Tendering for events – business opportunity or nightmare?

imagesLast week there was a post on a Facebook group from a bride who had just received a quote from a hairdresser and make-up artist and realised that their prices bore little resemblance to the figures she had in her budget.  She checked elsewhere and discovered that these were fairly typical and consequently was on the hunt for someone to do it for free…

For anyone who has ever gone through an event tendering process, this scenario will seem frighteningly familiar. All too often the the invitation to tender document seems to have been written with little or no knowledge of event planning and the budget bears no resemblance to the expectations of delivery.

Similarly, if you are completing a PQQ for a local authority or government body, there can be completely redundant sections only applicable to building sites.  I have been asked to provide my working at height policies for a webinar programme and details of my traffic management plan for a meeting with four attendees in a local hotel. You can’t avoid these questions by inserting ‘not applicable’ because it would make the application nul and void so you must plough on creating policies which you will never need or use.

Early this year I was asked to help prepare a tender response for an event which a local authority had bid for and won from an international body.  How they had managed to do this with little expertise in organising events of this size was anyone’s guess, but it was patently obvious from the specification document and the huge information gaps that this was what had happened.  The brief was badly framed, there was no indication of the number of attendees, the programme of events or the available resources.  Most importantly there was no clear definition of who was expected to take on the financial risk for the project or details of the original scoping exercise which had been undertaken in order to make the successful bid.

More recently I have seen a tender proposal for an local government body that was looking for an events organiser who would run a total of nine events with at least five specialist staff at each of them and a defined number of attractions. Added to this were a number of other complex requirements, including applications for event licences, provision of site security measures and hire of specific goods and services.  By the time the costings for all of these required elements was complete there would be very little margin in it or indeed any management fee for a professional event organiser.

Larger commercial organisers can be almost as bad with their complex procurement processes.  Events are very different to the purchase of specified items, often needing to change at a moment’s notice.  Structures can become strictures, with event management companies reluctant to take on board extra costs knowing that they will not be able to recoup them at a point in the future on another project.  Small events become prohibitively expensive when isolated from the purchasing power that can be delivered by a group approach.

There is very little an individual event producer can do to alter this process on their own. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and complete the tender document to the best of your ability and hope for the best.  But maybe it is time for the many and varied bodies representing the events industry to start educating purchasers on the need to employ some real expertise at the beginning of their event procurement process in order to create meaningful and carefully created tender documentation and consequently ensure that they get the right results at the end.

Hellen @missioncontrol


5 reasons why event managers can benefit from hiring a student intern

Following on from the ‘Educating for Events‘ post – here is the view of Jo Egan, Partner of Hotel Desk in her guest post for We Blog Events on engaging event management students as interns.

Lego-jugglerLet’s face it, in this role we all need some help in some shape or form along the way to become a better Event Manager.

Whether you are a single freelancer, a small agency, part of a team of event managers or even work at a large company.

The very nature of events means we all have peaks and troughs of resource and time demands. While technology and automation continues to develop at high speed, event management is still very much about human interaction and there really are only 24 hours in a day.

One way to help manage these resource peaks and troughs is to employ a student intern.

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Educating for events

Events-Pic-231014Back in April 2004 a new Association was formed to advance the cause of events management education.  Just ten years earlier it would have been almost inconceivable that anyone would want to study the topic, let alone at degree level.

Today, the Association for Events Management Education has 47 institutional members representing British and International universities as well as commercial training providers.

There are those who would scoff at the very idea that you need two, three or more years’ education to be a good event manager, and indeed the qualities of patience, attention to detail, quick thinking and adaptability are not necessarily picked up in the classroom.  But the world of events has changed.  They are now significantly more complex, made so by legislative changes, particularly in health and safety, and technology such as social media and complex ticketing arrangements.

The US has had its Certified Meeting Professional programme since 1985, when it was launched by the Convention Industry Council. It now boasts more than 10,000 alumni in 46 countries, illustrating the value our industry now puts on accreditation and high standards of best practice.  Doubters say that this is education for its own sake, but by promoting standards of performance and ethics in our industry we are constantly proving that we are a force to be reckoned with and have a valid, valuable voice when it comes to participating in policy and business decisions.

Events education is important.  It enables us to recruit talented individuals who have already had a taste of managing festivals, meetings and conferences from the ‘non-sexy’ side as part of their course; it gives us stature when dealing with professional bodies, government organisations and policy makers; and it ensures that we never stop learning about the wonderful world of events and what it is capable of.

