At what point do you know it all?

At what point do you know it all?

At what point do you know it all? This question came up because we were talking about coaching or to be more specific, business coaching. Some 10 years ago, we had the same conversation, having been running our company for some time by then, and I do remember replying with words to the effect of what can they possibly teach us that we haven’t already learnt?

I was to eat my words big time. In fact, I quickly realised how very little we knew and the next few years with an excellent coach (Marco Soares – message me if you would like his contact details) were a very steep, but enjoyable, learning curve. In fact, we changed the way we ran our business, transitioning from typical owner managers to a much more business-like approach.

I have also now accepted that we are on one long learning curve and that doesn’t only apply to our amazing business.

Take virtual conferences; having spent the past 20-odd years running in-person events, I felt there wasn’t much left that could really surprise me and in January this year when we started to look at virtual conferences, my thinking was along the lines of, well, how difficult can it be? It’s just a webinar replacing a presentation.

Time to eat my words yet again! The learning curve since then has been massive. We have had to learn a whole new approach to managing an event from educating presenters to hand-holding delegates and soothing the nerves of stakeholders.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that a virtual conference needs even more event management skills than an in-person event. Fortunately, our team have left me in their wake and are well on top of this.

So, off for a game of tennis then, because I am sure I definitely know everything there is to know about playing that game! Or do I?

Top Tips for Problem Solving

Top Tips – Problem Solving for Event Managers in a Covid World

If there is anything that anyone has learned this year, it’s the need to problem solve and act rather than react. Advancing our Virtual plans was one of these actions.

As experienced Event Managers we constantly look at the worst case scenarios in every aspect of a plan and how we can avoid these; while preparing for what we do in these instances.

Event Managers work incredibly well under pressure, it’s a job proven to be one of the most stressful in the world. However, we do everything and make every endeavour to avoid these stresses, making the plans soundproof, bulletproof, shatterproof… Just all the proofs, while also implementing back-up plans and fail-safes throughout.

Before we could see the impact of Covid-19 in this country we acted to negotiate unassailable force majeures and contracts with suppliers that protected our clients as much as possible. Although no one could have foreseen the effects on the Events industry, it is our job to plan for the worst possible outcomes.

In our top tips this week we have noted the key topics to consider as Event Managers and how we go about problem solving.

  1. Asking the right questions. How you look for answers will determine how you overcome your challenges. This means defining your question before looking for the solution. It means involving your whole team in the conversation, having people from different backgrounds and experiences to bounce off. The more information you have the more likely you are to get to the answer.
  2. Embrace the bizarre. Now is not the time to be “stuck in your ways” – looking for solutions where you wouldn’t expect and changing your perspective opens you up to inspiration and experience. Being versatile in your approach is the key to growing and learning. Just look what happened to the Blockbuster stores – they stood still where their competitors embraced the online avenues.
  3. Use a pre-mortem. Imagine a hypothetical future where everything has gone wrong, then work backwards to determine the factors and issues which lead to this failure. This is also beneficial to look at what went right. From this, you can realise how you bring about the good and how you can plan for the possible demise of a plan.

These points may seem obvious from the outset, but implementing them is a different task, taking the time to go through these is a vital investment in a thorough strategy that needs to be prioritised. Time is valuable and other tasks get in the way but action is better than reaction and sets aside the Netflix’s from the Blockbuster’s, and the Toys R Us’s from the Amazon’s (interesting Forbes article: here).

How did we act on the COVID crisis..

Sometimes a positive exception already exists; the ability to continue with events seemed to disappear in March, but our theme for 2020 was sustainability and we looked back at all of the virtual solutions we had been partnering with when researching alternatives to live conferences. The airmiles associated and wastages caused vs Corporate Social Responsibility that our clients wanted to value more didn’t equate, and so looking at hybrid and virtual solutions was a great alternative. We realised you can have the same valuable, interactive, networking experience on a virtual platform as a live event. It just takes a bit of creativity and some good old proverbial elbow grease.

Covid has forced a change of perspective, it can be easy to throw around ideas to solve a problem but benefiting all stakeholders with this solution is another situation. This creativity is combining existing elements to create something else entirely, and not comparing oneself to others reactions because their way is not always the best way, and every situation is unique, along with the people involved.

For more on how we have adapted and helped our clients create their conferences online, check out our MD Malcolm Wallaces blog posts, “The Covid Series”.

