers.
  • During the venue site visit the venue should explain the procedure of what to do and where to assemble if a fire happens, or where the safest place to go is if there is a bomb scare etc. You also need to know if there is a fire alarm test during the event. Before the start of any meeting you should inform the delegates where the emergency exits are and where to assemble if an alarm be sounded. Special attention should be given before the event to any delegates with disability who may require assistance in the case of an emergency.

Measuring Risks as part of the Risk Assessment of an Event

  • Part of the planning process for any event is to assess the risk factors of the event and make sure you have implemented a process for managing each of the risks. The process should specify who is responsible for dealing with the risk and how it will be managed. Risk will vary in severity and likelihood and this will be different for different types of events and locations. See this document for an example: Risk Assessment form for a seminar with space to define contingency plans.

The Risk Assessment should include:

  • Hazards:these can include a missing person, loss or theft of property, catering and delegate’s diets, health and safety, travel and transport, site environments of both the meeting venue, accommodation and off-site venues plus general welfare.
  • Other items to be included in a risk assessment include: who might be harmed and how, the procedure and protocols to follow, how high the risk is, what further action needs to be carried out and who is responsible for the action and following the procedure through.

Event Insurance

Every event organised should have insurance cover. There are plenty of insurance companies that specifically cover events and you can choose the level of cover required. If participating as a third party at an event check the insurance of the organising company or venue.

Special Event Insurance is recommended to protect against the financial risk associated with organising or attending events. Cover includes Event Cancellation Insurance which protects against cancellation or postponement due to adverse weather, communicable diseases, volcanic ash cloud, terrorism and civil unrest.

Non Appearance Insurance covers non-appearance of key speakers at a conference, a band or singer at a concert. Event Liability Insurance covers Public Liability and Employers Liability and Event Property Insurance protects event organisers against damage or loss of owned or hired-in equipment. Event Property Insurance can cover marquees, audio-visual equipment, communication equipment and more.

Further information:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/event-safety/managing-an-event.htm

http://www.swale.gov.uk/events-risk-assessment/

 

Conference & Seminar Tips: On-Site Management, Meeting room set Up and Audio Visual Set Up

Meeting Room & AV Set Up

You should have already decided how each meeting room is to be set up according to requirements for the meeting. This was outlined in a previous tip – Liaison with the Venue and Conference Room Set Up. Meeting rooms can be set up as theatre, cabaret or classroom for a presentation, hollow square or U shape for discussions, or boardroom for committees or small discussion meetings.

Important things to consider on-site:

  • Allocate staff to look after specific meeting rooms, do a walk-around with staff before the event begins so that they know where rooms are situated. Ensure that they have been given access keys if the rooms are lockable.
  • Whilst doing the walk-around decide on what signage is required to inform the delegates both of the name of the room and the name of the meeting or session. Consider directional signage if delegates have to move around between sessions.
  • Be aware of which entrance or exit for the room is to be used by the delegates. This is important both for traffic flow and so that any latecomers will not disrupt the meeting or the speaker’s flow. The entrance and exit is normally at the back of the room away from the top table or screen.
  • You will already have decided if name badge checks or barcode reading will need to be done at the entrance to the meeting room.
  • Allocate staff to check room set up before each day starts. They should check that the layout is correct and that water, pens, paper, name cards etc. are laid out according to the running order. AV should be in place and working.
  • With each meeting room know the following:

o   Access times

o   Sessions times

o   Times of coffee and lunch breaks, when room can be cleared and replenished by venue staff

o   Room set up

o   AV requirements

o   Who is responsible for the room and their contact number

  • During set up be aware of any health and safety hazard. Ensure there are no cables that delegates could trip over and that fire exits are kept clear of obstruction.
  • Whoever is responsible for the room should know how all equipment works, i.e. air conditioning, heating control, light phasing, how to darken the rooms with blinds.
  • Make sure that the venue has followed the written set up instructions like number of chairs to a table as requested, speaker table at front of room, extra tables for brochures or handouts. Ensure that flipcharts, pens, and white boards are where they should be.
  • The person responsible for the room should already have gone through the AV requirements, either with the venue if they are supplying it or with the privately hired supplier. They should make sure all the required equipment is present and have extra supplies of consumables like batteries to hand in case they are needed.
  • Check the visibility of the stage and speaker or podium as viewed from various seats. Some rooms may require LCD screens positioned around the room so that everyone can see the presentation and speaker. Other rooms may have pillars or be an awkward shape – make sure all delegates can get a good view of what is going on.
  • It is essential to have IT or AV technicians in the room or on-site depending how complicated the technical and AV set up is.
  • The AV production company will have already have done a site visit and will have quoted for the equipment they believe is required for your conference or meeting. Considerations will include size and height of stage, how many screens and their size for the room area, the number of speaker positions, top table and podium requirements, and whether additional lighting is required. Remember if using lapel microphones that you may need to have extra available if there is more than one speaker for a session.
  • If you are using a production company for a larger meeting the producer and caller should already be aware of the programme and have all the timings set and equipment required to ensure the meeting runs smoothly.