Events are ‘popping up’ everywhere these days

Amazing-spaces-image-5-636x300I’m going to confess right now to being a bit of a George Clarke addict, and in particular his Channel 4 series Amazing Spaces. Passionate about building and design, his programmes are a bundle of nervous energy as he bounds from one project to the next (rather like a few event managers of my acquaintance!). The Amazing spaces series focusses on innovation and creating brilliant projects in unlikely places with equally eclectic building materials.

Green Room Co-op Street Party 2[1]For me this triggered a link with events, because I began to think how great events and experiences can be created when we look outside our normality. Armed with this idea I have been off to do a little research and there is much inspiration to be found. Pop-up events are everywhere, from mini food festivals to art exhibitions, fashion shows to vintage tea dances.


Of course there is no way that a large scale industry meeting or exhibition is ever going to relocate from a purpose built venue. But there is much to be gained by taking the event to the audience. A Town Hall meeting for a corporate client can morph into an interactive learning opportunity; a product demonstration into a memorable activity that builds customer loyalty and interaction; a staff training day which becomes a night out at a Michelin starred restaurant.

kate-spade-and-florence-bus1 (2)

Following on from yesterday’s post on how events can be a tool for restoring a destination’s image it seems logical that pop-up events can play a pivotal role in this activity. Their small size and physical dexterity means that pockets of entertainment can be placed in locations where potential audiences are gathering but no suitable solid-state venue exists.

Green initiatives, reduced staff budgets, technology and pressure on individuals to spend more time working mean that there are significant obstacles to getting people to come to us at a specific venue. Maybe Pop-ups are the answer…

Hellen @missioncontrol



Working With Interpreters: Advice for Event Managers

imagesIn addition, remember that not all languages are created equal! It can take considerably more time to say the same thing in Spanish or French than it does in English. To enable your interpreters to give your delegates the best possible experience you need to brief your speakers equally as well as you do the interpreters. Where possible ask speakers for a script, ask them to either speak slower or pause for longer between sentences. If you are using a teleprompt system – set the speed of delivery to also allow for this.

Integrity Languages

Interpreters are becoming increasingly necessary. With globalisation, glocalisation, social media, cheaper air travel and the growth of the EU, even the smallest corporate event has the potential to become a multicultural, multilingual, multi-everything affair. Yet few event managers have any direct experience of working with interpreters. For some, it would seem to be enough to simply lift the phone to the first likely-looking agency and hope that is the end of the matter. Job done, right?

Not quite. As with almost all areas of event planning, there are ways to get interpreting incredibly right … and ways to get it embarrassingly wrong. For every event where the delegates head home feeling inspired and valued, there is one where they spend their time angrily thumping their headsets, looking around bewildered and wishing for the exit.

You can’t afford for that to happen at your event!

To make sure that your event…

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Hosting events as a tool for restoring destination image

download (1)This is the title of a paper by Eli Avraham from the University of Haifa in Volume 8 of the International Journal of Event Management Research in November 2014.

While the events industry itself is well aware of the huge positive potential a well-executed project can make, Dr Avraham uses the paper to explore the theory of hosting ‘spotlight events’ in destinations where a negative image makes it very difficult to attract tourism, businesses and inward investment.  This is also a topic that is currently being discussed in great detail by the City Nation Place initiative.  So what exactly are the benefits of hosting events in a less well known destination, and what kind of events should they be?

Dr Avraham identifies seven different types of events which can have a significant impact on how potential visitors view a destination:

  1. Mega sports events: Olympics, World Cup Football,
  2. Sports events: city marathons, individual sporting federation’s world cups
  3. Cultural events: festivals
  4. Events that brand a destination contrary to the stereotype
  5. Events with opinion leaders and celebrities: Davos, Cannes Film Festival, G8 Summit
  6. Conferences and conventions
  7. Events that convert negative characteristics into positive

Human nature means that potential audiences are often very fixed in their opinions about a particular destination, and consequently ordinary marketing efforts will not make a significant difference.  This is where events that are expertly created, managed and executed can deliver.  But, as organisers of Barack Obama’s recent visit to Tanzania discovered, it is not enough to clean up your act for a few short days, there has to be additional investment to ensure that any goodwill is not lost as the last dignitary boards the plane home.