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: 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: What a difference a month makes!

Malcolm Wallace, COVID Series, Conference, Events, Management
COVID Series, Malcolm Wallace, Live Events

A growing number of companies and organisations are realising that, in the short term at least, they will have to bite the virtual bullet and so we are seeing a record number of enquiries for demos of virtual platforms.

Last week alone saw us signing 6 new clients for virtual events, as revenue managers try to stimulate income growth and comms managers stimulate their teams after weeks/months of furlough.

Despite this, the demand for live events is growing and we are signing contracts for events through 2021 and 2022, and of course, being event managers, we are planning how to keep our delegates safe just in case the promised vaccines don’t arrive or are not as efficacious as they should be!

So, what should you be considering and what is available to keep delegates safe enough to give you the confidence to hold your next live event:

  • A huge increase in cleaning and disinfection, probably the easiest item to implement. Most venues already have this in hand but as organisers we need to ensure that it is being carried out frequently and thoroughly enough.
  • Automated hand sanitising and disinfecting wipes at primary entrances and high traffic areas such as lifts
  • Thermal imaging cameras to measure temperature
  • Enabling social distancing by reducing capacities, managing queues, identifying potential bottle necks or congestion points, grab and go food etc
  • As much as possible go digital such as room keys, removing pens and paper, contactless check-in
  • Room seals so you know nobody has entered since cleaning
  • Innovative disinfection technologies:
    • Electrostatic sprayers, with electrostatically charged disinfecting mist
    • Ultraviolet light to sanitise surfaces and objects

There are many other options and considerations, each venue is different and will present different problems to be overcome, but hopefully these may form the basis to help instil some confidence in organising your next live event.

If you wish to learn more or need some assistance with your next live event contact my team on 01797 223626 or email me at [email protected]

Until next time,

Malcolm

The COVID Series: Leading the team while coping with Covid

COVID Series, Malcolm Wallace
The COVID Series - Malcolm Wallace

The exciting news, for us anyway, is that we have begun a phased return to the office. I know that we all had mixed feelings after so long working from home, but it does feel good to be talking (a socially distanced) face to face and bouncing ideas around without sound delays, dialogue gaps and barking dogs.

We have been able, amicably enough, to sort out how we use the kitchen, clean the toilets and spread ourselves out among the desks, I guess after a week or two it will feel normal and then we will think about bringing the rest of the team back and adjusting to yet another new normal.

So, as a business, how do we view this next new phase and the challenges it is going to throw up?

The most important thing?

After some 35 years of running businesses, surviving Foot and Mouth, volcanoes, various recessions, SARS, strikes, 9/11 and, I am sure, some other crises I have forgotten about, my mantra is Marketing, Marketing, Marketing. I am not sure we do it particularly well compared to some of the creative items I see, but even at our lowly level it is, again, paying dividends.

The reality is that marketing relies on the hard work, self-belief and perseverance that being successful at anything requires. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no easy solution, no guarantee of success. You just have to keep trying new things in different ways and be thick-skinned enough to take failure on the chin until you find the solution that works for you. Just remember to keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for the successes.

The second most important thing?

Has got to be budgeting, it is of course important normally, but it is critical in a crisis. As soon as we realised how seriously we would be affected by the Coronavirus, our management team sat down and re-worked our budget for the next 24 months.

The important thing though is sticking to it. I check at least weekly that we are not overspending in any areas and want to know why we are if that happens. I ensure we have plenty of contingency as invariably something unexpected crops up.

Cash is King in a crisis, so credit control must take priority, get your invoices paid on time but remember we are all in the same boat, so pay suppliers on time as well!

And finally

Have we learnt anything new during this new crisis? For me, it has reminded me that having a strong and cohesive team is paramount. It has been difficult with lockdown and having to slim the business down to maintain positivity and focus. Like a lot of companies, we have done our best with regular ‘Teams’ and Zoom meetings, quizzes, virtual cocktail making and the rest of the virtual menu.

I have been massively impressed with the ideas and suggestions that have flowed from everyone in the team. It is easy to think that at my end of the spectrum, with too many years under my belt, experience is all that matters. The reality is that the youngest members of the team have been able to come up with fresh and original thinking. Time for the old boy to move over.