Good communication, and keeping everyone who needs to know informed of what is happening, is paramount.

Conference and Seminar Tips: On-site Management – Requirements of a Conference Office

Depending on the size of conference you may have a back office specially built and adjoining the registration desk. For smaller conferences you may have a room at the venue specifically hired to be the conference office.

Important things to consider

  • Size of area is dependent on how many staff will be using the office and for what purpose e.g. if it is a small event with just two staff you should have an office with 2 desks and chairs, communication facilities, PC and network connections, printing and photocopying facilities. Optional trestle tables may be used for storage. It is important to keep the area clean and clear of clutter.
  • If you have quite a few people using the conference office make sure they have sufficient work space for their related duties. Suggest that a large meeting table is made available as this can be used for putting material together as well as an area to put and eat food.
  • Remember to have plenty of waste bins as well as a place for coats.
  • Do not allow other staff to use the office as a dumping ground for their bags and coats. Instead direct them to the cloak room.
  • If you are having an office built be aware of noise created by people in the office. Make sure the office is not too noisy whilst working.
  • The wall outside the registration area can be used for branding.
  • If there is the possibility of delegates being able to view the interior of the office from a higher level in the venue make sure you have a gauze or temporary roof over the area.
  • Use racking for storage if required.
  •  Make sure you can lock the conference office.

Conference and Seminar Planning Tip 6E: Banqueting – Food and Drink

The banqueting side of an event is most important as it is often the food quality and quantity that delegates will remember about an event or venue.  This is an important time during the event for informality and attendees being able to network and mingle with other attendees and the company hosting the event.

It is important to liaise with the banqueting manager at the venue in the early planning stages of the event. This enables him to understand your event objectives and type of audience attending, the lengths of event in order to be able to give advise on menu and services to offer.  The catering professional will have an idea of a balanced diet especially if you the delegates are on a 24 hour rate and the event continues for several days, you want to make sure that there is plenty of variety in the food on offer.

When your delegates register you should have a pre-event diet questionnaire where the guest can advise on any allergies or special diet, vegetarian, Halal only food etc…  Knowing your delegates will enable you to discuss menu options best for the group.

Decide on the catering package you require, this will depend on the type of event you are holding  as well as the duration of the event and whether accommodation is included.  If you have the event at a hotel you can chose for either day delegate rate, 24 hour delegate rate if residential or on an itemised basis you will have a choice of food and beverage.  If your event is a one day conference and people are travelling some distance arrival you may wish to organise coffee and tea with pastries or bacon rolls on arrival or during registration.

You need to consider your programme agenda and where best to fit in the coffee break, type of lunch whether a standing fork buffet which is good for networking, sit down buffet or a seated plate service.  Each service will give a different ambience and require different length of time to serve.  You will have an idea of the time allocated for the lunch breaks during the days programme.  Times for breaks need to be flexible as sometimes sessions can over run or the programme changed.  Continuous consultation and working with the venue producing a running order of the event will give the venue a good idea of timings for their banqueting staff preparation and service, if rooms need to have their set up turned around in which breaks.

Booking the right function room for meals and refreshments

  • You may decide to have a private lunch for your group and if this important you will need to make sure that the room size will fit the type of meal you are intending to have.  Seated buffet will require a larger room than standing buffet they will need 0.8sq meter per delegate for a standing buffer and for seated plated food they will need 1 Sq meter per delegate.  Make sure that there are plenty of service stations for the number of guests attending to stop long queues forming.
  • If it is an evening dinner make sure that there is enough room for the cabaret entertainer, dance floor, after dinner speaker, or moveable bar as necessary.
  • Check the table capacities this is important is you are doing seating plans as some banqueting tables can be laid out of 8, 10 or 12 seated guests.
  • Check what the function rooms are being used on either side as a loud disco could ruin a speech.
  • If using outside terrace for pre dinner drinks have a back up plan for inclement weather.

Drinks

Check with the client if alcoholic drinks should be served, as certain religions do not allow alcohol.  Always have plenty of soft drinks available.  It is usually recommended not to serve alcohol during lunch as some delegate might find it difficult to concentrate in the afternoon in the grave yard slot.  Cocktail reception along with soft drinks is quite often used both at the finish to a day conference before leaving or after a break as pre dinner drinks for those events that are 24 hour delegate .

