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Use our experience and industry knowledge to help with your events

Event Organisers' Guide

Do you want to organise more effective conferences and meetings?

There’s lots of useful information here to help you. The Event Organisers’ Guide is a free resource, helping to take the hard work out of planning and managing a conference.

These articles will give you the tools you need to prepare and communicate more effectively. This website has been carefully written by event organisers and is packed with useful information to make your event a success. Use the navigation above or see the lists below to find articles to help with planning your conference or event. There’s help to find a venue, room layouts, planning a site visit, technical support, event management, contracting, insurance and much more. If there is anything else you’d like to know or if you have any questions or suggestions for additional topics then email us and we’ll be pleased to help.

Do you have a conference or meeting in mind? Why not ask us to lend a hand?

Event Planning

Finding the perfect venue

There are lots of things to consider when looking for a venue, including:

Get a clear brief

Establish the meeting objectives, who is attending and what are the key criteria. This is particularly important if you are not the final decision-maker as a lot of your time could be wasted if the requirements change. Find out what the parameters are and what flexibility you have to manoeuvre.

Location

Where are the attendees coming from and how are they travelling? Would the event be better held in a city or in the country? Will delegates travel by car and is there plenty of parking? Consider the access by rail, air and bus. Does the venue have any transfer coaches or are taxis required? You’ll be off to a good start if everyone has an easy journey!

Style of Venue

There is a huge variety of venues available: hotels, conference centres, management training centres, castles, museums, racecourses. What would best suit your event? Is the venue the standard your attendees would expect? Do you need accommodation?  If so onsite or nearby? Do you need outside space for team-building? If the meeting is held over several days, what additional facilities are available to entertain the delegates?

Budget

Generally a daily or 24-hour delegate rate will offer better value than paying for room hire, catering and accommodation separately. Check the difference especially if you don’t require everything that’s included in the 24-hour rate. Work out how much you have to spend and be clear how you’re going to manage it.  Do you have a fixed date, as you may be able to negotiate a better deal on a less popular day of the week or time of the year? Get your cost estimates in writing and create a spreadsheet to keep track of them.  There are not only the venue costs to consider but promotional material, production equipment, speakers, transport and printing of documentation. Include a contingency budget, as something always pops up at the last minute.

The meeting room

How many people are attending and what layout will work best?  Do you need break-out rooms and how should these be laid out? Will you need to set up the day before, consider rehearsals and the production requirements?

Go on a site visit

Before you book the venue you need to understand how your event will work there and the only way to do so is to see it for yourself. But also think about which venues have been used before, what was good about them and what you would change.

Take advice

An experienced venue finding agency has inspected hundreds of venues and the staff there are running events on a daily basis. Ask what they think would work best and what’s worked or not worked for other people.

The key to a perfect event is planning - the more you do before, the better everything will run on the day!

Meeting Room Layout

One of the most important factors for your meeting or event to run successfully is the comfort of your delegates and part of that is making sure the room is laid out in the right style.

Everyone needs enough space, a table for writing notes, a clear view of the speakers and a screen if there is a presentation. If the room is set up correctly, it is more likely that the objectives of the session will be met and the learning experience of the attendees will be improved.

Theatre style

Appropriate for large groups and short lectures that do not require extensive note taking. This is a convenient set-up to use before breaking into discussion groups or for role playing because chairs can be moved.

     

Considerations: will water be available for delegates during the meeting? How and where will refreshments be served?

Classroom style

The most desirable set-up for medium to large sized meetings. It requires a relatively large room. Tables provide attendees with space for spreading out materials and taking notes.

Considerations: how large is the group and what are they doing? A two-day training course for 20 people will have different needs to a 2-hour presentation for 150 people.

Boardroom style

Appropriate for interactive discussions and note-taking sessions for fewer than 25 people. Many hotels have elegant boardrooms with fixed boardroom tables and ergonomic chairs. This style can also be used for private dining. The illustration shows a closed boardroom style. If a presentation is needed, then one of the end places can be removed.

