With the Hong Kong’s summer convention and exhibition season in full swing, many executives are thinking about their company’s next big or small events. But what’s the best strategy, to organise an event through an internal team or an outsourced event management company?
Let me give you an example. Our company recently expanded our Beijing operations, and we are in the midst of organising a grand opening ceremony and cocktail reception for our new 17,000 sq. m. office and production complex. Without any hesitation, we placed our local administration team in charge of the event.
Now, as a company whose core business is exhibitions and events, it’s obvious that our admin people have a certain background knowledge and event management know-how, so this was an easy decision to make.
Other businesses, however, often approach events in the same way. Their ‘default setting’ is to look to organise internally. This often makes sense - after all, internal staff know the industry, the company, the management and the clients. They also know what the final product should look and feel like.
On the other hand, there are a number of downsides that are often not taken into consideration. Firstly, events are demanding, often requiring the team’s full focus night and day for weeks, meaning that the staff involved won’t be doing their ‘regular jobs’ during this time.
Added to which, being inexperienced, they might be tied up for a longer period than an expert might.
They may also make hasty or incorrect calls on big decisions like which venue to choose, the optimal space required and logistical arrangements; while problems may be flagged too late and crucial protocols may be ignored.
These disadvantages frequently prompt businesses to outsource their events to a professional event management (EM) company.
Consider the pluses: it goes without saying that external EM companies have knowledge and prior experience and are invaluable in helping decide on venues and logistics and so on. But there are many other considerations you might not know about.
Take for example EM companies’ close relationships with important stakeholders like media companies, venue owners and supporting vendors. Keeping the lines of communication open with these parties is vital to the smooth running of any event.; and maintaining access to their purchasing power and ability to negotiate better deals with suppliers in terms of materials, catering and entertainment is extremely helpful.
Another highly significant but often-overlooked function that EM companies perform is identifying the key event touch points, and then designing what visitors see, hear and encounter at each of these points.
These experiences may include arranging valet parking at the arrival point, decorating the venue entrance with a warm greeting message, ensuring an appropriate receptionist-to-guest ratio, and literally hundreds more interactions.
Detailed planning of these points will give attendees a unique and memorable experience, and further the ultimate objective of any event: guest satisfaction.
The big - in fact the only - downside most businesses report with using EM companies is no surprise: price. Still, while externally organising an event can be costly, consider the other side of the equation: what would be the cost to your company of a poorly-organised or disastrous event? How expensive might it be to correct mistakes made by inexperienced staff?
Pre-requisite is to communicate your project objectives and deliverables clearly, detailed action plan, detailed responsibilities and accountabilities, set up reporting channels and checkpoints, set up contingent plan and most important, work hand in hand towards the same objectives.
Ultimately, every event and every company is different. But before your next event, stop and think for a moment: you may have smart and switched-on staff who are capable of handling the demands of managing an event, but will they give you the best event possible? Or will working with a professional EM company will allow your company to get the most out of your event?
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Lawrence Chia is the Chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong-listed Pico Far East Holdings (Pico Group) (SEHK: 752).