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

[email protected]

07515 664 368

The COVID Series: How far outside our comfort zone are we?

Business Management Covid-19
Business Management Covid-19

As businesses, we are all adapting to the unpalatable truth that most of our industries have changed irrevocably for the short-to medium-term and quite possibly for the foreseeable future.

We have had to make changes to the way we market and communicate with customers, clients or employees. This has been a particularly massive sea-change for those of us in the communications industries usually accustomed to simply meeting to collaborate, connect and share whatever information or message we needed to get out.

Now, we need a new medium and, for a lot of people, the obvious choice of virtual events is proving to be a taxing one.

The obvious choice?

It is the obvious choice; however, it is not necessarily an easy choice. Virtual event platforms are springing up almost, it seems, on a daily basis. Essentially, they are all tools that enable people to communicate remotely. But how do you know which platform is right for your organisation? And what can different platforms offer?

The very basic virtual platform is simply a video call and the more complex ones can recreate a complete virtual conference environment. They can include an auditorium, collaboration spaces, exhibition halls, speed networking, networking lounges and any other space you would see at in in-person event.

What’s the challenge?

The challenge, in reality, is not dissimilar to delivering an in-person event.

  • Clear, focussed event objectives
  • Measurable goals of success
  • Adaptable environment to deliver objectives
  • Interesting, relevant and articulate speakers
  • Professional production
  • Branding to promote and reinforce  core messages
  • Accessibility for all visitors to the event
  • Staff available to solve problems for conference hosts, speakers, delegates, exhibitors and sponsors

But here is the crux of the challenge – there is an assumption that a virtual event is easier, simply because it is delivered digitally. No travelling, no lost luggage, no hotel bedroom mix ups.

However, to stage a successful virtual event requires just as much pre-planning as an in-person event. I recently attended a virtual event where the first speaker didn’t start on time, leading to many attendees thinking they had logged on incorrectly, with a substantial number leaving entirely.

The help desk wasn’t staffed meaning requests for help were not promptly addressed and there was no communication for the reason for the delay. The first speaker appeared unprepared, was incorrectly framed and lacked specific direction in his talk. Obviously, people who are sat at their laptops in their home office are not going to concentrate for that long with all the other distractions they have.

A well planned, virtual event will have the correct platform selected with the event running to time. If it can’t run to time then attendees need to be informed, attendees requesting assistance from the helpdesk must be responded to immediately.

Speakers often require guidance to transition to delivering a message to a virtual audience; to get orientated and understand the functionality of the platform; to juggle presenting with pushing out live polls, organising questions or using a white board.

In this new digital era, it is far better to use the ‘Ted’ talk model, keeping speakers to shorter, punchier presentations and then utilising collaborative spaces for interactive discussions to dive deeper into the subject. And it is so important for presentations to be delivered to a professional standard.

Thought should be given to interspersing the business content with ‘gamification’ or social activities, whether to introduce a fun element, encourage networking or foster team collaboration. Specific networking time can be included to encourage your audience to engage with content, sponsors and branding.

It is important to convey your branding and messaging throughout the virtual environment, to reinforce your professionalism and values. This is often underestimated for both in-person events and virtual events.

The solution

As with most aspects of business life, an industry professional can effectively tackle what seems an insurmountable situation. They can anticipate problems and remove the stress of the unknown.

Just as you would use a professional event management team, whether in-house, or outsourced it is important to do the same for a virtual event.

Your production partner will guide you through the vast range of available platforms from webinars to virtual reality, recommend the most suitable platform for your event and support you through the entire process., They will work with you to craft a compelling, diverse agenda to maximise delegate interaction and engagement. Assist with practical guidance for speakers, sponsors and exhibitors and help delegates navigate the platform and interactive functionality to ensure they receive a fulfilling an beneficial experience.

After all, the aim is to give everyone concerned the correct impression that you have a professional and inclusive organisation.

If you are ‘out of your comfort zone’ and need help in this new virtual world, get in touch and let’s discuss how we can create an amazing virtual experience.

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

[email protected]

07515 664 368

www.dynamic-events.co.uk