Considerations: think carefully about how many people will be attending and whether a microphone will be needed by the speakers.

U-shape style

Appropriate for groups with fewer than 40 people. Maximum interaction is ensured with the leader seated at the head of the set-up. Audio-visual equipment is usually best placed at the open end of the seating.

Considerations: how much interaction is there between the delegates and the speakers? Will there be discussions between the delegates themselves? Do the attendees need to split into smaller groups? Will people be moving around and does the room suit this?

Dinner layout

Generally used for meals and sessions involving small group discussions. A five-foot round table seats eight people comfortably. A six-foot round table seats 10-12 people. A dance floor can be incorporated when required, although this does reduce the number of tables that can be accommodated.

  

Considerations: if you are organising a dinner, think about staging, whether there is a top table, microphones, speakers and presentations. If back projection is needed then it will reduce the usable space for attendees. Ten or 11 people around the table is ideal, when 12 are seated it can be quite squashed.

Cabaret style

Useful if you need smaller groups around one table but audio-visual equipment is being used at the front of the room. This set-up allows all delegates to see without having to turn around.

     

Considerations: is there a presentation? What audio/visual equipment is required and can everyone see the screen clearly? How much space will this take up in the room? A six-foot round table seats 6 or 7 people.

Buffet reception style

Ideal for shorter events where eating and socialising is required. Tables are usually taller cocktail tables which allow people to stand around easily.

Considerations: what sort of food will be served? Is it a finger buffet or will attendees need to put drinks down while they are holding forks and plates?

Front/Back projection style

Many room set-ups can be adapted to incorporate projection onto a screen. Front projection takes up less space but the screen size is often smaller, e.g. using an LCD projector. Back projection can involve a larger screen, often with a stage and lighting, but takes up more space.

        

Considerations: ensure appropriate ceiling height to accommodate production style, consider how many speakers there are and how long are they speaking for. What other equipment do you need in the room - white board, flip charts do you need a top table, staging, lectern?

Planning a Conference

There are plenty of things to consider when organising a meeting or conference. The following will give you an idea of what to think about when planning an event.

Venue Selection

Ask plenty of internal questions:

  • Ask the budget holder about the location
  • Request a profile of the attendees
  • Is there any flexibility in the chosen dates
  • Find out the purpose and what they want to achieve from the event
  • Consider how the success of the event is going to be measured
  • Think about how the audience is going to be invited and how will they reply
  • What is the risk

The key issues that can affect your venue are:

DatesLayout and Style of your meeting rooms
Setup timeExperience of the team running the event
Timings of the eventPre-event organisation
Day of the weekMost of all - communication
Complexity of turnarounds       

Budget Considerations

This is not exhaustive but gives you an idea of what to look and plan for:

    • Pre Event Research               • Registration System
    • Collateral                                • Administration of Bookings
    • Invitations                               • Advertising
    • Website

Event Costs:

  • Venue hire                              • Accommodation, Guests & Crew
  • Catering                                  • Entertainment & Speakers
  • Equipment                              • Transport of support staff & literature
  • Production                              • Transport logistics
  • Badges                                   • Webcasting, videoconferencing & interpretation
  • Delegate packs                      • Event management and on site management
  • Theming                                 • Insurance
  • VIP upgrades

Potential event income:

  • Exhibitors                                • Advertisers 
  • Sponsors                                • Charging delegates

Post Event Evaluation:

  • Questionnaire either online or paper
  • Production of post-event replies
  • Telephone feedback campaign
  • Collation of replies

Contingencies:

  • Non arrival of speakers
  • Costs of venue not being available (e.g. due to flooding or fire)
  • Weather
  • Loss of production set or literature

Suppliers

How to find the best suppliers:

  • Recommendation
  • Testimonials from potential suppliers
  • Speak to the venue directly
  • For creative events, ask the supplier to present you with previous work

