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Annie Hayes



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Opinion: Juggling HR ‘hats’ can end in tears


You probably overlooked it in the job specification, perhaps it was there in the small print but whether or not you need a magnifying glass to find it under list of responsibilities there’s no denying that events planning is becoming a growing burden for the HR professional whose lap it often lands up in.

The latest research from the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) reveals that more than three-quarters (79%) of people organising events do so based on their own knowledge which includes the selection of venues.

While this approach is obviously understandable for a professional organiser with years of experience, research and networking behind them, it is worrying that part-time organisers could be forced into following the same pattern.

After all, it’s estimated that UK Plc spends more than £20bn on events each year. And without doubt, when invested wisely, that budget can have a substantial impact on your business, through increased sales and motivation, and better communication and efficiency.

But it’s unreasonable to assume that a professional HR manager, already swamped with personnel issues, can be tasked with organising and running the annual conference or yet another training day effectively without support!

Many companies, however, fail to offer the support needed. The stress levels of even the most experienced professional event organiser are frequently tested to their limit by clients’ venue choices, technical problems and bad catering.

Stress that is compounded for the HR professional, juggling every day responsibilities with that of events management.

Tony Rogers, chief executive of the British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD) and Executive Director of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) comments: “Whilst I appreciate budgets often mean it is impossible to utilise the service of a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) or agency, it is still imperative that part time organisers seek professional advice through the various mediums available to them.

“With so much information available from tourist boards, the internet, the press and industry trade shows it would be foolhardy to waste company money by organising events without tapping all those sources of information.” HR professionals with part-time organising responsibilities would be rewarded by taking some time out to study each of the resources mentioned by Rogers.

Suzanne Holmes, a representative from the Meet Heart of England marketing partnership explains some of the benefits of approaching local tourist offices: “By working together across such a large area we are able to provide a substantially better service to those looking for event solutions as we are not tied down by county borders.”

The internet is an ever-growing resource for event organisers, not only providing destination and venue information but also sources for advice on organisation and service providers. The BACD’s website, for instance, contains briefing documents, fact-sheets and plenty of other useful information, while can provide a link to almost every conceivable event resource.

Jill Hawkins, a director of Friday’s, the events industry PR agency, also highly recommends the industry press. “With at least ten key magazines and another half dozen news websites there is incredible competition to produce high quality publications filled with news, opinion and educational features, anyone organising events either professionally or as part of another job should be subscribing to at least the top three.”

Obviously, there’s no substitute for face-to-face advice, and the event industry has all the credentials and experience necessary to put on the best shows in the world. For a really concentrated learning experience part-time organisers should take Rogers’ advice and take a few hours to visit an industry trade show.

Duncan Reid, the event director of International Confex, Europe’s largest exhibition for event organisers, is not entirely convinced about the 79% figure reported by the MIA: “Certainly some organisers rely upon personal experience, but they must have attempted some research at some point. After all, no-one is born with an in-depth knowledge of which venues in West Yorkshire are capable of holding 300 plus delegates!”

Reid does agree, however, that part-time organisers need to be closer to the industry, something they can achieve through attendance at exhibitions, and he recommends thinking carefully about which you attend. “Taking the time out of the office to visit a trade show needs to provide a return on the time you are investing as a visitor. Read the show guides and previews, seeking out those shows with educational elements and the right breakdown of exhibitors for your needs.”

Despite all this talk of research don’t forget that if an HR manager considers their time is best invested in their core tasks, hiring a PCO or event agency can be the best way forward! Emma Swales, marketing manager at Nimlok, an exhibition and event service provider says, “One of the great advantages of bringing in an expert is that they can understand client needs, create a suitable response and then deliver accordingly – whatever the event type.”

However, Stephen Norcliffe, commercial director of The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre points out that: “In some cases it is not necessary to use a PCO or agency. Many of the top venues have their own internal event managers and if as a part time organiser you are settled on your venue choice it makes financial sense to tap their skills and get them to do all the hard work, particularly as the cost of their work is covered in the venue fee. Why pay for something and not use it?”

The event industry is becoming more professional by the day, and long suffering HR managers with both personnel and event elements to their job may want to think where they should be focusing their energies.

Adam Baggs is an Account Director for Friday’s Media Group Ltd.

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Annie Hayes


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