Make your next event stand out from the crowd with the help of Helen Lowe’s ‘what if’ approach
Europa International’s events and marketing manager Helen Lowe is what one might call a ‘seasoned professional’. Seasoned, in the sense that she’s managed countless events spanning every single season in the calendar for a good number of years now (official count remains strictly confidential, mind).
Weddings in winter, fiestas in fall, sporting showdowns in summer and sophisticated soirées in spring… she’s been there, done that, and loved every single second of it!
And whilst the outside world may continue to be kept in the dark about what happens behind the scenes at events of all kinds, Helen is undeniably ‘in the know’ with what can be achieved with a ‘can-do’ attitude and a clipboard!
But where did such a vast knowledge and an air of confidence come from, you may ask? Well that would be from her rather unique ‘what if’ approach, apparently… And here she tells us just a little bit more about it.
For those of you who blinked and missed it, the British summer – officially the period between 1 June and 31 August, according to the meteorological authority that is the Met Office – is now over.
The festival goers are rinsing off their wellies; the VIP headline acts are retiring to their Mediterranean-moored yachts; the tennis players and cricket enthusiasts are packing away their balls; and event organisers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief as the last of the hay-bale fueled, allergy-inducing extravaganzas come to an end.
But as many of us industry stalwarts take little more than a deep breath and a weekend off to recoup from everything that’s been and gone, before looking to the future and all that the autumn and winter months have in store, perhaps it is worth taking a minute to think ‘what if?’.
Now, let me be really absolutely clear before there is any confusion! I am not a looking-back-kinda-gal. Oh no! In fact, I am so much of a look to the future sort of person that people often have to politely plead with me to slow down and fill them in on my thought process in order to get the general gist of where I am coming from.
In which case, you may well ask, what on earth am I bleating on about?
Well, the ‘what if’ approach to event planning is one I like to adopt when entering any new era. What if, for example, it had been possible to match the furniture in the VIP suite with the specific colour of M&M’s requested by the headline act (blue, for the record, and no I won’t name names).
Perhaps said act would have posted out to their 350k followers and the hashtag #awesomeeventorganiser would have been trending!
What if guests had been invited to sit on plush, cushioned seating instead of the cold hard ground to watch the annual village Duck Race? It’s possible that they would have stayed just a little bit longer, donating just a little bit more money and buying just a tiny bit more from the funky champagne bar that was committed to giving 10% of its profits back to the charity!
And what if a little ‘zoning’ at the famously epic corporate annual knees up – using cleverly placed furniture items, perhaps – had encouraged guests to move throughout the venue as the evening wore on; resulting in just a little bit more use of the oh-so-cool props and products including the photo booth, the inflatable sumo wrestling ring and the now infamous lip sync battle area?
You see, it’s really not a case of ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ (in the words of popular noughties pop act Beverly Knight)… After all, the guests had fun, the client was happy and the atmosphere wasn’t compromised, right?
But what if next time you could do things just a little bit differently and achieve just that little bit more?
Some of my usual tick list ideas include:
Just because an event is out in the open, or taking place in a temporary structure, it doesn’t mean we need to compromise on comfort or style. Think about the poor bottoms of your many delegates before committing wholeheartedly to a ‘standing only’ affair, or to embracing the latest quirky trend such as replacing traditional chairs with water-borne canoes.
Similarly, if you are hoping to make the most of the sunny weather but are equally mindful that the heavens could open at any moment consider a range that is 1. Elements friendly and 2. Easily transferable from out-to-in at a moment’s notice.
If your event does revolve around a certain amount of standing, it may be worth considering exactly what your attendees are going to be doing while standing and what might be needed as a result!
If, for example, guests are expected to exchange business cards and network over a glass of wine while chomping on a canape or two, have they got somewhere to rest their drinks in-between sips?
Furthermore, do bear in mind that there might be the odd person (be that someone who is heavily pregnant, or that one person who always turns up to such affairs overly excited by the prospect of free booze) desperate to take a pew whilst remaining part of the conversation. To that end, it is worth considering what options are available for them during the planning stages (a well-placed bar stool or 10 and some well positioned lounge chairs may well fit the bill!).
Unless it’s a very formal affair where everyone is expected to do the same thing at the same time, chances are you will be looking for people to move fluidly from attraction to attraction, room to room or zone to zone.
With that in mind it’s certainly worth considering providing guests with multiple options so that they can move to suit their moods. Think cool, sophisticated bar areas for a bit of prosseco sipping; chilled out lounge areas for, ummm, chilling and lounging; and, if the audience and needs of the client dictate, more clinical business-orientated areas where exhibitors can talk shop with potential customers.
Probably my favorite section – which won’t surprise anyone that’s familiar with the Europa International ethos which, although 100% dedicated to customer service and delivering excellence, is undeniably driven by fun and frolics – there is always the opportunity to add a little pizzazz to any event.
Think zebra patterned stools and framboise coloured carpet (yep, we were commissioned to deliver that once to a star studded event in that there London!).
Once the theme is set have a think about what might add that ‘wow’ factor that will help your event stand out from the crowd.
Ultimately though, whether you choose to stick to the status quo or try something just a little bit different next time around you will no doubt want to ensure that you surround yourself with similarly dedicated suppliers who can help you achieve your vision.
And whilst a huge amount of that comes down to ensuring that they deliver what they should at the right time, to the right location, you may also want to partner with people who are as dedicated as you to going the extra mile to ‘make it happen’.
And as we enter one of the busiest periods for the average event planning expert – with winter a veritable smorgasbord of corporate parties, Christmas concerts, industry conferences and foody markets – a supplier with more than 30,000 items in stock including illuminated bar tables, slim-line linking chairs that can be used inside and outdoors, access to more coloured carpet options than you can imagine and a whole host of products primed for branding might also come in handy!
About the Author
Helen Lowe is the events and marketing manager at Europa International. For over 50 years, Europa has been supplying furniture and floor coverings for hire to the events industries. It specialises in chair, sofa, stool and table hire at affordable prices, and carries a stock of items for those who want ‘something a little different.’ A truly independent furniture and event hire company, it is family run, with family values. Other services include floor covering, registration desks, panel hire, electrical, graphics, conference seating and shell scheme hire. 08454 303015 / www.europainternational.com/oaa or Tweet @Europa_Int