The COVID Series: Christmas Party Arrangements

Malcolm Wallace Christmas Party

Is it starting earlier this year? My kids (young adults, actually Dad) are already talking about plans for enjoying the festive season and with an extended family, two grandchildren and siblings it is complicated, even for two experienced event organisers, to juggle the needs of step-parents, great granny et al.

Having learnt the dark art of delegation, honed to perfection by 25 years of running a business, or as my young adults would say, the art of lazy. I tend to take a back seat and let negotiations take place in the 2nd tier of management, trust me, it works.

And all this reminded me of Christmas parties. As a company we have had some memorable years and some not so. My favourite had to be last year’s stay at Amberley Castle with a cocktail making competition in the Alan Sugar Apprentice style, the worst, I have wiped from my memory!

What is going to happen this year? As a team we are back in the office enjoying a socially distanced and carefully managed working environment, but for us that is relatively easy. Being based in sunny and rural Rye, we have a large office with room to sit apart and nobody needs to commute by public transport, we even have room for a Friday evening after work drink together.

But what if you are a larger company based in a major city? Your staff may have been working from home for a long time now and there is a need for some social interaction.

There are few solutions really. One is a wait and see strategy, social distancing regulations may have eased, who knows? The reality though is that this is a risky strategy, with the likely position being much where we are now.

A venue could be booked, but if doing so, be very careful of the cancellation terms and Force Majeure and ensure that they are mindful of any social distancing and cleaning regulations in force.

Or you could use a virtual platform as a social meeting place with entertainment and opportunities for networking in smaller groups. There are many viable and fun solutions for this option.

My favourite would be a super hybrid event with staff in different locations enjoying smaller group, in person get togethers and with each location connected to a central virtual platform, a bit like Children in Need. Each location could demonstrate an activity or fundraiser, the opportunities are endless.

I’m looking forward to the challenges our clients will throw at us, whatever happens, it will be a very different year.

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm WallaceManaging Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

The COVID Series: Super Hybrid Events

Malcolm Wallace Hybrid Event

My learning curve over the past few months has been immense, and my vocabulary must have grown 100-fold with virtual conference jargon terms alone. Nevertheless, I learnt a new one this week, super-hybrid event.

It sounds amazing, although adding the word super to most things elevates it anyway; superwoman, superman to name just two! I know what a hybrid event is, but super hybrid? Having now hyped a simple term, the actual meaning is going to seem quite mundane, but it actually goes some way to solving our current meeting restrictions.

Simply expand the hybrid event solution into several locations simultaneously. Across the UK, for example, choose a venue in London, Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh that can accommodate up to, say, 50 people in each venue safely. Anyone who cannot travel easily or safely to the venues chooses to join virtually. This can easily be expanded regionally by choosing venues across Europe or the United States.

You can have some fun with the whole idea. Hyatt, for instance, sent food ingredients to a number of venues and their chef based in Kuala Lumpur led the dinner cooking so that everyone shared the same meal despite being in different countries.

One common issue for international events is the different time zones, making it difficult for someone from Australia to join a virtual event taking place in Europe, but why not have a rolling hybrid event starting in one time zone and travelling around the world?

Each time zone would have their own presenters live, with the content becoming on demand for the next zone until finally the hybrid returns to the starting point with all presentations on demand.

Now that is what I call a super, super hybrid and another new term for your vocabulary!

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

The COVID Series: What could possibly go wrong?

Malcolm Wallace Virtual Conferences

What could possibly go wrong?

We had a team meeting with our event managers yesterday and I happened to ask whether there were some recurring themes around the challenges our customers have switching to virtual events and hybrid events.

Our EMs jumped on this with alacrity as it seems to have been a big topic with them. I figured that if these issues are so prevalent with our customers it must also be true for a wider audience. Do you identify with any of the challenges below?

  • Fear of tech failure. The platform not coping or issues with delegates accessing the platform (old browsers, only using mobile devices, not used to it etc etc., you’ve heard it all before, no doubt!)
  • Not being able to replicate networking or the social aspects of an in-person event (Apparently no-one is going to join a Zoom call with others to have a glass of wine, although I admit to being very guilty of this, albeit with friends not work contacts!)
  • Audience won’t engage. Many think their target audience are dinosaurs.
  • Not understanding how to translate an established in-person event to virtual. How do you turn a 3-day physical event into a 5-day programme with shorter days?
  • A lack of understanding of how content can be delivered (webcast, webinar, roundtable. Who’s on camera, who’s not and what the audience can or can’t do)
  • Thinking everything should be like Zoom where everyone can be on camera and not understanding why it is not always appropriate.