Prepare an event checklist to cover

  • Equipment supplied & works           • Accessibility/Disabled access
  • Accommodation & rooming lists      • Cleaning & inspection
  • Speakers schedule                          • Pre-event team briefings
  • Delegate packs & badges                • On-site team briefings
  • Delegate numbers                            • On-site event manuals
  • Catering/Dietary requirements         • Security (equipment & human)
  • First aid kit/First aider                       • Presentation IT compatibility
  • Risk assessment                              • Conflicting Events & timings
  • Health & Safety policy                      • Suppliers: AV, production
  • Public liability insurance                   • Communication, walkie-talkies
  • Car parking & signage                     • Transport & taxis, coaches
  • Event signage                                  • Cancellation criteria
  • Event branding                                 • Comprehensive event contingencies        

Key points to consider

  • Achieving the event objectives
  • Contract; checked by legal professional & signed
  • Delivery of materials: literature, delegate packs, badges, exhibition stands, etc (using reliable couriers is essential)
  • Check all accommodation arrangements
  • Give the transport company a full schedule of pick-up times
  • Set up: all suppliers briefed on logistics schedule and fully aware of timings
  • Briefing meeting: meet all the suppliers involved: AV, Entertainment, Venue & event co-ordinator, chef, bar staff, waiting staff, etc
  • Final Check: registration table, conference room layout and set up, dining tables, presentation, equipment in working order, correct event name on the venue reception, signage, delegate packs, entertainment & theming
  • During the event: important to keep to the logistics schedule and make sure that it is running on time (for larger events it is a benefit to have walkie-talkies to keep in contact with all suppliers)

Evaluation Tools

Feedback Questionnaires before departure gives a higher return rate, but you could also carry out a telephone questionnaire, or email an online link after the event. Offering an incentive for returning the form increases the return rate

Getting the best from a site visit

A site visit is your opportunity to understand how your event will work at the venue, so make sure every room or area you are using is available for you to see. Arm yourself with a checklist to make sure nothing is missed.

Remember to ask searching questions until you get the answers you need.  After all you’ll be paying the bill!

Here are some of the things you need to consider:

Location

  • Is the venue easy to find, is the signage clear?
  • Check the distance and travelling time from the airport and railway station by taxi and bus
  • Is there sufficient parking?
  • Is it in a safe area? If security is required, can the venue meet these needs?

The Venue

  • Does the venue look welcoming, attractive and clean?
  • Are there plenty of staff in the reception area to check-in or help and direct guests?
  • Is it clear where the meeting rooms are and how will they be signed?

Registration Area

  • Where will this be located and is there adequate storage?
  • Is there enough space for staff and attendees? Is it a private area or will people attending other events be passing through?
  • Do you need a telephone, power points and internet connection?

The Meeting Room(s)

  • Which floor is it on and how will attendees get there?
  • Does it meet the size and layout requirements?
  • What equipment is in the room and is there space for additional production equipment to be brought in?
  • Check: lighting, soundproofing, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, power supply, internet access, wi-fi, ceiling height, door aperture and if there are any pillars to get in the way
  • Are the chairs comfortable, what size are the tables?
  • Is water provided for the delegates and what is included in the package?
  • Where do attendees leave their coats and bags?
  • Where are the nearest toilets?
  • Is the venue fully accessible for disabled delegates?

Catering

  • How many tea/coffee breaks are there and where will they be served?
  • Where will lunch be served and how easy is it for the attendees to get there?
  • Check the lifts and stairs and think about how many people will be moving around at the same time
  • Is the standard of food good, is there a choice of menu? Have a meal and try different dishes before committing
  • Can the restaurant accommodate special dietary requirements?
  • Are drinks included in the menu price or extra?
  • Are there plenty of staff to serve the food quickly?
  • How many food stations will there be?

