Top 5 tips for organising a HR event (or any other event to be fair)

You ever gone to an event and felt embarrassed for the MC, lights don’t work, mic cuts out, food isn’t ready, the room is boring, a speaker doesn’t show, the content is soooooo boring you want to stick pencils in your eyes. Your daydreaming turns into fantasy and you start making up scenarios in which you save the entire audience from this sinking ship of an event by crashing the stage and stirring up a storm with an amazing speech that ends with you being carried off to the bar on the shoulders of all the thanks full attendees….. OK that’s an extraverts daydream for the introverts it probably ends with sneaking out the fire exit and retreating to the comfort of your room where you order a diet coke and room service ahhh bliss 😉

But it never fails to amaze me how people or organizers get their audience so wrong. You can feel it in the room if people are not into what you’re selling. The fidgeting starts, the mock cell phone to the ear having to leave to take an oh so important emergency call… prob from their mum.

The organizer say “why did you come to this event if you don’t like the content?” and that’s the wrong question in my opinion. You put something out there that intrigued them. Yet when they got there you failed to deliver on that intrigue, so the real question is where did it go wrong. I would love to see that on the feedback sheets we all get given. Did the event live up to the hype? If not, why not?

Invariably you will always get the one or two that are using it as a day out of the office or and evening away from domestic bliss, and that’s ok but if your loosing more than that then you need to consider where the event started letting people down.

I never thought of myself as an event planner and in real life I’m not. But I do enjoy entertaining people so I always approach an event with the following hypothesis:

“Would this be an event I would want to go to” secondly “Would I recommend this event to a friend afterwards”

If you answer no to the first question – re think the event

If you answer no to the second – deep dive into why not

To save you from answering “no” here are my top 5 tips for avoiding the “no’s”

Treat it like a wedding: the things people remember about weddings are the food and the entertainment and the speeches– we have each of these things at an event!

Food – we all hate waiting in lines for food consider the layout, consider whether people are standing up to eat if so don’t have steak and mash on cardboard plates whilst standing! Have finger food! It might seem so simple but so little attention is paid to the food that the lunch hour /networking session is often just a moaning session which brings everyone down for the afternoon. Give variety; cater to a wide range of tastes if people say wow about your food they will tell others about it! Food does not have to be expensive just well thought out! Remember food is the fuel for the soul! As Tim Sackette @TimSackett about his food experience in Cayman, or see it on his twitter feed….

Ultimate-Super-Bowl-Snack-Spread-copy

Speeches/entertainment – the father of the bride speech is always one of two things a rave review or totally rubbish very rarely are they “meh” so pick your speakers well. Don’t roll out the same old topics that people have heard before unless it’s revolutionary and funny. People came because they want to be entertained so if you have an uncharismatic speaker that doesn’t engage or at least make people laugh a few times forget it. Pick you speakers with the mantra would I listen to them, would I enjoy listening to them again… the second part is key!

Undersell over deliver – Again using the wedding analogy the weddings that your constantly told are going to be the wedding of the century are normally the biggest let down. Sometimes the best part of weddings is that little unplanned all night session that took pace the night before! If you’re able to wow people with the food and venue giving them more than they expected they are already buzzed. Throw in some amazing speeches and now you have yourself an event!

Don’t take it too seriously – The main thing is that events are normally taking place with a group that has an interest in that particular subject – have fun with that subject have fun with them its not a them and us thing. Make them feel a true part of the event.

And this is the 6th secret tip – be as original as you can but remember you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. There is always an expectation level, manage it, do your own thing and if it works – lather rinse repeat!

My upcoming events are #DisruptHRSMB and Cayman Islands HR Conference 2016

Both in May 2016 – watch this space for more info hopefully they will be events you want to attend and will recommend to others afterwards!

Life’s too short to go to dull events! 🙂

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You have been doing conferences all wrong – Try this!

#SHRM15

So I am currently stuck in the Las Vegas Airport – don’t you just love when they don’t tell you about a schedule change, which causes you to miss your flight! So I have a 7 hour wait plus I missed my connection so have to overnight in Miami before flying home. Trying to see the upside in every situation I thought I could bang out a couple of missives. Mainly because the people I met at this years SHRM15 conference were simply amazing and some of the best bloggers in the country.

Before I left for SHRM15 (Which is the biggest HR conference in the world) I had already made up my mind that I was going to do this one differently. For the last couple of years I have attended this event in Orlando and Chicago and its done on a simply epic scale. 20,000 people hundreds of sessions and probably over 1000 exhibitors in the convention hall. It is mind blowing. But I think many people miss what a conference is all about. They spend hours ruminating over which session to go to, who is going to be good what topic they want to learn about . They busy themselves by scheduling everything so that their days are locked in, it’s almost like being in school. I have honestly seen draft fanatics spend less time figuring out their strategy than some of the HR folks spend figuring out their session planner. But they miss the biggest fundamental reason that we go to conference for. Meeting people!

I asked a colleague who was “locked In” how many people they had met or connected with their response “I haven’t time for all that I need to learn stuff”. Now forgive my cynicism but how much are your really going to learn in an hour session that would be worth more than connecting with an expert that you could pick up the phone to later down the line?

So I mixed it up:

  • I didn’t plan one session
  • I went to the networking sessions
  • I reached out to a couple of people I was interested in meeting as they would be at the conference plus they were also speaking
  • I let people know I would be there in case they wanted to meet me.
  • I only booked one evenings entertainment (A show, it is Vegas after all)

The result:

  • So much more relaxed
  • I met up with a great speaker buddy called Tim Sackett and we hit the convention center together. He is a pro at this and knows everyone so I got introduced to plenty of people as we hit the booths. Made some great connections
  • A by product of this was I was allowed access to the bloggers lounge, guess what I met more really interesting people who were the writers behind many of the blogs I read so for me it was like meeting celebs. I connected in person with around 10 members of our blogging community who we have swapped details and a few stories. Plus they were all interested in coming to speak at my conference in Cayman.
  • All of them are experts in different levels of HR and many have held the very top jobs in our industry so I f I need to learn something, guess what I’m picking up the phone.
  • It was interesting to hear who they were going to see speak and see them speak, so my sessions revolved around who was saying something the blogging community thought was interesting rather than just blindly picking horses (you get what I mean). In turn I attended several really interesting session that gave a different insight or some big data revelation’s.
  • I was invited for drinks with a few of them so I went, lets just say its Vegas, it got messy and we ended up in a penthouse suit of the cosmopolitan at a small private party!
  • I attended the international networking event – but I participated and did the “passport game” (You have a card and you have to get people from different countries to sign it then you put it in a draw for a prize) – I met a bunch of people from all over the world and guess what – I won a prize in the draw a new Ipad which was awesome as mine had just broken. I had done this event for the last 3 years and always just talked to the group I knew. So it paid off big time.
  • I met up with a couple of people who reached out to me on twitter, they were great meetings with something coming from both of them.
  • Within just 3 days I met more people and went to some of the best sessions I have been to simply by allowing myself to be flexible and understanding that I know nothing about where is going to be the right event or session.

So in summary I will never do a conference the old way, this one was so much more fun. Made more so by they accepting nature of a few new friends that allowed me to tag along, were accepting of the introduction and happy that I was happy to meet them.

Tim, William, Laurie, Jennifer, Dawn, Jess, Matt, Career builder, Mel, Sarah, Merren, Robin, Heath and the many others – thanks