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Checklist for organising your next workshop/seminar/social event

It’s my party and I’ll have a checklist if I want to! Do you know the one thing that doesn’t change in life whether you are an adult or a child? The complexity of who to invite to your party and where to have it! Finding a venue for your workshop/conference/anniversary can be very time consuming so I’ve compiled a checklist below to help simplify it. If you are based in Northern Ireland, Visit Belfast have a very comprehensive list of venues in Belfast with the maximum capacity theatre and banquet style.

Whether you are a freelance coach/trainer/speaker or working for a company you may often find yourself having to organise an event of some kind. I worked as a PA for 10 years so often had to book venues for Christmas parties or team away days. Now as a VA, I help small business owners research venues for Director meetings; speaking or training locations; event launches; business milestones etc. I’ve also been on the other side where I’ve been asked to speak at events about my own business. So, I’ve drawn together below a checklist of things to think about when booking an event. Keep reading if you are interested in downloading a checklist of things to tick off when you are in the middle of organising an event/conference/bootcamp

A few years ago, I had a big birthday and invited 40 of my closest friends. I had people from all aspects and periods of my life from primary school friend to friends I met while working in Luxembourg. So I wanted to find a venue and an activity that was pretty central for everyone to get to, that allowed people to mix easily and had good food. I worked in Belfast Welcome Centre for 2 years as a Tourist Advisor so I also wanted to showcase Belfast. In the end I booked Mulsanne Casinos and had a casino night at Crumlin Road Gaol with a tour beforehand. The customer service was fantastic beforehand and after. More about that at the end

Alison's 40th birthday

Cake not big enough to fit all the candles

Organising an event can be very stressful as there are so many elements to think of so I’ve compiled a list for the pre-event stage:

Researching a venue

Things to think about in researching a venue :

1.     How many people you anticipate will attend

2.      How easy it is for people to get to

2.     How easy it is to park

3.     How accessible is it if you are carrying any kind of equipment into the room

4.     Will there be staff on the day/night present to help signpost people and with registration

5.     Do you have to provide your own tea/coffee/biscuits or is there in-house catering

6.     How well ventilated or heated the room is

7.     How good is the Wi-Fi

8.     How good are the acoustics

9.     Does the venue provide an overhead projector and laptop on site if you are giving a Powerpoint presentation

10.  Is there technical support on site in case anything goes wrong

By human nature we are programmed to remember the bad things and I remember vividly venues I’ve been in for events which have been freezing or roasting, where there is no tea on arrival, where the sound is poor and where it has been difficult to park.

Booking a venue

The Fine Print-things to remember to ask about:

1.     What the cancellation policy is

2.     If prices include VAT or not

3.     If you are able to check the room in person in advance

4.     Discount if you are booking repeat slots/ if you are also booking people into the venue to stay overnight/sister discounts with other establishments etc

5.     Reconfirm everything at least 5 days in advance

And remember to get everything in writing from quote at the start to the final confirmation! Best lesson I was ever taught in a coordination role is never to assume anything. The person you confirmed the booking with on the phone, may get distracted and forget to write your booking down in their calendar or you may get the dates mixed up! Always try at least 5 working days in advance of your event contact the venue to reconfirm details and if needs be find an alternative venue if you are double booked.

Always plan for the unforeseeable

No matter what your event is, always plan or the unforeseeable ! Some elements will always be beyond your control. You can’t predict the weather/ a total powercut/bomb alerts/your keynote speaker missing their flight/rail strikes etc. but you can eat least make a Plan B or C in advance.

The Crumlin Road Gaol still sends me a birthday card every year in the post which I’m always touched by. A notification in an Excel sheet or in Mail Chimp is a very simple thing to set up but it’s the little things that sway you to go back or to recommend others!

If you are organising a training event, a workshop or a conference with several speakers and are feeling overwhelmed about the elements to organise please get in touch to see if I can help you in the lead up to it.

If you are interested in receiving an extra checklist of things to think off whilst organising an event please download it here

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