We’ve been asked a lot lately about the events we’ve planned overseas. People want to know how we got the business, how we find vendors and what are the best locations. So we decided to start a series of blogs with some insight into our process of working on international events.
Ashridge Conference Center outside London
One of the keys to any successful event is finding quality vendors. We’re able to send some very experienced staff overseas to manage our events, but we have to rely a lot on the event professionals in the countries we’re in.
- One of the first things we do is check to see if there’s a local ISES chapter. If there is, our job becomes a lot easier! But even if there is a local ISES chapter, we end up relying on searches online to find our vendors.
- We need to see a professional website with great photos that really show their expertise & experience. Depending on the country, it’s important to us if they specifically cater to English speaking clients. Many companies will have a special section on their website that explains just that.
- Most of our events are corporate trainings with 20-80 attendees flying in from all parts of the world, so the proximity to the airport also comes into play.
All in all, it’s really similar to planning events in your own backyard; you just have a lot more research & vetting to do in order to find the right vendors for your international events.
One of our biggest considerations for our international events is the venue we choose in each city. We have found that many brand name hotels carry the same quality in Europe as they do here (Ritz, Dolce), while others can be much, much nicer than their American counterparts. (We just had an event at a Crowne Plaza in Dublin that’s a gorgeous & modern 4-star hotel with amazing service.)
Again we do have to rely on websites to give us a sense of the property; we have to see good photos of the meeting spaces & sleeping rooms. For our clients in particular, we need to find unique venues; there must be some sort of interesting history, architecture or modern design for them to want to bring their attendees to it. We also look for meeting rooms with great views & windows are a must! (We have found attendees learn & retain much more in meeting rooms with a view.)
Since our guests are there for 3 or more days it’s important to us to have distinctly different spaces for classes compared to where meals are held. Having outdoor spaces available for night time events are key to a successful event as well. After 8 hours of learning you need to give the attendees somewhere interested to enjoy their evening activities.
Don’t forget to ask what their commission structure is for bringing a group to their venue. While not as common as in America, we’ve found venues will work with you on this; we even had one property come up with a commission rate to get our business. In this current world economy, everyone is working harder to win your business!
A nonprofit came to us wanting to start a repeatable event to help raise money. But they had a few issues to overcome:
- Their nonprofit provided something that people don’t particularly like to talk about: bereavement services for those affected by pregnancy and infant loss.
- The majority of their donors were women.
Their goals were go get more men involved, attract more potential donors regardless of their mission and to create and event that could be repeated.
Our solution was to do something totally unrelated to their cause: a movie premiere. Knowing men tend to give more at events, we chose the new Batman movie whose audience will be heavily male. Making the event a red-carpet style movie premiere we knew that this would be a date night event where people could go out & have fun, and then in the process support a great charity.
By producing a movie premiere, we knew we could repeat this event with different movies, and depending on the film could attract a different demographic, increasing the nonprofit’s database. It will be mostly fun, but we’ll also talk about the nonprofit before the movie starts and guests will get more information in their giveaway bags.
By doing this premiere we’re looking at nonprofit events in a new way. All fundraisers don’t necessarily need to be driven by a gala-type theme! Sometimes you need to come up with something unrelated to the nonprofit’s mission.
This particular client had never made more than $8K in its 30 year history. Then we produced the event and they made $68K! We moved the event from a ballroom to a barn; built a vineyard guests walked through to enter the event, had five unique food and wine stations representing five countries with music and décor to depict each country. We had an authentic grape stomp competition that attracted 40 teams in its first year. Instead of a silent auction, we created an open air market…inexpensive gift items were donated; people bought everything cash and carry. Amazing what a fun event can do to the bottom line!!