The majority of these issues are rooted in the fear of the unknown and can easily be solved by good planning and rehearsals. Our event managers are very used to solving problems, and these are just the tip of the iceberg, so if you want a life without stress, give us a call.

The COVID Series: Are you ice-cream adventurous?

Virtual Platform fears

We all do it! Faced with a bewildering choice we initially panic and bury our heads in the sand. My lovely wife will find the perfect dress in shop 1 but insist on visiting another 20 before returning to shop 1 to buy the perfect dress.

I even panic when buying ice-cream, there are so many flavours to choose from how will I know which one will give me the best taste experience for my money? Sadly, I end up choosing the tried and trusted flavour and never venture into the realms of ice-cream adventures.

As you can imagine, we talk to a lot of people about all things virtual and hybrid and I have seen a definite change over the past month or so from ‘how do I replace my live event’ to ‘which virtual platform shall I use’. There are a lot to choose from and all have different offerings.

It is not dissimilar to choosing a conference venue; you still need to consider a whole raft of options:

  • Capacity What are the limits for visitor numbers, how many can be on video? How many exhibitors can it accept?
  • Availability Do they have enough tech support on your event dates? Is there a limit to the number of events they can hold in one day?
  • Functionality How can your visitors interact, are there areas for networking or for your sponsors to attract visitors?
  • Suitability Does the quality of the offering fit your objectives? Can you customise the platform to make the event look and feel like your brand?
  • Price How does it fit with your budget? Should I charge delegates? What fee should I set for sponsor booths?

Over the years we became a source of venue expertise for our clients on most of the major conference cities in the world. We are now in the same position for virtual conference platforms with an in-depth and practical knowledge of the virtual platform landscape.

We have built partnerships with multiple platforms providers, selected for their ability to deliver excellent engagement and networking opportunities putting us in a unique position to match our clients with the right virtual platform dependant on their event objectives.

So, if you are struggling to choose the right ice-cream from all the flavours available and want the best available experience for your money, talk to us and let us have an ice-cream adventure together.

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

Top Tips for Hybrid Events

Hybrid events are likely to become the norm for the foreseeable future. With COVID-19 changing the event landscape almost overnight and outbreaks occurring all over the world on a weekly basis, hybrid events will be the solution for many companies.

Here are a few key considerations when planning your hybrid event:

Your audience

Consider your in-person audience first in every aspect of your event from registration to what to do during breaks.

The right platform

Invest in the right platform to ensure you have the right functionality, support and backup. With so many platforms reliability is key.

Keep to time

Critical for your online audience who may have only logged in for selected sessions and not attend the whole event.

Interaction

A good facilitator will engage with your audience and link both live and virtual attendees. Encourage Q&A sessions, polls, video chat and live chat.

Plan, Rehearse and test

Organise an online test event to ensure each presentation displays correctly for your online audience and all the AV team are all onboard with slides, video, background and sound.

Registration

Be flexible and offer different levels of attendance for delegates. In person, online, selected sessions and on demand – price accordingly.

Please note, that research has shown during this lockdown period many conferences and events have shown an increase in attendance of virtual events. When you take off travel, accommodation, and loss of time in the office, virtual events are winning on reaching a larger and more diverse audience.

With this in mind, let us help you start planning your hybrid event today.

The COVID Series: The times they are a changing….

And seriously fast. Take my new grandson, in a few short months he has gone from a tiny helpless bundle to, still helpless, but communicating, sitting up and very aware of his surroundings, the rate of change is remarkable and that rate of change has reminded me of the virtual conference market (notice the clever link!).

Back in January we had started to look at alternatives to live events, not because of the pandemic, which wasn’t a big thing at that stage, but because our clients had started to look more closely at the cost of travel and the impact air travel was having on the environment.

As event managers we were, at that time, working closely with one or two platforms to understand how best we could pivot our clients from in-person events to hybrid events and how those events paralleled the direction we were moving in with in-person events.

At that stage the virtual market was operating in quite a small market segment and progress was relatively slow, with vast disparities between some of the platforms. Fast forward to now and the change is mind blowing with an explosion in the number of platforms and an explosion in the functionality they are all offering. A lot of them have successfully monetised their offering and are becoming more professional in their approach to their businesses.

So where are we now? Take my new grandson, I cannot imagine what he will be like in a month’s time any more than I can predict what new innovations there will be in the virtual conference market.

