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

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.

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

Welcome to a ‘Dynamic’ virtual world..

Virtual Networking Lounge, Group chat
Virtual Networking lounge, group chats

The current global situation that we all find ourselves immersed in doesn’t need explaining – these are truly exceptional times, and no-one can predict how this extraordinary time in history will continue.

However, at Dynamic Events, we believe that extraordinary times provide the opportunity and challenge to reflect on what is truly important and create positive solutions to enable our clients to continue their global conversations.

We all know that live events will return and can never be completely replaced, but until that time, we are looking to harness all the amazing technology that continues to connect us and allow enriching engagement, even when we can not be together.

The virtual event creates an environment that can bring teams and wider networks together – whether through delivering powerful presentations, facilitating group discussions, providing a platform for face-to-face interaction or engaging participants in an array of social, wellbeing or team building activities.

The team at Dynamic Events are spending time with each client to devise an immersive and experiential platform to provide real solutions to replace live events.

The possibilities to engage are only restricted by our creativity and imagination. At Dynamic we have been doing this in the live event space for 20 years – the Dynamic virtual world is an extension of our teams’ desire and passion to innovate and deliver.

We would love to talk to you about how we can support you.

Find out more out our virtual conference solutions here

Call our team now on +44 (0)1797 223 626 or email [email protected]

The Horror Story of My Events Career

Dynamic Events have been doing what we do best – international events – for over 20 years now. We decided that it’s time to share our experiences and tips when it comes to event management. We will do weekly blog posts written by a different team member each week exploring various topics and areas of our business.

First off, our Operations Manager Angelika will tell you a horror story of her career. Now if that isn’t an interesting way to start a blog, we don’t know what is!

It is official (Forbes report) that event management is the 5thmost stressful job in the world. When it comes to it, we are up there right after the military, firefighters, pilots and police officers.  And yet, we all love it – well, we wouldn’t do it otherwise, right? For me, this is the perfect job where I can combine my creativity with my down-to-earth practical mind, meet amazing and inspiring people and travel the world. 

Events are unpredictable; you put lots of thought and effort into planning but weather, people, and lots of other circumstances keep challenging us on a daily basis. At Dynamic Events, we specialise in running events internationally, so on top of the usual challenges we have to understand anything from cultural differences, work methods to language barriers and body language… you name it, we’ve been through it.

I could tell you the stories of incidents when my heart literally missed a beat, when I thought this was it and tomorrow will find me jobless. But having been in this industry for almost twenty years I’ve learned that what matters most is not the challenge you’re facing, but the way you recover from it. So here’s one example of the situation where everything was out of my control (and other event managers, a.k.a. total control freaks, will understand how scary that is).

I guess we all remember an ash cloud hovering over Europe in 2010 resulting in the largest air traffic shut-down since World War II. So it happened that we were hosting a large event in Stockholm when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland erupted and we were stuck in Sweden with over 150 of our conference delegates not able to return home. My colleagues pulled out all the stops and got on with what seemed to be a logistical nightmare trying to arrange buses across Europe by creating transport hubs in various locations where local buses would be waiting and taking everybody home. We managed to get everyone home, although it wasn’t the most enjoyable process… or journey, for that matter!

Disaster? Yes, but totally and completely out of our control. Outcome? Camaraderie between us and the attendees which created an everlasting bond and a relationship with our client that has lasted over 10 years. When it comes to situations like that, it’s important to look for the silver linings and focus on them rather than on the negatives and stress that the situation brings – that’s my top tip when you are experiencing a horror story at work!