Sunday, 23 June 2013
Recent Reflection #2 - A Responsibility
What did I do?
We have just held our internal 2013 HR Conference. Back in January, I volunteered to help with organising this event. My boss immediately put me in charge (that'll teach me!) and suggested I assemble a planning and co-ordinating team of HR Business Partners from across our various companies. Four of our HR Directors nominated one of their HRBS each. In the early days of planning, I held virtual meetings via Webex and Conference Calls with the team, as we put together the basic requirements - dates, times, location, venue, content - and allocated tasks accordingly.
As we got nearer to the dates, we were struggling to find a suitable venue in the Manchester area and, despite the efforts of individuals in the team to investigate suitable sites, we were in danger of not being able to hit the dates already selected and pre-publicised with the HR Leadership team across the business. Eventually, I called our hotel and conference booking service and passed the task to them. Within 24 hours, they came back with a proposal which fitted all our requirements and I made the booking.
We were then able to concentrate on the programme and on a couple of visits to Manchester, we firmed up our proposed agenda, which, whilst approved in principle by the senior HR team, was tweaked and changed right up to and including the days of the conference itself. This led to some frustration on the initially enthusiastic organising team's part, whilst I had to take a more pragmatic view. I managed to handle a degree of frustration with the team to keep everyone on track to deliver what was required. Ultimately, the team were great - all admin and preparatory tasks were completed and they ran the check-in and people management tasks faultlessly and with enthusiasm and humour. I could not have done it without them.
Late in the run-up, I got the full-time assistance of our HR Programme Manager, who quickly pulled the remaining plan together and held us all to account on the tasks required.
As it happened, the arrangements worked and the conference went well. Some 95 HR staff from across the UK, travelled to, stayed at the hotel and attended our 2013 HR Conference in mid-June. Speakers spoke, key messages were delivered, presentations were displayed, workshops run, discussions had and feedback captured. We are now in the process of collating the materials for distribution and compiling the post-conference evaluation questionnaire.
What did I learn?
Sometimes a democratic approach isn't always the most effective - sometimes you have to take control and be very directive. This may not always suit everyone, but management is not a popularity contest. By the same token, it's important to acknowledge commitment and effort and to say 'thank you'!
There are more people and resources available to assist within our organisation than were immediately apparent. Lots of people came up to me during the conference itself to ask why I hadn't asked for their help. I didn't know that there was experience and resource which I could have called on. Equally, good people and event management with your chosen venue is essential. The team at our venue were fantastic; they anticipated and reacted to our needs before and during the conference and helped make it the success it was.
Good audio visual support is essential and needs to be slick and unobtrusive.
Flexibility and adaptability before and during an event, thinking on your feet and making snap decisions is part and parcel of this kind of event. That said, rehearsal of key points and speaker sessions would have prevented some slight hold-ups and resulting impact on timing.
What am I going to do with this learning?
I will organise a 'lessons learned' session with the Programme Manager and Planning Team, to capture their feedback and build into a resource pack/project plan template for anyone running future similar events. This will also be informed by the feedback we get from the attendees via the online post-conference evaluation survey.
If I am organising any such event again, I will start the planning and get the fundamental arrangements - date, location, venue, speakers - made and booked as early as possible.
Also, now that I know it exists, I will not hesitate to ask for support and resource across the business as early as possible, get it booked and in place at the appropriate time and place.
I will ensure that any and all audio visual provision is of the highest standard and reliability.
Finally, I'm going to be very careful about what I volunteer for in the future!