Bedrooms

  • How many are there and are they doubles/twins/singles?
  • Are they clean and well-maintained? Is there disabled access?
  • Are there designated smoking and non-smoking rooms?
  • What time can attendees check in and out?
  • Check the lifts, stairs, corridors and fire exits

Other

  • Are the staff friendly and helpful?
  • When were the venue/meeting room/bedrooms last renovated?
  • Are there any refurbishments due?
  • Have any of your competitors booked a meeting at the venue on the same date?
  • Is there a gym/swimming pool/golf course or other leisure facilities and are there additional charges to use them?
  • Is there a business centre and what other services are available for guests?
  • Who is trained in First Aid and where are the nearest medical and dental facilities?
  • Ask about the venue's insurance and crisis management procedures

Remember the venue represents your organisation and you need to make sure it upholds your standards and reputation. A well-run and enjoyable event can only enhance your company’s image.

Technical production

There are very few perfect venues and every organiser’s technical requirements differ. The key to running an event smoothly is close communication with your agency, the venue and the production company.

There are four pieces of information that a production company will need to know:

  • What is the available access into the meeting space
  • The dimensions of the meeting room or area
  • The power distribution in the meeting room
  • Timings

Access

It’s very simple for you to walk to the function room from Reception, but how does the production company bring its equipment in to the meeting space? The venue will have an idea of what should be used. There is a large variety of equipment which could be brought into the space depending on the requirements for that particular event.

Dimensions

Assessing this information has improved dramatically with the internet, as venues now have websites with downloadable floorplans. But look out for pillars that don’t appear on the floorplan and also the accuracy of dimensions. Make sure you check the height and width of doors and ceilings, and beware of chandeliers.

There are other production requirements to bear in mind, such as facilities to hang equipment from points in the ceiling and the dimensions of the room. A venue may say they have capacity for 400 people, but is this for a dinner or a conference? The big difference here is understanding the technical requirements and using the correct size screen for the audience.

Power

Three-quarters of events will need addition lighting, normally in the form of three or single phase power. Often this is not fully understood by venue staff and it could become an expensive mistake if they don’t have the correct power requirements, as you’ll end up with a bill to hire alternative power options. So ask to check with their technical staff.

Timings

Not an obvious question, but this will become complicated if the venue has multiple bookings with different companies setting up and de-rigging. The time it will take can only be estimated once the venue has been seen and all the technical equipment has been booked. There is also the issue of booking the crew, based on budget and the amount of time allowed to set up for the event.

The main objective is to find the right venue and to do this the organiser needs to talk to everyone involved, so they all understand the requirements before the venue search can start. Site inspections are important so make sure you ask the right questions!

Green Meetings

Businesses and individuals are increasingly considering the environmental impact of their offsite meetings and bringing them in line with their company policies. There are various things to think about and a lot of them are common sense.

Choosing your destination

When choosing the country for your event, select one with a good environmental track record. It is possible to check how different countries rank according to sustainability on websites such as the World Economic Forum. Scandinavian countries usually come out ahead of the rest of Europe with their environmental policies. But also consider where attendees are and pick the country where most of them are located to avoid unnecessary travel. Consider offsetting carbon emissions when flying to the destination.

Then find out how green the city is. The Convention Bureau should be able to provide you with information about the policies and how they aim to become carbon neutral. Choose a venue that is connected to the airport by good public transport or if you need more than one, that they are they within walking distance of each other.

Choosing your venue

Ask for the venue’s environmental strategy. It is possible for venues to calculate the carbon emissions per person for a day meeting or overnight stay, so ask what they are and also what their policies are in the following areas:

Energy: do they use low energy lights, is heating and air conditioning turned off when the rooms are not in use and do they encourage guests to reuse linen? Does the venue have solar panels, use renewable energy or harvest rainwater?

Waste: do they use crockery, cutlery and glasses that are washed rather than disposable? Is general rubbish separated and recycled? What is done with food waste?

Food: is it locally sourced and seasonal wherever possible, do they avoid individually wrapped portions, how much is free-range or organic and is water provided in jugs rather than bottles? If it is a new venue, have they used sustainable materials in the building and when purchasing the fittings and equipment?

