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Blog on Event Management in India



4Ps OF EVENT MANAGEMENT


Neil
Borden came up with the term Marketing Mix for all the ingredients one requires
to promote a brand, and then it was E Jerome McCarthy who reduced this mix to
just four elements – Product, Price, Promotion, Place. But how many of us know
that event management has its 4Ps as well – Planning, Promotion, Preparation,
Performance... all the ingredients that an event manager requires to make events
successful.


1. Planning:

Planning is
not just the first of the Ps of event
management but the most important one as well. It reminds me of a quote written
on my school wall – the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. Having
a good event plan in place is like half the battle won.



Know his stuff and show yours:
Event
planningstarts at the pitch level itself. If you want to bag the event,
plan for the pitch. A thorough homework before the first meeting is highly
suggested. Read as much as you can about the client, the industry it is in, its
products and services, its competition, key messages that the client would
possibly wish to disseminate, its TG/customers and their possible expectations
besides a visit on the LinkedIn accounts of client executives you are scheduled
to meet.




Imagine the bonhomie and the ensuing rapport you’d be able to
strike if you discover a common connection (who can be a strong referee too) while
reading about the person on LinkedIn. “Now I know why you know so much about
aerated beverages…you were with Coca Cola, right?” Think of yourself saying
this! If not anything, you’ve managed to break the ice with this gesture.



Tweak your event profile presentation accordingly. No point
showing pictures of your fashion event to a mobile phone brand manager. Show
him the pictures and videos of product launches you’ve done as an event manager,
preferably in the technology space, as he’d be more interested in them than
seeing anorexic models doing a ramp walk.




Take the ‘brief’, as detailed as possible:
The
first thing that I tell my team members interacting with the clients is to take
a detailed brief, I repeat – as detailed as possible, in the very first meeting
itself. If you cannot think of the right questions during the first meeting, it
is suggested that you do a ‘mental reiki’ or visit the event site, take
pictures and measurements and share a list later. No one minds right set of
questions. Rather, they would be happy to answer them for you as it gives them
an impression that you are serious about your business, will not miss anything
and they’d be in good hands if they choose you as their event management
partner.



The major objective behind this detailing is not just to
impress the client with your knowledge quotient but to arrive at the cost sheet
as well. If you miss too many things, you’ll have to pay for them through your
margin as the client takes certain deliverable as a given. They have hired you
for your expertise and not for doing a simple supply job.




Be on the same page:
You should
be able to perceive what the client has in mind…his ‘mental picture’ of the
event he wishes to hire you for. Notes should be taken religiously and shared
asap along with pictures downloaded from the net or from your own event picture
folders, such that there is no mismatch whatsoever between what is being asked
for and what you think is being asked for. If the client has specified certain materials
to be used for fabrication, sourcing small sample pieces and taking them along
for approval in the very next meeting is highly suggested. Send a team member
and have the stuff dropped at the client office if you or the client is busy.



Call your 3D designer and share the brief as early as you can.
Take him along in the briefing meeting if possible. Get the snapshots of the
stage and other event areas prepared as per client’s brief with distinct
visibility of his/her brand. They love to see their logos flashed at the right
places. The more you sit upon it, the less you’ll remember and pass it on to
the designer – the communication loss theory is always at work. If for some
reason, you do not have the budget or the time to get the designs made,
showcasing pictures of relevant events you have managed in the past also helps
the client. It is a subtle yet effective way of showcasing your event
expertise.


Value-add as much as possible: Help the client arrive at the event
sequence, and agenda points as well if possible. Suggestions, even if not
considered, are always appreciated. If the client is doing the event for the
first time or has no idea of what should be done, you can give references of
the events executed in the past and take him/her through the suggested plan.
Educating the ‘first-time-event’ customer is an effective way of selling as he then
begins to ‘see’ the event as you would want him/her to. Many a times, based on
the knowledge he’s gained from you, he is able to compare the competition on
why certain deliverable are missing from their proposal or why are they priced
so high. In a way, the client eliminates your competition for you!