What I do know and what we can clearly see now is a situation where the market is rapidly overheating, demand for the platforms, particularly over the traditional Autumn conference season, is massive. Virtual conference platforms are increasing their prices because demand is so huge, they can.

Some platforms are even turning smaller events away in favour of bigger, more lucrative events, so it is even more important to partner with agencies supplying the platforms with a number of events, particularly if you are in the smaller category of event!

I’m not clever enough to know how all this will turn out, however, I do know we need more quality players in the market otherwise it could end up in a bit of a mess, much like making sure the nappies (diapers for our American friends) are the right capacity for the grandson’s output, and that is a lesson learnt from bitter experience!

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

Hybrid events are the future

Hybrid Event Agenda

Everyone is hoping and praying that live events will be back as soon as possible. The government has made this possible from 1st October, but does this mean the events industry will instantly return back to how it was?

I’m afraid the simple answer is NO. Although live events will be ‘back’ they will look very different from pre-COVID times; with social distancing, temperature checks, hand sanitising, one-way systems and many more procedures to be in place in order to keep our delegates safe.

Even with all these measures in place, numbers for events are likely to be significantly lower. People are less inclined to travel; they have got used to ‘working from home’, having a Zoom meeting and are generally wary about meeting in large numbers. On top of this, having officially gone into recession in the UK, companies simply do not have the budget to enable employees to attend events. The reality is that with accommodation and travel costs attending live events is an expensive option.

Many of the events we are planning for next year will be hybrid events. Our clients still want and need to gather member firms / clients / employees, but the scale of the live event has significantly reduced. We are seeing clients whose numbers were 250 now estimate groups of 100. 

This is not all bad news though, as companies are predicting larger numbers for virtual events. With the technology available delegates can login to a live stream, participate and interact, ask questions and be part of the event all whilst sitting in their living room. In actual fact, we are predicted higher number of participation overall with 100 live delegates and over 300 signing up online and for on demand access.

We have partnered with multiple virtual platforms so we can offer the right solution to fit our client’s needs. Hybrid events are the future and are here to stay.

How are service works?

We are an event management company and whether your event is live, virtual or hybrid we can help you deliver the best event possible. You will have a dedicated event manager assigned to your event to support you throughout the whole process, on top of that you will have access to our marketing team to help with your event strategy and set your objectives.

Our team will run your event from concept to conception, taking away all the stress while keeping you in the driving seat and informed of the progress throughout.  We are problem solvers and will offer you solutions at each stage to ensure your event is running to schedule and ensure you achieve your event goals and objectives.

We can communicate with delegates, arrange filming of speakers, create marketing plans, build an event website, and ensure your brand is centre stage throughout the whole delegate’s journey. With over 100 years of experience within the team, we know what we’re doing and love what we do.

If you need help moving your event from live to hybrid, get in touch we would love to help.

Contact us here

Top Tips – Researching a Venue

Researching venues top tips

When researching a venue what factors do you need to consider?

Start early

Good venues get booked early, especially in the current climate when many events have been postponed to next year – start your research as soon as possible.

Location, location, location

A central location with good transport links and restaurants / hotels nearby is vital. Transport can be expensive so a few local venues in walking distance makes all the difference.

Budget

Is there a venue hire charge? What does the venue hire include? Is there a minimum Food & Beverage spend? Is Wi-Fi included in the cost? Also, very important to remember to ask about taxes and how to calculate them.

Size and capacity

How many delegates in your group? What is the room capacity? Will your client need a stage for speeches? What is the staff to guest ratio? The room needs to be the right fit for your group size to help create the right atmosphere.

Local knowledge

Check for national holidays or local events happening in the local area. Does your client have a local firm or contact the local tourist board – recommendations are invaluable.

The little things matter

Lighting, ceiling height, acoustics, layout, toilets, outdoor space, time of year – average temperatures, do they cater for all dietary requirements?

Coronavirus

In the current climate another key factor which must be considered is Health & Safety. What procedures has the venue got in place? How will they ensure social distancing? What happens if there is another spike in cases? What are the cancellation Terms & Conditions?

All the above listed factors play a huge role when considering a venue, but the key and our number one piece of advice would be to have a SITE VISIT. You need to see the venue for yourself, meet the staff, see the space, ensure the photos you have seen are current and not taken 10 years ago.

If you need help with your next event, give us a call on 01797 223626 or contact us here.