Communicating with attendees

Use paperless technology whenever possible. Create a conference website where registration can all be done online. Emails are the quickest method of communication, but try and discourage the attendees from printing them. Hand materials out on memory sticks or email them to attendees after the event, but if printed materials are needed, then use recycled paper and card with vegetable-based inks and print on both sides of the page. Choose displays and badges that can be reused.

Lastly provide the venue with your company’s environmental policy or ask for theirs to see how they compare, but also check that things are actually put into practice when you go on the site visit.

Return on Investment

The bottom line for measuring Return On Investment (ROI) is that it is all about time and money. Positive ROI can be achieved once you know what the meeting objectives are and how they can be met.  So, when you’re planning an event you need to know why it is being held. All events should have a measurable aspect, otherwise what is the point of holding them?

Whether the objectives of the event are to increase sales, spread knowledge, improve productivity, promote brand awareness, reward clients, motivate staff, promote best practice; there is still a goal.

Here are some points to think about when planning, to make sure you get the best results:

Identify key stakeholders and what they want

  • Delegates
  • The budget holder
  • The venue
  • Suppliers
  • You, the organiser
  • Sponsors, speakers, content providers

Questions to ask in your organisation

  • What should be achieved from the event?
  • How is the success going to be measured?
  • What is the profile of the attendees?
  • What is the delegates' current understanding, knowledge and awareness of the issues to be discussed at the meeting?
  • Can you conduct pre-event research to verify this?
  • Can you conduct post-event research to measure learning, application and business impact following the meeting or event?
  • Who needs to know how effective the meeting has been?
  • Who is going to produce the meeting report?
  • What is needed from the venue/location?

Questions to ask the venue

  • Would the venue include any extras to improve the experience?
  • Can the venue add any value to support the objectives?

Listen to expert advice

You don’t have to take it, but it could be useful. So who can you talk to:

  • Venue Finding Agencies
  • Event Management Companies
  • Production Companies
  • Destination Management Companies
  • Venues

Research Companies can help with questionnaire design, response analysis and report writing.
Why they will add value to your event:

  • This is their core business
  • They are professionals in their own field
  • Their experience should save you time and money
  • Their expertise will provide a professional and smoothly run event
  • The success of an event lies in the importance of not losing sight of the big picture - which is to achieve the organisation’s strategic objectives while reducing costs and controlling spending

Finance & Legal

Negotiating a contract

Contracts with venues is one of the main areas of conflict in the conference business.

To avoid dispute, make sure you read everything carefully and completely understand the terms and conditions.

There may be areas for negotiation, so here are a few things to look out for:

Check details

Make sure the contract contains the key items that are critical to you, such as dates, meeting rooms, space, rates etc. This is particularly important if any extras have been included or you’ve been given a special rate, as the staff you contract with may no longer be there when the event takes place. It is best to have everything included rather than try to negotiate additional agreements later.

Cancellation schedule

Look at the cancellation schedule as the venue will want to levy a charge if the size of the event changes. Reduce your potential cancellation fees by confirming the minimum number of delegates, but try to book a larger room so you can increase the numbers if necessary. The cancellation schedule will probably include delegate numbers and cut-off dates and you may be able to negotiate these.

Contract changes

  • You might receive a contract from the venue which has already been signed. If you change the contract and then return it, then this is a counteroffer not a binding contract. If changes are needed then ask for a revised contract to be issued or make sure the venue countersigns the amendments.
  • Consider conditions that are important to you, but may not occur to the venue. For example, if you need a guarantee that your competitors are not holding a meeting in the venue at the same time, then include this in the contract.

Payment terms

  • Check that you are happy with the payment terms and specify the items that you will pay for and when. State what expenses your organisation will accept and who can sign for them and make the venue responsible for charging any additional items directly to the delegates.
  • Sign and return the contract promptly. It may seem attractive to delay signing to avoid cancellation charges, but you could lose the venue if someone else books it at the last minute, or they may not deliver the requirements you agreed verbally.
  • Check your insurance as it is designed to avoid risk. Will it cover the cost of defending a claim, as well as any damages?

