HRD's pocket guide to... event planning

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April's pocket guide plans out how all the details of an event come together

Why do I need to know about it?

Whether you are hosting the launch of a new network, welcoming prospective apprentices, or facilitating a roundtable discussion, chances are that at some point in your career you will need to know how to plan an event.

“If you want people to be engaged and interested then there’s no better way to do that than to get them into a room and get some energy, some exchanges and some collaboration going,” says Sue Evans, president of the Public Services People Managers’ Association (PPMA). “That’s where real engagement is born.”

She says internal events that allow direct communication can be far more beneficial than other comms methods. “You can transfer knowledge through a variety of media, but if you really want people to understand what you’re saying then they need to see it, feel it and touch it. They need to see how other people are behaving in that particular environment and learn from that.”

Starting from scratch can seem daunting, but with the right amount of planning and consideration your event will go off without a hitch.

What do I need to know?

Hayley Monger, events and corporate partnerships manager at SD Worx, has a method when she starts to plan a new event. “No matter how big the event the principles are the same, and we always start with the end in mind,” she tells HR magazine. She has a list of questions, including ‘why is the event happening?’, ‘who are the key stakeholders?’, and ‘who are our target audience?’, which she and her team answer to come up with an outline for the event.

Philippa Bird, diversity and inclusion lead for BBC Content, agrees that knowing exactly what you need to get across is key. “Ask yourself what you want people to take away from the event, and what you want them to think or do afterwards,” she tells HR magazine. “Give that some thought before you think about anything else.”

As the date draws closer it’s time to start honing in on some of the finer details. “It’s easy to underestimate how much time is required to plan and execute an event, and as a result the smaller detail can suffer,” says Monger. “It could be anything from the type of canapés you serve to the music you play. All these small influences can affect the delegates’ actions or feelings.”

Where can HR add value?

“Good HR can add value in shaping the empowering questions that will get a debate going,” says Evans.

She thinks HR professionals should already be armed with some of the skills needed to make an event both informative and inspiring. “Engaging people in this way is one of HR’s most important tools – getting people talking, thinking and working together to get the best results from them,” she says. “There’s a human element that this kind of event can capitalise on, it allows people to use their imagination – you wouldn’t get that in something that is two-dimensional or less interactive.”

HR is also in an ideal position to co-ordinate the teams that need to come together to run an event. Becky Hartley, events manager at PwC, suggests that building a good relationship with those working with you will go a long way. “When it comes to caterers, events staff, and especially your welcome or front of house team, a smile goes a long way,” she says. “These are all the face of your event so make sure you build strong relationships with everyone you are working with.”

Anything else?

Monger’s key advice is to keep channels of communication open. “Communicate regularly with a clear and consistent message to key stakeholders, colleagues, partners and delegates,” she says. “Regular communication strengthens engagement and starts to build relationships internally and externally.”

She says this helps create a relationship between the event organisers and attendees. “By the time of the event, delegates will already feel part of the network, which gives them a better experience on the day,” she says.

Hartley adds the small but all-important detail of ensuring a safe place for attendees to store belongings: “Make sure there are enough staff in the cloakroom, especially when guests are leaving,” she says. “You should also ensure there is enough space for bags, as guests will amaze you with what they bring to your event!”

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