Event Management: The Holy Trinity
What is a perfect event? A party that runs to time? Great speeches? Star guests? And of course having your guests show you the money. Why else do event managers spend months tapping contacts to secure the best auction items and put on a stone in weight at countless tastings (okay, that's my fault as I have a broad interpretation of the word "tasting")?
For the perfect event to succeed, you need three key things – or as I call it – The Holy Trinity:
1. The ability to multi task
2. Charm - the power of persuasion
3. The ability to remain calm under pressure
Now, I could go on about having exceptional planning skills and thinking ahead - but how many seasoned events professionals have suddenly had an event handed to them with a two week turnaround? Sometimes, you can't plan ahead; you have to make everything fit within your timeframe. If you can master the Holy Trinity, you'll be okay.
1. The ability to multitask
When planning an event all vital components from catering to event design will have to be planned simultaneously. This is where multitasking comes into play. It will become part of your routine to be on the phone to the caterer at the same time as you are typing an email to the florist asking for mirrors under your floral display (don't ask). You need to be sharp, alert and be able to change catering requests and event formats in the blink of an eye.
2. Charm - The power of persuasion
I believe that you have to have an open, honest and friendly personality to succeed in events. Now I'm not asking you to walk around with a permanent Joker face, but you must always be approachable and polite to all - from security at a venue to your celebrity supporters. Managing celebrity relationships is crucial, celebrities put bums on seats, entertain and make the all-important ask. You will need to use great persuasion skills to convince your caterer to squeeze two more chairs on a round table for twelve because your celebrity supporter insists their make-up artist must sit next to them at dinner. And your charm will work wonders when you are forced to change the format of the evening that has just cut the star celebrity's involvement by two thirds. It won't be the host telling the celebrity this - it will be you. And you must go on the charm offensive, be professional, courteous and always come up with an equally excellent task they can take lead on that night. Massage that ego.
3. The ability to remain calm under pressure
You can put months into planning an event and have it all timed down to the last second, when something won't go according to plan. This has happened to me on countless occasions:
- Losing Desmond Tutu's wife 15 minutes before we were due to sit down to dinner. Solution: located her on Waterloo Bridge, sent my BEST event volunteer in a cab to collect her and let only relevant people know she would be there imminently - I located and delivered!
- The lights in the gallery where I was holding an exhibition went out without warning. Solution: I ran to the gallery office, grabbed as many desk lamps as I could and created atmospheric ambiance in the event space.
Measurements of success
What you want at the end of the event are three things:
1) To have inspired donors to become lifelong supporters, and to have cultivated new supporters in the process
2) To have guests talking about your event positively
3) To have hit your fundraising target with a well thought out pledge, video/speaker and ask.
If you follow the three key skills above, the three measurements of success, will fall into place - and all the stressful nights, the dietary requirement spreadsheets, the countless celebrity cab bookings, will all seem like a faraway dream - until a week later, when you have to plan it all over again for the following year!
Aysha Awan, Media Manager at NHS England
Aysha Awan is an experienced communications and events manager with over 15 years experience organising a host of events from cultivation dinners to marathons for the likes of King's College London, The National Gallery, Global Radio, The British Asian Trust and ActionAid. Aysha also has extensive celebrity management experience, having set up celebrity programmes with the Salvation Army, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, securing long term support from Zayn Malik, Michael Sheen, Dominic West, Gethin Jones, Naughty Boy and a host of other stars. In her spare time, Aysha is a dedicated lover of TV and Film.