Getting an event: Answering enquiries
Answer enquires for event bookings and discuss event requirements with clients. Offer advice to help them plan the event. For example, requirements can include:
- style and format of the occasion
- layout of a room
- any technical requirements
- timing details including access and break down
If you can, get a clear list of what they want. However, the prospective client might not know exactly what they want themselves and ask your advice.
You might also need to ask quite early on whether they already have a budget. When prospective clients have a firm budget, they sometimes discontinue the enquiry if they think you cannot work within it.
When handling the enquiry, you should start with a basic analysis:
- What kind of event is it?
- Who is the event for?
- Why are they running it? (What is its purpose?)
- When do they want to hold it?
- Where do they hope to hold it?
- What do they expect of you?
- What do they expect of the event?
- What is the nature and ethos of the organization running the event?
- What existing patterns and expectations must you follow?
- What critical success factors (CSFs) apply in this event?
- To whom are you responsible?
- What is the estimated attendance?
- How did you estimate the attendance?
- Is this estimate firmly based on past attendances at previous events of a similar kinds?
- If it is a catered event, what is the deadline for informing the event manager of specific numbers? If the client is late informing of numbers, what is the default number of attenders that the event manager will cater for?
What is the estimated budget? How did you estimate it? How flexible and negotiable is it? What is the venue?
- If the venue is unfamiliar to you, don't book the gig unless you have seen it yourself.
- Consider size and style of potential venues and the facilities ech one offers. Explain what you can offer to clients before accepting the booking.
- Many clients want to look around a venue they have not seen before. Show them around. If they are willing to take the time, they may be close to making a decision. While you can't "hard sell" you should ask for their reaction and address any issues they have.
It might be easier to book smaller events if you fill in in a specific form to collect this kind of information. This enables you to ask everything needed, and to get it written down as soon as possible.
If necessary, discuss your client's requirements with your colleagues and how you could meet them. (You might need to consult with colleagues and suppliers to discuss requirements and to determine how these can be met.)
Research the event market
Your purpose is to develop a brief arising from gaps in the market. Start by researching the current market for opportunities to organise special events. Look for events planned in a similar field and identify gaps in current services. For example, the location/venue, the kind of activity, date, etc.
Prepare recommendations based on your research and present them to your supervisor in a proposal for a market opportunity.
- Decribe clearly the specific kind of event.
- Assess the financial situation. (You will need to draw up a draft budget, or several draft budgets if you need to assess different scenarios.)
- Consider the objectives of your organization. (Some otherwise attractive options might not be in line with your goals and objectives.)
- Identify available resources of personnel, facilities, and sponsorship
- Draft the brief (with budgets and timeframes) according to the results of your market research.
Develop a proposal or bid
You may wish to place a tender or a bid for a brief for which the specifications are already written. Or you wish to propose an event that arises from your market research. The bid or proposal may be for the whole event or only some aspects of a larger event. Either way, you are drawing up a formal document to claim that you or your organization can manage such an event.
What does the brief actually mean?
- Find out exactly what the brief means. You will need to read between the lines and check ramifications such as risks and regulatory compliance load, and whether you have the capacity to meet its requirements.
- Identify what you would need to do to develop a proposal or bid.
- Plan what you will do. Speak with the client to clarify requirements if you need to do so.
- Is the event feasible? You may need to conduct a specific study, including a trial budget.
Write the proposal or bid
Develop options to meet the expectations of the client, and where possible exceed them. You will probably need to evaluate possible competitors and offer soehing that will be competitive. If necessary, consult your suppliers and other relevant agencies.
Write the details of the proposal or bid. These will vary according to the kind of event but can include:
- General concept and themes
- Business program
- Social program
- Special features
- Sample promotional materials
- References and details of other successful events
- Organizational information (e.g. structure, personnel etc)
- Support statements, information from significant individuals and other organizations
- Approach to environmental impacts and issues
Develop any other supporting materials that you could enclose
- Prepare bid materials and presentations that meet or exceed the requirements of the brief, and present them in a format that communicates effectively, makes a good impression, and demonstrates the feasibility of your idea. These could be:
- Colour photographs
- Table-top models
- On-on-one meetings
- Presentations to groups
- Answering questions
- Audio-visual displays
- Technical information that you will need to have on hand.
- Get several colleagues to have a look at any written materials and presentations. Someone other than you needs to check that they mean what you intended, and that the impression is also appropriate.
See also Finding Funding, which deals with ways to write funding proposals.
Identify overall objectives and scope
Get a very clear idea of why this event is needed. It may be simple, but it may be more complex, and a needs analysis may be necessary.
Perhaps you will need to consult widely to identify the objectives of the event and the scope of its activities. This is likely to be the case if:
- Your client or supervisor did not have existing specifications when you were asked to plan the event.
- Your client needs help to define them.
- You are exploring market gaps.
- You are developing a proposal or bid.
It might sound odd, but purposes and objectives can be quite varied. They may be:
- promote a product
- generate income
- launch a product or activity
- provide information on the organization
- pursue a particular objective of the organization
- meet needs of participants
You may need to decide how you can theme and leverage the event for optimal outcomes, how entrepreneurial you must be in management and financing, and any differences between corporate and government marketing practices.
The steps are basically as follows:
- Consult with stakeholders and reach agreement on the key objectives of the event. The stakeholders may be:
- event principal
- local community
- organising committees
- local authorities
- staging contractors
Get information that will be useful for deciding upon:
- size and numbers of guests/delegates,
- audience/participant needs,
- financial investment and
- other resourcing issues.
Analyse the information and consult with stakeholders to determine the broad scope of the event.
Identify and analyse factors that could affect the event. These might include any of the following:
- resource availability (eg, human, financial, physical)
- potential for attraction of additional resources (eg, sponsorship, co-hosting)
- level of management commitment
- restrictions on lead-time
- potential levels of participation and interest
- competitive environment
- timing and duration factors (eg, impact of public holidays and other public events)
- potential contributors
- access factors
- marketing and promotional issues (e.g., potential for media coverage)
Closing the sale
There is a world of difference between answering an enquiry and getting a solid booking.
At some point in the discussion, you must ask for a booking, and confirm it if possible. If they are reluctant to commit at the time, treat it as a contact and ask if you can get back to them.
When and how must the organization commit itself to the event?
- In a business, this may be signing an agreement, placing a written order and if possible paying at least a holding deposit.
- In some community organizations, it might be a board minute for internal purposes. While it might not be a money-making venture, it is frustrating for everybody if no clear actionable decision has been made.
Record bookings accurately in writing and confirm them with the client. Your organization should have a procedure or you may have to establish one as part of your planning.
Agree on any details with the client and confirm them in writing. This may be by formal agreement or letter for a larger event, or on your organization's form for a smaller event. Getting a holding deposit is basically a requirement, and the final payment arrangements (and any other booking conditions) should be written on the statement or invoice.
Keep accurate records of customer requirements and final agreed booking details. If you need to amend these details, make sure that you date any amendments and make sure that they are clear enough for someone else to understand.
It may be relevant to update the financial status of the client's records accurately according to your organization's procedures.
In a very large function, it might be a separate legal contract to minimize risk. In that case, you should have a standard contract form that you have had checked by a lawyer.
If you really need the business, you might be tempted to promise whatever they want. However, it is unethical to accept bookings if you are unsure you can do so, and would be illegal to accept money for it.
- If you are able to arrange a venue that meets their requirements, ask if you can get back to them.
- If your organization ties you to a particular venue, then you should refer the prospective client to other providers.