Monday Musing: Events my boy Events!!!

Rebecca Harper, Membership Engagement Manager gives you a whistle-stop tour of the work undertaken to arrange and manage the calendar of BPA events.

NIC 9852

What is the thought process when you create an event programme?

I always start with our members. As the biggest tangible benefit of BPA Membership, it is vital each of our event programmes reflects the needs and wants of our members. We have a big whiteboard at the back of the office, where ideas can be noted following conversations with members, attending industry events or thinking about how wider current affairs are impacting the parking sector. I consult with senior management regularly and have a staff steering group to ensure everyone’s thoughts and views are considered. Once topics and themes are set, then begins the process of securing speakers. Programme version control is also important, as it will continue to evolve in the months leading up to an event.  

What is your biggest challenge in creating an event?

As a not for profit organisation, naturally we do not have ever-expanding budgets, but we still want to ensure that we deliver the best possible experience. Here are some tips on working with a limited budget:

  • it is always worth asking suppliers for discounts based on our not for profit status
  • often, we can negotiate discounted rates by agreeing to hold multiple events at the same venue
  • giving accurate attendance figures for catering. Hence it is so important that members register for our events!

Finally, it is important to remember that many of our members offer venues for some of our meetings, which means we can reinvest elsewhere. We are extremely grateful for those that can help in this way.

We do a lot of events back to back so how do you prioritise your time and resources to ensure each event gets your attention?

Events are certainly not a one-person job and I am very lucky to have the full support of the Membership Team and wider BPA colleagues, to ensure the best possible event experience for our members. With so many to organise, I often visualise the process as keeping multiple plates spinning at the same time. I try to focus on each plate in turn based on the proximity to the date of the event.  You can never work too far in advance with these things. You will thank yourself for the prep you did on an event a year ago when you find yourself three weeks away from it!  

Which event do you enjoy organising the most? 

The Members’ Dinner is always a lovely event to organise. It is such an elegant evening and members are always in high spirits. It’s nice to have some fun with the theming element of the event as well.

And which event has been the most challenging?

Personally, I’d say the Annual Conference can prove the most challenging, purely for the fact that there are so many moving parts. This does, however make it the most rewarding event I am a part of as well.

What factors do you consider when choosing an event venue?

Without question, one of the biggest factors that contributes to event success is the choice of venue. The decision to move an event is not one that should be made in haste, but besides Parkex, each of our flagship events has now found a new location. There are a few things I consider when looking for a new venue:

  • good transport links are essential to ensure our events are easily accessible to our members. Parking facilities of course factored in!
  • venue layout – not just the main conference room, but the proximity to any syndicate rooms and the catering facilities. It is really important to visualise how attendees will navigate their way around
  • catering – keeping everyone fuelled is extremely important!

What do you enjoy the most about organising an event?

For me, I really enjoy seeing all of the elements coming together on the day. When you have been consumed in all the detail in the lead-up to an event, working with different suppliers, speakers and stakeholders, it is so rewarding to see an experience come together and attendees reaping the benefits.

How do you measure the success of an event?

Of course, you can always create a satisfaction survey and pull off lots of stats about an event, but I find anecdotal feedback from attendees to be hugely insightful. If people enjoyed themselves and achieved their objectives for attending, they will want to share it with others. I try to speak to people before they leave and check out social media posts after the event.

Any top tips for event planning?

This may be rather old school but get a wall planner! Applications like Wunderlist, Asana and Trello are great for managing event projects, but when planning events across the year, a good old wall planner cannot be beaten. With over 70 events to organise, plotting things like school holidays and other relevant events makes it a lot easier to schedule and avoid clashes.

Finally, any pieces of advice you’d want to provide to anyone thinking about getting into events?

Don’t be afraid to try something different. Just because something has always followed a particular format, does not mean it should remain the same forever. People are increasingly expecting more from the events they attend so there is little room to be complacent. Making incremental changes or adding a theme can make a huge difference to the overall impact of an event.