Maria Fuller, EA and author of How to be a PA, shares some helpful tips on how to manage an event more efficiently and what you can do to ensure your event runs as smooth as possible
If you’re employed in a business support role, it’s likely at some point in your career, you will organise an event. Whether it’s an off-site strategy day, an annual conference, a breakfast seminar or a client event – all events require planning, consideration and meticulous attention to detail.
Managers often provide a very limited brief on what they actually want, so it’s down to the event organiser to establish the brief by asking the appropriate questions, establish the budget and other parameters, agree the date, the number of attendees and the overall event objectives.
Events can be hard work but they are challenging, rewarding, a great test of your skills and creativity, and often good fun. Personally, I always volunteer my services as event manager, wherever possible, as I enjoy the planning and delivery.
When the event brief is finalised and the budget is known, it’s time to research venues. Maybe you’re researching from scratch, or the venue has already been identified to you by your manager. Your manager may have direct experience of using a certain venue, and raves on about the views, the location, or the architecture, but it must tick all the boxes on your list in order for it to be a contender. Some basic questions to consider when shortlisting a suitable venue are:
- Size of event space – is it comfortable for your numbers
- Transport links
- Parking – if required and are there enough spaces
- Overnight accommodation – again if required, can delegates stay at the same location overnight and avoid additional travel
- Natural day light – very important for an all-day event
- Service levels of staff
- Availability – is it available on your proposed event date
- Hire costs
It’s easy to complete the above research online, and if there are any gaps contact the conference manager at the venue. Always ask the question about ‘natural daylight’, as this is often overlooked in meeting space particulars posted online. Many large hotels have meeting rooms without natural light, and they can feel oppressive and are best avoided. When you have your shortlist (three maximum) arrange a site visit. Phone ahead and book your time slot, otherwise the room you want to view may already be in use.
If you cannot physically view the venue (due to distance or time constraints) ask the venue further questions via a call. Get a feel for them as organisers and how accommodating they are. If I cannot physically attend venues for a show around, I ask for additional images of the event space to be emailed to me. Alternatively, if you have colleagues closer to the event space than you are, you could always ask one of them to view on your behalf. Just ensure you have passed your queries over to them first.
“To host an event and hope that everything works out well on the day, without completing your site visit or due diligence beforehand is just bad practice.”
If you’ve completed your venue shortlisting by asking the right questions, then you shouldn’t find anything alarmingly wrong with your venue. However, viewing the event space does give you better spatial awareness and helps you select the correct room layout. You will understand the distance of the room from the reception area, to the restaurant, to the bar and to the main accommodation or car park. You will see first-hand the cleanliness of the room, the standard of décor and furnishings and the AV facilities in the room. You will understand if you need additional breakout areas, or if your entire event can be delivered in the one room.
Miss this step out of the event planning at your peril. To host an event and hope that everything works out well on the day, without completing your site visit or due diligence beforehand is just bad practice.
So, block the time in your diary and view your shortlisted venues. You’ll be much more confident that you’ve chosen the right venue, and that it’s the right fit for your event and your organisation.