A great weekend was had by The Communication Link team as we worked alongside our Communities@Work colleagues to be part of the delivery of Celebrate Gungahlin. This was a grass roots, community development program delivered by Communities@Work with a host of wonderful partners including the Gungahlin Community Council, My Gungahlin and the Gungahlin Marketplace.
Event management, particularly the good old fashioned community kind, is not something highly prominent in the workload of The Communication Link team these days. Our focus is on boardrooms, community halls, meetings, workshops, key stakeholders and communications collateral. It is nice to reflect, however, on relationships developed over a program of clowns, dancers, local bands and business and community stallholders. The atmosphere at the Celebrate Gungahlin event was palpable and a number of organisations recognised this was a great chance to encounter the community. Local political parties, government agencies, local businesses and community organisations alike took this important opportunity to engage with the people of Gungahlin.
While we can’t take credit for the great weather, the organisers of Celebrate Gungahlin can take credit for creating a positive environment for people to have community conversations. From the free entertainment program, to the thoughtfully located children’s activities, the giveaways and great food stalls, the stage was set for positive relationships to be formed and enhanced.
The same applies to a community meeting or a boardroom workshop. Setting the stage for positive contributions is important; from the shape and layout of the room, to the type of information and how it is presented through to the details of the program or workshop design. Has the environment for positive exchange of ideas and thoughtful listening been created? Will people leave feeling they were part of something useful, or will they leave frustrated and feeling they have wasted the time? Often it is the simple things that can make or break the success of your communication event.
The Communication Link has put together a short check list of some of the little things to consider when hosting a community, stakeholder or key partner event:
- What is the point? – consider why the event is being hosted and what it should achieve.
- Does the program reflect the purpose? For example, if the purpose is to consult, make sure you are recording people’s comments; if it is to share information, give people copies of information, or tell them where to find it on the web; if it is networking distribution a list of attendees with contact details; if you are making a decision does everyone have the right information to reach a conclusion?
- Why are people coming? Manage expectations, make it clear in the invitation why people should come and deliver on that promise.
- Is the right information available? Think about what people will ask, make sure you have the answers. Consider how it is presented. Some people are visual and a picture says it all, others will want to hear it from a guest speaker, some will want to take it away and read it.
- Is the team well briefed? Make sure everyone in the team understands the information, purpose of the event and can portray a tone of interest and confidence. Some customer service or interpersonal skills training can be a great help to people who don’t usually speak to the community.
- Is it easy to get there? Provide clear directions, cater for accessibility needs, make sure there is plenty of parking. We are all busy and so are the people you are seeking to connect with. Consider guests needs when scheduling the event, avoid school holidays, provide two events at different times and days of the week, perhaps provide child-minding resources.
- Will guests feel welcome? First impressions say it all, a nice hello and thank you for coming can go a long way to setting the right tone. Consider what people will see when they first enter the room. Make sure it is interesting and inviting.
- Have you rewarded people for their time and effort? A cup of tea and a sandwich is a small way of thanking people who have made time to come to your event. Offer to reimburse their parking, or cover the costs of the bus. Always thank people for their participation.
- Think about next time. Record what went well and what needs improvement. Ask participants for their feedback. Gather people’s contact details so you can talk further. Delivery on promised follow up.
- Don’t forget the data. If you want to be able to report on the event, you need to capture some information, such as how many people came, from what demographic, what did they say. It doesn’t have be complex, or even a survey at all, but someone should pay attention to this detail, or you might regret it later.
Feel free to contact The Communication Link team if you want to know more, or have some extra ideas to add to our list!