Decide on how much drink you are going to offer per delegate. This may be on a drinks package option on a consumption basis.   If it is a cocktail drink then normally 2 glasses of wine per delegates or equivalent in soft drinks or small bottles of beer is fine for a half an hour drinks reception. Agree with the banqueting manager to let you know if the capacity of drinks ordered is getting near to the end so that you as the event organiser have the option to increase the amount if needs be.  It is also best to make sure when you are dealing with the venue that the  bar staff know that you or a designated person are the only ones authorised to  alter/increase  the allocation of food and beverage once agreed on the contract.  This is to stop anyone else in the company deciding to order more alcohol and suddenly finding the extra charges on the main account.

At dinner the normal rule of thumb is half a bottle of wine per person with water available at the table.  Also establish whether you are going to leave the bottles on the table or have a waiter serve, usually the latter serves less alcohol. As a general rule more white wine that red is drunk at gala dinners usually in a ratio 3:1.  Ask to be able to see the empty bottles used at the end of the evening before signing the drinks bill chit.   Always inform the venue as to whether you are going to have digestives served whether these are charged to the main account or whether guest will be paying for this themselves.

After dinner bar service, decide if this is going to be a cash bar or open bar, if the latter establish a limit to the spend, and have in place an agreed specific policy for overspend authorisation

Reference reading: 

John G Fisher – How to run a Successful Conference

Conference & Seminar Planning Tip 6D: Liaison with the Venue and Conference room set up

Liaison with the Conference or Seminar venue

We have already discusses in Tips part 5 the topic “Finding the right venue”, the importance of choosing the right the meeting space for your event and what needs to consider. In this section we will discuss what you need to plan for in the main meeting room.

It is important to make sure that the meeting room is large enough for the capacity of expected audience, the production area required for staging and the audio visual equipment (AV) and control. This should already have been discussed and verified with the venue before signing the contract.

  • Production Requirements – you need to consider the space that you will need for the stage and presentation, the projection AV and power outlets, and where to place the screen and top table in relation to the room orientation and entrance doors – you need to minimize disruption from possible late comers. Certain conference rooms already have inbuilt stage, screen etc, which makes the room setup easier to plan.
    • For front projection you need to allow the front row to be at least no closer than twice the screen height, and the bottom of the screen should be no lower than 1.2 meter from the ground. Allow for optimum viewing angles and if necessary in a large room you may require two screens or large LCD projectors for those seated at an angle and who are not looking directly at the screen. If using back projection you may require one third the length of the room to project a clear rear image. A minimum of 3 meter ceiling height is required for a clear image to be projected above the audience head.
    • It is important for the production company that is working with you to do their own site visit to the venue to clarify all the technical logistical issues. These may include staging position, power capacity, main power points, ambient lighting switches, where best to run cables, and where to put translation booths if required. If possible it is always advisable to have the meeting room on the ground floor room with easy access for the crew to unload equipment for set up and de-rig.

Conference Room lay out

How you lay out the conference room depends on the type of meeting as well as the number of people attending and the room’s capacity. Check the room’s exact measurements carefully with hotel floor plan as the hotel estimation of capacity audience may be different to your event’s requirement.

There are several different layouts commonly used that you can consider for your meeting depending on its type:

  • Classroom – useful for workshop type environment where delegates face the screen behind rows of desks usually with a central aisle for access.
  • Theatre – front facing rows no desks, some specific rooms will have racked or auditorium seating, others may have tablets for writing that can fold down for delegates to use. This setting is useful for presentations and you are more restricted on space.
  • Cabaret or Half Moon – where delegates sit on half table facing towards the screen and speaker. This is a good layout to use for training classes where you need a bit of collaboration between delegates. If the room is larger than anticipated attendees the cabaret style tends to take up more space than theatre seating.
  • Hollow Square – seating with delegates facing each other on 4 sides of a square this is good for meetings where delegates will be having discussions with each other and need to see all the participants.
  •  U-shape or Open Square – where delegates sit on three sides of the square normally with the screen of presenter in the open side. This is good for workshops and training sessions where there is presentation but where delegates also need to be able to discuss topics.
  • Boardroom – used for the smaller meeting groups where seating is around a long table with one or two people at either end.

Hotels will have an indication of the room capacity for your type of set up, however it is always best to check and allowed for plenty of space for people to move around. You know your programme: you might need extra space at the side depending on the activities planned and depending on whether refreshments or lunch are going to be served in the meeting room.

You need to be prepared if more people register to attend the meeting and you need to make adjustments to the staging to make more room: it is important to discuss these possibilities with your production company and to have layout of the floor plan to hand.

During all the planning of the conference or seminar you need to keep the hotel informed of the running order of the programme and what facilities and services are required from the hotel or what you will be using from outside suppliers.