To ask the right things to the right people, to receive the right answers and to understand how the “event’s engine” (meaning an agency, be it big or small!) it is necessary to know its structure, the working process, the main professionals and their function.
This article aims provide a synthetic map of the event planning, for the understanding of the buyer.
1. Where to start from
The company can choose between two options, almost opposite to each other: to organise its own event, choosing the location and buying the services or to hire a specialized agency. If the event is more than a simple meeting, the latter solution is definitely advisable and, considering the same results, almost always cheaper.
2. The agency
The event planning agency has the same organisation, divided into departments, of an advertising agency: commercial or account, creative, production/logistics. But since it deals with relational activities and live communication, it also makes use of many other professional figures in the fields of pr, conventions, entertainment and of the providers of all the services required (catering, transportations, mounting, technical personnel, etc).
3. The process
The realization of an event, from its conception to its implementation, follows the same working process as many creative projects. Summarizing:
- The brief: it’s the transfer of information from the company to the agency, through which the agency defines the goals of the event. It can be prepared by the client or worked out together with the agency, as a short note or a complex presentation. It should include all of the main information about the company, brand and products. It is often followed by a debrief, a confrontation between the agency and the client on the contents of the brief to clarify each doubt. It’s important to produce, at the end of this stage, a written document that will be the guide to all the operations. The brief has to be very clear on the matter of the budget. [See the article “Everyone needs a Good Brief”].
- Planning: once received the brief, the agency works out one (or more than one!) creative offers. It’s the moment for brainstorming, during which the answers to the client’s need are found. Sometimes the client asks to participate to this stage, but it is not a good idea: it’s better to keep, for now, a certain detachment from the process in order to be more impartial in judging the offers.
- Conceptual design: the creative offers are sifted through by the production/logistics department which will value their technical and economical feasibility: this stage has to produce an estimate of the costs, divided in its main items.
- Presentation: within the deadline, the agency presents the client with the conceptual and technical offer. It will use different and non-codified means to explain its idea at best, e.g. banners, illustrations, directory photos, “rubamatics” (short videos with scenes “stolen” from others) or digital files such as power point presentations, flash animations, videos, etc. The presentation will be summarized in a document that will be handed to the client, that will also clearly indicate a rough estimate of the costs.
- Executive planning: once the best offer is picked, is time to start studying the details of the event, that will have to be partitioned and budgeted in the most detailed possible way. A pre-production meeting (called PPM in jargon) between agency, client and service providers (with a final report) will finish off the planning, assigning tasks and deadlines.
- Implementation: this is the proper implementation stage, comprising of action plan, mounting, event and dismantling.
- Report: after the event it is necessary to create a report that documents it with pictures, videos, questionnaires and that reflects on the achievement of the goals and the strengths and weaknesses of the event, in prevision of future events.
4. The professionals and their functions
The professionals helping with the creation of an event are many and of a various kind. Some of them are always found in an agency, some others are hired when required.
- Account (or sales department): manages the relationship between the agency and the client. It has to know the clients’ history, their aims and features and communicate them to the agency. The Account can also be called “Project Manager“, as he/she coordinates the development of the project acting as a liaison between the client and the creative and productive departments. It’s usually his/her task to present the project and manage the budget.
- Creative department: The Artistic Director and the Creative Couple, formed by the Art Director (who manages the graphic and the visual communication) and the Copywriter or Copy Strategist (who takes care of the textual communication, from the key words to, some times, the speeches!!!). The Creative dept. elaborates the concept of the event – that basic idea that synthesizes perfectly the company message – and according to it work on all of the components of the event: the title and the various materials such as invites, preparations, graphics, videos, texts, down to the choice of the location, the guests and testimonials, the gadget and menus.
- Other creative professionals often involved in the creation of an event are: graphics, architects, scenographers, professionals in the field of the digital and 3D graphic and light and sound designers. A director is also fundamental, as he/she coordinates the “live” events and the contributions (videos, graphics, slides, video shoots of the speakers and the audience’s reaction, etc.); and, in case of need, photographers, web designers, choreographers, etc. …a real crowd!
- Production: The Production manager and his/her assistants deal with the physical implementation of the event. They coordinate the suppliers, technicians and workers according to the production plans and the Gantt (the treatment). They have to be sure that the event, in all his phases (including the pre and post) meets the prescribed time schedule.
- Logistics: This function is ever-present throughout every stage of the event. It deals with: the choice of the location, the invites, the necessary bookings, the welcoming, the managing of lunches and dinners, the transportations and the services necessary to the meetings (interpreters, documentation, hostesses, etc.). Traditionally its services are managed through a secretariat office with dedicated phone line but nowadays is becoming more and more common to use dedicated websites that allow to interact with the participants in order to control every possible aspect of the event, from their bookings to their food intolerances.
- Communication: it plan the communication campaigns and the press office of the event, when it’s necessary. The professionals in this field have to be comfortable working with the web and, in case of non-conventional events (such as street and guerrilla actions; see the article “Guerrilla Convention”), even with the new social medias.
Even if not all the agencies offer all of the services, it’s important to know that the working process and functions are all the same (the ones here synthetically described) be it the case of great structures, single consultants or small teams, in which different functions can be performed by the same person. It’s important for the manager who’s organizing the event and wants to maintain his control over it to know how the “engine” works but also to entrust a team of qualified professionals and let them work.