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This article is by Alistair Robertson – Operations Director at Vision Events (UK) Ltd. Alistair is now in his 26th year in the Events Industry, Ali heads up the production department at VisionEvents, which he set up 17 years ago with the aim of producing top end corporate and bespoke events for prominent and influential clients throughout the UK and Europe.
One of the crucial factors in holding a successful event is to achieve the ‘perfect atmosphere’ which enables your guests to relax, interact with one another and enjoy the event's proceedings.
There is no single action you can take that will conjure the ideal atmosphere. It takes a carefully planned and managed combination of factors skilfully coordinated to ensure your event is everything you and your guests/delegates could hope for.
1. Strategy & Choosing the Right Partners
An event manager's starting point should be the development of a thorough event strategy. Once you have this completed you can identify which suppliers you will need support from. It is crucial to have the right suppliers behind you to create the perfect atmosphere at your event. Use established suppliers with experience, expertise and exceptional reputations.
Keep in constant communication with your suppliers and don't be afraid to pick their brains. Plan out the event production, room design and theme, media equipment, venue, catering and bespoke requirements with the relevant suppliers and brief your events team on the event time schedule. Allocate clearly defined roles to your events team members. Whether your event is a conference, product launch, awards ceremony or charity fundraiser, your events team must be clear about their duties for proceedings to run smoothly.
Once you have a carefully laid out event strategy and your events team is fully briefed you can set about implementing the all-important features that will establish and maintain the perfect atmosphere for your event. We know from experience that this will make your event a resounding success and a memorable occasion for every guest/delegate.
2. Choosing the Right Location
It is extremely important to choose the right venue and location for your event. Having the right venue for the type of event you are holding will enhance the atmosphere in itself. For an awards ceremony or conference the venue must have sufficient space and facilities for your targeted number of guests/delegates not to feel crammed or be stuck in queues. This also applies to product launches or bespoke, one-off events but an extra consideration is to choose a contemporary and/or novel venue to make an impact, particularly if it is more of a party than a formal affair.
Ensure your venue is conveniently located close to all major transport links (airports, motorways, tube, trains and buses) and has sufficient parking space for the projected guest/delegate numbers. A single day event is most conveniently held in a town or city with good transport links, but for a weekend conference it is a great idea to use a country retreat that provides accommodation, dining and leisure facilities in one package. This will ensure your guests/delegates can unwind and socialise with each other in enjoyable comfort.
3. Greet Your Guests/Delegates with a Friendly Welcome
First impressions count, so provide your guests/delegates with a positive one. Delegate a team leader for the welcome reception and registration area to oversee the hostesses within that space as this will free you to troubleshoot during the event.
Your hosts / hostesses should welcome every guest/delegate with a warm greeting and smile and be knowledgeable about the venue facilities, including disabled facilities. There must be enough hosts to facilitate registration and the handing out of event materials quickly and efficiently.
As a rule of thumb, you should have 1 host to every 50 guests/delegates, but take into consideration extra sessions like conference workshops which may require extra support. Your events team should be dressed according to the type of event you are holding. Remember that you are representing your client, so check the dress code with them. Corporate events and conferences usually require business wear, while awards ceremonies usually require evening wear.
4. Set the Mood with Lighting
Setting an atmosphere and creating a dramatic first impression is why mood lighting is so vital to any event. Get the lighting (and sound) right and you are well on your way to creating a dynamic event. In our opinion you need to bring in professionals to manage all of these needs. Lighting professionals can transform a venue space, creating the atmosphere you desire using varying colours and intensities of light to give an astonishing visual impact.
Among the lighting techniques that can be used are LED uplighters, which can enhance the venue's internal architecture, colour washes to give impact to the stage, ceilings and walls, and gobos, which can liven up dead spaces by shining patterns or corporate logos onto them.
At award ceremonies your lighting engineer and event designer from the production team will create an exciting lighting design in accordance with key elements from lighting to tie in with the music such as winner announcements to guest speakers and the host going on stage.
Likewise with a dinner or launch event - lighting can transform a room and provide the right energy for the event.
Another example is using video or film.
If a projector is being used for a conference, it is important to set the light just right so that the guests can still see to take notes and have a clear view of the projected information. If a film is to be shown, the lighting state should be effective, usually with blues to enhance the set, but kept low enough to let video playbacks shine through. Turn the lights down low to give the audience the clearest viewing experience possible. If there is a product stand, you need to keep that area illuminated to showcase the displayed product examples. When there is dinner included on the event schedule, keep the lights low, but use the venue's pinpoint lighting to give each table a warm and welcoming glow.
Talk to the professionals about what you want to achieve and let them guide you on the latest technology or tricks of the trade to get this all-important aspect right.
5. Create Ambiance with Music
Choose a style or genre of music that suits all tastes. Calm classical music is a good choice, or some relaxed jazz. Leave the techno music for the nightclubs, unless you are holding a DJ event of course! If you are holding an awards ceremony, use snippets of contemporary hits to liven the evening up a little when winners are invited to the stage.
Sometimes the clients will have their own music to play, for example a product launch might have a signature tune from a product advertisement. Liaise with the event production team to have the soundtrack for the evening ready to go once the guests/delegates are settled in their seats.