Make the quote modular:
The
client should be able to take a pick amidst event elements and services as per
his requirement and budget. This is achievable only if you have shared an
itemized breakup of costs. If your quote is less than the spend the client
intends to make, he may order more of some desired event elements or services!
Except changing rooms, transparency is welcome just about everywhere.




Write down the specifications
: The
client should know that the ‘sound’ you are offering is not just run of the
mill but line array and hence costs more than what has been quoted by the
competition. This will hold you in good stead if the client is meeting multiple
event management companies before making a final choice – may just tilt the
scales in your favor.



Documentation is a must: If you
happen to bag the event, insist on documentation. Submit a formal proposal along
with list of deliverable and associated cost preferably in a proforma invoice
format and ask for a formal agreement, work order etc. Make your terms and
conditions explicit, leaving no room for any ambiguity, especially when it
comes to advance payments and payment schedule. This will help you procure the
event requirements in time. Always get the contract/agreement proof-checked
from your legal counsellor and chartered accountant.



Reverse-calendar the event: Thisreminds
me of another quote – the trouble is, you think you have time. Everything
usually takes more time than anticipated. Labor and suppliers do not adhere to
the timelines they commit and then there are traffic jams, strikes, festival
holidays, weekly offs…not everyone works on all days of the week, or for that
matter 24x7 like you do. It’s not their event, it’s yours. Swallow the bitter
pill. It’s just another event for them and you are just another customer, like
so many of them they have. You may not place orders on them ever again but it
does not make even an iota of difference to them.



You can’t do any damn thing about it but what you can do is
reverse-calendar your event and place orders on time. For example, the
invitations should be sent at least three weeks in advance; the site reiki and
measurements should be done at least two weeks in advance; and the high
resolution logos should reach you at least one week before the event for your
graphic designer to make the backdrop design, standee design etc. and seek
approvals thereof. This too, enthuses a lot of confidence amidst the client
team and allays their anxieties. Once everything is in place, you should be
seen networking with attendees at the event in a dapper suit rather than fixing
things backstage in your jeans.



Can’t sell for more, buy for less at least: Remember
the age-old saying – haste makes waste. Planning helps attaining efficiencies
in terms of time and resources spent, including money. Increasingly, clients
are becoming aware of the various event elements and services and their costs.
Therefore, when one cannot extract decent margins in billing, the win lies in
having adequate time to explore all possible options and procuring at lowest
possible cost, sans any compromise on quality of course. And managing time for
evaluating options is a function of planning again!

2. Promotion:




Delegate management:
Incase
of a conference, if you take up the mantle of ensuring adequate participation
as well, the client is likely to hand the event down to you. But for this to
happen, it is pertinent to have a plan that answers basic questions - what is
the communication to be sent out / invitation and key messages; whom all will
it be sent out to / database; when shall the follow-ups be done / reminders be
sent etc.



If there is a fee attached to participation, the selling team
should have prior approvals from the client on discounts, if any, that can be
extended such that they can close the deal without any back and forth. Event manager should have adequate time to
procure database and do the needful on it.




If you are planning to call 100 guests for an event, extend a
minimum of 300 invites and in case of paid events, chasing 1000 would be a safe
bet. You need to adapt as per the response. It is always a good idea to have a
microsite for the event with an online registration form and payment gateway
integration. Collecting cash, cheques and demand drafts is dated and resource
consuming.

Communications edge: You may have the largest of the screens at the event but what's the point if the banquet meant for 1000 people has only 100 watching them. Promoting your event therefore, is an absolute must. Besides the delegate management, this is another major value addition that you can bring across the table for the client, beating your competition hands down. Help them get an event website or microsite made with an online registration form and payment gateway integration. Call up your contacts in the media fraternity and get the best advertising rates or a barter deal for them, something they could not have managed on their own. Help the client do pre-event PR, event PR, social media marketing etc. This supplements the delegate registration process as well.











