On 30th March, His Royal Highness The Duke of York officially opened the newly refurbished £6m Humber Enterprise Park in Brough. The site is steeped in history and was the place where entrepreneur and aviation pioneer Robert Blackburn started his aircraft manufacturing business over one hundred years ago. The Brough site is one of the longest surviving sites of aircraft manufacturing in the world, and still houses BAE systems today. After undergoing a £6m refurbishment, site developer Citivale, asked Pace Communications to coordinate and arrange the official opening event.
Now, planning a successful event is always a challenge but this was no ordinary event; we had a few hurdles to overcome: only two and half weeks time to organise it; a change of start time one week prior to the day itself; a goal of getting 150 RSVPs in just 13 working days, and the complexities that a royal visitor brings in terms of security and logistics.
Despite these challenges, the event was a resounding success, and here’s why I think it went well.
Working at the Centre for Digital Innovation in the Fruit Market has its advantages. I work within a community of talented people, and didn’t hesitate to call on them for advice and help when I needed it.
2) Meticulous planning
Planning an event at such short notice can be a bit overwhelming, so it helped to make a detailed plan. At Pace, we love a good spreadsheet, so we looked at what needed to be done in the lead up to the event, and recorded each action, however small, on a critical path. This effectively acted as a huge “to do” list which I continually referred to as a reminder of everything I needed to tick off the list. Although it looked a bit frightening, it was clear that before we jumped in the hole we needed to know how deep the water was.
3) Divide and conquer
Once we had a detailed task list, actions were divvied out to different members of the team. Status meetings were held almost daily to recap on how we were getting on with our actions.
4) Utilise your colleagues’ strengths
It’s important to take advantage of your team members strengths. Our Designer Georgia loves arts and crafts, and so strangely she found it rather therapeutic making up over 150 name badges. Whereas Anita, my MD, is not only the founder of Pace but a skilled PR officer and secured a lot of media coverage from the likes of BBC Look North, Radio Humberside, KCFM, the Hull Daily Mail and Viking FM.
Due to the Palace having to change the Duke of York’s schedule, the event start time was changed one week prior. This happened after the save the dates and invites had gone out. With so much other work to do, I am sure out of sheer paranoia that I informed all suppliers at least three times that the event time had changed. However, I found that it was less dangerous to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. It probably drove the caterer mad that I made them aware of the change of time several times, but it’s better than not telling them at all and them turning up at the wrong time!
Luckily as a team we pulled it off. Well, I say luckily, but there wasn’t much luck about it – it was through hard work, several 6am starts and approximately 800 emails in two weeks…and I daren’t think how many phone calls.
Afterwards I reflected on the takeaways from the event, and the only thing that almost went wrong was a hot water urn malfunction. With an early start, can you imagine a room of 160 people needing caffeine having no tea or coffee to go with their Danishes? Luckily I had my fantastic colleague Tom to hand, who as well as being Pace’s Content Executive, saved the day by spending an hour prior to the event boiling kettle after kettle and running back and forth to fill the urn until a new one arrived. Disaster averted.