6. Food and Beverages
It can be quite difficult to design a menu suitable for all tastes and requirements. Keep on top of trends in the catering industry and ask the opinion of your catering supplier, who will know what is current and popular. Also use past event evaluation forms to identify particular popular dishes and drinks. This will sharpen your decision making when designing your menu.
On the event registration forms prior to the evening make sure a request for notification of any special dietary requirements is included. This will save vegetarians, vegans and people with allergies from going hungry on the night. Provide water on every table and ensure adequate food, beverages and seating is available for the expected number of guests. It is a good idea to have seating and food ready for unexpected guests that might arrive on the day or night of the event.
If the venue doesn't have a catering service, hire a professional catering team. This will ensure the menu is good quality, the service is fast and efficient and the bar will not be one enormous queue of people waiting to be served. Choose delectable dishes for the menu to impress the guests and stock the bar with a wide range of soft and alcoholic drinks and ask your catering team for advice to avoid wines that are an acquired taste. All of this is to enable the guests to relax, socialise and soak up the atmosphere.
Choose healthy foods that feed the mind as heavy and sweet dishes can make the last half of the event a struggle especially with business conferences where lots of information is being presented.
If the locality in which your event is being held has a delicacy or signature dish it is a nice gesture to place it on the menu.
7. Set the Room to Meet Requirements
Your events team should set the room to meet the particular requirements of the event and well before the guests/delegates are due to arrive. Everything must seem in order and in place. Prior to the event, work closely with your chosen suppliers and make equipment and furniture lists based on the nature of the event and the expected number of guests/delegates. Ensure everything is ready and prepared for the big day or night.
For conferences, award ceremonies and charity fundraisers, use the cabaret style layout, as it will enable guests/delegates to interact and mingle. You should also consider a catwalk style stage for conferences, as it enables the host and guest speakers to walk out into the room and engage with guests/delegates more. Product launches are often either a formal sit down event or a free wandering party. Set the room according to the requirements of the day.
It is vital to work out the best place for the stage and to consider audience sight lines. In rooms with a lot of depth relay, screens can be used to give audience members seated further back a clearer view of what occurs onstage. Remember to check all audio and visual equipment and run through content for any graphics/video/presentations for award ceremonies or conferences before the guests/delegates arrive.
You must be certain everything is in good working order and the operating team are prepared with running schedules/script and have all the necessary content.
If you have the budget, room theming using props, branding or even live acts is a great way to add an extra dimension of fun to proceedings. We recommend taking a look at websites like http://www.eventden.co.uk/ to get great decor and design ideas.
8. Choosing a Great Master Of Ceremonies
The host can make or break the occasion, so choose who will take control of the audience and manage the proceedings in a professional manner. The host must set the atmosphere of the event, striking the right tone according to the subject and objective of the event.
Follow trends in the events industry and make note of any hosts and speakers singled out as something special by colleagues and on past evaluation forms. Ask your event production team for good event hosts and speaker recommendations. We would like to add that VisionEvents have an excellent list of people to do this in their contacts book..so do give them a call.
It is also worth attending industry networking events where hosts, speakers and live acts showcase their talents. Naturally, for a product launch you might want the company CEO as host. For a conference, think about an impartial expert on the events subject. An awards ceremony needs a host with a vivacious character and a good sense of humour who can take control of a room, as often alcohol is involved.
A charity fundraiser requires someone knowledgeable about the cause who can encourage guests to donate. However, it is absolutely essential that the host, guest speaker or chair for any type of event is able to encourage the participation of the audience. This will help create a fun and exciting atmosphere that keeps guests/delegates engaged.
9. Dressing the Tables
Your guests/delegates will be seated for most of an event, so make sure they are comfortable and have water throughout the proceedings. Votive candles, tea lights and small floral displays work well to set the right, relaxed mood and a bowl of sweets for peckish guests/delegates is a nice gesture.
For corporate events, you may wish to decorate the tables with linen colour coded to the company's branding or the specific event branding. A client with a strong brand identity will appreciate a high impact table centre that grabs audience attention. Branded table centres can also use ice and LED designs tied in with the stage and lighting to create a stunning and cohesive aesthetic.
To really make a visual impact, consider a different approach than the standard all white table linen. Although white is fine for conferences there are a multitude of exciting options to consider. From bespoke table centres to ice creations and LED lighting ideas we recommend taking a look at bespoke table dressing websites via a Google search.
It is always wise to have a service team made up of events staff at hand to answer any questions and bring anything to the tables required by the seated guests.
10. Saying Thank You and Farewell
You've put a lot of time and effort into creating the perfect atmosphere at your event. Now that it has come to an end you must endeavour to give each and every guest/delegate a hearty thank you and farewell. It is a nice gesture to have the same person who greeted the guests give a warm goodbye as it creates a pleasant sense of continuity.
Ask the event host to remind guests/delegates half way through the event to fill out any evaluation forms and hand them in at the reception desk at the end of the event. Guest/delegate feedback is crucial as it provides your client with valuable facts and figures as a return on investment and enables you to improve the event for the next time.
Many events are made all the more special at the end by presenting guests/delegates with a gift or goodie bag. Remember to place your client's business card within the gift packaging or goodie bag, so that anybody who wishes to contact their company can do so.
Of course we have to state that the most effective way to achieve all of the above is to use a professional events team. Ensure your event will run smoothly, looks stunning and has the perfect atmosphere.