A buoyant business

By The Drum, Administrator

April 27, 2004 | 7 min read

While no one would doubt the benefits of the technological revolution, we have to concede that we’re living in an impersonal age. It’s a time where we

e-mail colleagues who sit in the next room, we do business electronically and our excuse for not keeping in contact with friends is that they don’t use e-mail.

It’s because of this impersonal nature, that the special personal touches, when they are made, are warmly received. One of the ways companies have sought to go the extra mile and keep employees, clients and potential clients bedded in a happy camp is through corporate events and hospitality. When it comes to employees, corporate events are seen as a way of establishing, building and personalising inter-work relationships. Staff that know each other’s styles will inevitably operate far more productively than those who seem to have about as much cohesion as the Wolves defence. Not only that, but taking your employees on an event like a golfing day or a murder mystery event will also help boost morale - and everyone knows that a happy worker is a productive worker.

Joanna Robinson, operations manager for event management company, Evensis, believes employees need a different kind of stimulation. She says: \"The traditional days of standing in front of your staff with a Power Point presentation are hopefully on their way out. Companies are looking to teach staff in different ways, and in ways where they may not realise they’re being taught.\"

Evensis recently managed an event for 160 employees of the government organisation, OGCbuying.solutions. \"We recently joined forces with a facilitating company, Sandstone, to host an event for one of our clients,\" Robinson comments, \"The event, Liberation, is a unique team-building exercise that teaches co-operation, leadership, time management and lateral thinking.

\"It’s a role play exercise, whereby the participants work in teams of ten to negotiate the safe return of ten hostages that have been taken prisoner in a scientific laboratory by a group of animal activists.\"

The pressured situation struck a chord with the employees, as Robinson explains: \"It went down really well - people were getting really involved in the situation taking it to heart if they lost a hostage. I even overheard one employee passionately telling his team-mates, ‘We can’t play god!’\"

While it may all seem like a bit of fun, Robinson is adamant that the event was a useful tool for the company to use in developing team-working skills of its staff. She says: \"There are a million and one benefits of these sort of events. Not only are they fun, but people also learn - they learn to work as a team and they learn about each other.

\"The event was followed by a two-hour debrief, and it was only then, when they realised the things they had learned during the day.\"

KDM Events, based in Trentham, Staffordshire also provides a range of corporate events to clients. As the firm’s managing director, Kevin Davies, explains: \"We do all range of things, from a company away day, which includes the accommodation and all the activities that are involved, through to more serious team building events. We also do product launches, where we may get involved in providing the entertainment for the event. We’ve also done company family days for a few hundred people.\"

Like Evensis, KDM Events recently organised a team building event for one of its clients. The event, which was for 300 staff of a cosmetics company, involved the remaking of Bugsy Malone. As Davies, explains: \"We remade the film using the staff, incorporating ten songs, all choreographed to match the original. We even had a custard pie fight at the end. All the footage was then put together before being shown to the participants in the evening.\"

These types of events are popular choices for employers, who seek to motivate and unify their workforce using a fun tool. Discussing the process these events go through, Davies says: \"We came up with an idea and we worked with them to make sure they got out of the event what they were aiming for. A lot of the time, we take events off the shelf and put a different slant on it depending on the client’s needs.

\"We do get a whole range of requests, but at the end of the day it’s about working out what their objectives are, and what is practical and realistic. You also have to be mindful of health and safety - the last thing you want is to have half your team sitting in casualty.\"

Henderson-Grime Associates in Manchester is another event management firm, which specialises in corporate entertainment. It recently organised an event for The Punch Pub Company, which has held at Alton Towers. The day included teambuilding games, presentations and fun activities, culminating in a gala dinner and disco, as well as an opportunity to watch video highlights of the day.

Michelle Eager, associate director at HGA, says: \"There has been more of shift towards events because they get such a direct and strong emotional involvement and reaction from people. However good a brochure, a corporate video or an intranet is, it is very rare for the client to want to hug you, insist on buying you champagne and dragging you out to be applauded by the audience, but that happens all the time on our events.\"

Eager was also keen to stress the importance of feedback, and reviewing an event, in the same way as any other business spend. \"Feedback is essential to prove that it was worth spending the money and that the company’s objectives were achieved. It is important to be very clear from the outset what you want the event to achieve.\"

While events companies continue to manage and co-ordinate corporate events for clients, there are alternative ways of going about booking an event. One such way is through Watchfromabox.com, a website that allows firms to compare prices and availability with facility companies. Twickenham, Millennium Stadium and The Really Useful Group have all signed up for the site, as well as Premiership football clubs. Managing director, Tom Warsop, explains the thinking behind the site: \"We’ve aimed to create the essential sales portal for all the facilities of a corporate event. Each provider has its own part of the site, which they can amend and update using a protected password.

\"They use it free of charge, but do need to have evidence to validate their packages. We only earn on a commission basis of actual sales that are made.\"

With so many leading facility providers already signed up for the site, watchfromabox.com is a useful tool for company chiefs still cautious about using an event organiser. Warsop is also delighted about the state the sector is in. He states: \"The hospitality industry is quite buoyant at the moment - I think it went through a slump after 9/11 and I know some events firms were hit by the cancellations of the Ryder Cup and Cheltenham, but things are certainly on the up now.\"

Commenting on the bright future of the sector, Robinson says: \"I would like to see people find more different ways of doing things with staff and clients. Hosting corporate entertainment events for clients can prove excellent networking opportunities, so it’s time to introduce quirky and inventive ideas.\"

In the past these sort of events have been met with enthusiasm by some and scepticism by others, largely due to the horror stories about forged tickets for events and accommodation 20 miles from the event. Warsop has words of advice for businesses looking to use corporate events. He says: \"What ever you buy make sure it’s official. It can be catastrophic if you’re let down by the organisers at the last minute, especially if you’re entertaining potential clients. If organised professionally, events and corporate entertainment can help win new business, keep existing clients happy and improve employee performance.\"


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