3. Preparation



Not making a checklist is a sin: Prepare a
checklist of items to be bought or rented, services to be rendered, the
preferred vendors/suppliers and their backups along with their contact details
– landline as well as mobile phone numbers. Most of us in the event fraternity
carry two mobile phones or have a dual SIM phone. You should have all possible
numbers including those of their deputies or juniors on your list.



It is a good idea to identify and work with vendors/suppliers
who are responsive – those who take your calls or bother to call back and
message, even if they charge a tad more. This would save you a lot of heartburn
when you are executing an event on a tight timeline, which is generally the
case.




Resource allocation / delegating duties:
No matter
how multi-talented or hardworking you are, you cannot do everything on your
own. Calculate the number of days to the event (reverse calendar) and break
your work plan into smaller, achievable parts. You’ll then have achievable
goals and can follow-up with the client for inputs accordingly besides
assigning responsibilities within your team. Many running for the same thing or
no one running for a particular thing – both scenarios are avoidable. It is
always good idea to have some extra hands available for miscellaneous tasks.
You cannot ask the guy on AV console to run and fetch the bouquets from your
car. Buffer comes handy almost always.



Your team members should be aware of their responsibility as
well as escalation points very clearly. This helps event managers to screen
performers from under-performers too. For example, once the supplies have been
bought by the procurement team, it is the clearly the store keeping staff who
is responsible for any shortage. No one is able to pass the buck (read blame)
on to another.




Value-additions cement customer satisfaction and
repeat business:
If youpossess knowledge and experience,
what use are they of if you simply hold on to them and not impart them to your
client…someone who has placed his trust on you, would pay you for it and may
place repeat orders as well. Put one of your expert staff on the job and mentor
the client, assist him in his event speeches, presentations and videos, venue
selection, pre-event rehearsals etc. Impressing the client is half the job
done, if you are able to impress his invitees too and they give him a positive
feedback, the client will be yours for a posterity.



Pre-event meeting & rehearsal: Practice
makes an event near perfect.If it is possible, event rehearsals must be
done. They give you an idea of what possibly can go wrong, the weak areas that
need to be perfected and more importantly, the actual time each of the
activities planned will take. Make all your important client executives, your
team members and key representatives of your suppliers / vendors / service
providers sit across the table for a pre-event meeting a day before the event
or at least a couple of hours before the event commencement. Circulate the
event sequence printouts amidst all, do a re-check on the duties assigned and
the coordination that the teams have to do amidst themselves. Throw questions
and seek answers – this will give you an idea of how well everybody is aware of
their tasks. Take questions and answer them patiently to create an atmosphere where
everyone feels free to share his concerns / doubts.



Ensuring safety and compliance: Ensuring required
licenses, structural safety and fire compliance, traffic management, ambulance
with all required medical facilities etc. are event manager’s responsibility.
If the client wishes to undertake any of these on its own, mention the same in
the contract / agreement explicitly. Insist and ensure that the client delivers
on these important aspects. In case of any eventuality, it will be your neck on
the blade first. However, if you have these things in place, it will save you a
lot of wasteful & unpleasant experiences.




4. Performance



Again, performance comes from planning. Deliver what you have
promised and planned for…be it numbers in terms of attendance, execution of the
innovative concept, impressive decor and unveiling of the product being
launched, personalization in the event theme, innovative concepts, maximum
media presence and coverage thereof, mind blowing performances (achievable only
if you planned for the best of artists), celebrity coordination, technical
aspects – sound and light arrangement, out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to
event photography and video production, crowd management, event security or for
that matter event souvenirs (something they’d use and appreciate). Remember,
proof of the pudding is in the eating!



- Dhiraj Ahuja



PS: The author is Director, Team Orange Events, one of the leading event
management companies in India based at New Delhi and therefore, this blog is
oriented more towards the event management scene in India. However, like
universal truths, some observations apply to all.