Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Elephant’s Child starts with the following lines:
‘I keep six honest serving-men
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.’
The whole poem is worth reading but that extract is a very good aide memoire for the event or project organiser. It helps you to make sure that you have every aspect of an event covered.
Here is how it can be applied to organising a corporate event. Firstly, what is it that you’re organising? Is the event an away day or a two or three day event? Does there need to be a conference element or is it a team building event? Often this is fairly easy, but you may have different stakeholders who want different things. So, this is the starting point.
Now we move on to why. Is the objective to reward, to put across a message or to boost failing morale? It’s important to be clear on exactly what the objective is so that you can follow the right theme and deliver an authentic experience for the attendees.
For example, the strategies for delivering an event to boost failing morale will be quite different to those for celebrating success. If you mix the two up you risk making it seem that management is out of touch.
‘When’ is one of the greatest challenges for the event organiser. It is almost impossible to find a date that will suit everyone and you will have to accept that some people may not be able to attend on the chosen date. However, there are a few pointers that can help you to make the best possible choice.
Have a look at the profile of your attendees. If many have families you will need to avoid school holidays (including half terms). Bear in mind that different counties have different school holiday calendars and many of them stagger the dates. Ask a few parents for advice.
The other thing to avoid is major sporting events. You will find sporting calendars online and these will help you to avoid the big events. Consider the culture of your company. For example, if you are organising for a call centre where the team is young and there are few parents but there is a strong following of football you will be able to home in on dates which suit as many as possible.
This is a key point to consider. Every date in the calendar is not equal. Because of holidays, sporting and other cultural events some dates are ‘prime time’ when hotel space and event industry resources are at a premium. The sooner you book a date if you have a large group the more likely you are to get what you want.
‘How’ covers many different aspects of the event; transport, activities and whether you organise the event yourself or use an agent. If you use an agent you can choose one to find a venue for you and another to organise any activities, or you can go down the full service route and have one agent to organise the whole event.
Very often the person who is asked to organise an event already has a full time job and the organising can become full time in its own right. Working with an agent can take a huge amount of pressure off your shoulders in this situation.
‘Where’ covers the venue. Traditionally most events have been at hotels but now there are all sorts of options including locations such as Centre Parcs. The geographical location is an issue to consider. If you have multiple locations it will be strategic to choose somewhere in the middle of them all. This is why Leeds is a conference ‘hot spot’ for national companies.
If there are reasons why a specific non central location is the right one, for example price or availability, you can choose to be closer to one branch this year and another the next. This is a ‘hosting branch’ model. You do need to make sure that you deliver on the promise and do not favour the same branch the next year or you may have complaints. That is, of course, unless you’re lucky enough to have a branch in the Bahamas!
Finally there is who. The delegates or participants may be fairly straightforward as a target group but are there other people who might be included. Significant management figures can add kudos to an event and motivational messages need to be delivered by someone of adequate seniority. Could you build bridges with other departments by getting them involved? There are various ways in which the ‘who’ question can maximise the value of the event for the broader organisation.
So, there are a few ways in which Kipling’s serving men can help your organisation. They can be applied to other forms of event, for example training. They link together or stand alone but, if you’re not to miss something, try not to leave one out.