Resolving disputes

Disputes over contracts are time-consuming to resolve and can be costly, so the time spent getting the contract right in the first place will make life easier later. Whenever possible take advice before you sign and if you have a Legal Department, it may be advisable to ask them to review the contract.

Event insurance

The importance of event insurance:

The need for event insurance has become more apparent with national disasters, strikes, and the threat of terrorism.

It is essential that all event organisers should have a good understanding of what insurance cover is available to meet any legal or contractual requirements as well as to protect a valuable investment should problems arise. If in doubt about the correct course of action, an event insurance specialist should be consulted.

Things to consider:

Venue

  • When contracts are signed it is usual for hirers to be made liable for all damage to the premises and personal injuries during the tenancy period, unless caused by negligence of the venue.
  • Some venue contracts are more onerous than others and impose an additional penalty should an organiser decide not to proceed with the event. This is normally referred to as Liquidated Damages. Also, the majority of venues will insist that hirers have Public Liability insurance to a minimum level of indemnity.

Exhibitors/Traders

  • An organiser should provide an approved set of rules and regulations which require all exhibitors or traders to keep indemnified and save harmless the organiser from all costs, damages, demands and actions caused by a negligent act or omission on the part of the exhibitor.
  • The indemnity or insurance clause should also include a condition that requires the exhibitor/trader to effect Public and Products Liability insurance with an indemnity limit of no less that that carried by the organiser.

Contractors/Suppliers

Organisers should ensure that any contractors or suppliers engaged during the course of an event have in place adequate Public Liability insurance. This should for part of the organisers risk management process. What cover is available

The following covers are provided as standard on most Event Insurance policies:

Cancellation and abandonment

  • Your event may need to be cancelled, abandoned, postponed or relocated. If this is due to circumstances beyond the control or the organiser, they may need to make a claim in respect of financial losses, including anticipated profit. If it is possible for the event to proceed, perhaps at an alternative location or at a later date, this insurance will meet the reasonable additional expenses incurred in pursuit of this being achieved.
  • An organiser may also find you are unable to vacate the premises due to an unforeseeable event such as inability to access the venue. The delay in leaving a venue often attracts a financial penalty, which can be covered.

Terrorism

This cover provides against the risk of cancellation due to terrorism.

Protective Action Costs

This cover provides for the additional costs incurred in an attempt to maintain the standard of the next event after a loss, which would adversely affect the subsequent event.

Property

This cover indemnifies the organiser should any property, for which cover has been purchased, be stolen or damaged. Also, there is usually an extension providing damage to immoveable fixtures, plant and machinery at the venue.

Public Liability

This cover provides indemnity for the organiser due to their negligence in respect of claims arising from death or bodily injury and/or property damage up to a specified limit of indemnity; provided that such liability arises out of or in the course of the insured event.

Employers’ Liability

Employers’ Liability indemnifies the organiser for their negligence in respect of claims arising from death or bodily injury to any person who is under a contract of service or apprenticeship with you during the course of a formal or casual employment with the organiser in connection with the insured event.

Additional covers available

  • Non-Appearance
  • The success of an event may very much depend on the presence of a specific individual. Cover can be purchased to reimburse an organiser for financial loss due to the non-appearance of a key speaker or individual.

Enforced Reduced Attendance (Indoor Events)

  • It may be possible to open the doors on time for an event, but due to a particular incident or circumstance, a significant number of delegates or visitors may be prevented from arriving as scheduled. This could be due to a major problem on the roads or railways, strikes by air traffic controllers etc. This may result in the organiser having to compensate delegates who apply for a refund of their fees, or reduced revenue from the sale of tickets.
  • This product is designed to reimburse the organiser in respect of these losses.

Cover is available for all kinds of events from exhibitions and conferences to fetes, concerts and firework displays. Event insurance can be inexpensive, however, the decision not to purchase can prove to be a costly one.

Thanks to Terry Waller CERT CII, Arc International Event Insurance, email: twaller@arc-int.co.uk

Insurance cover

Examples of event insurance cover

  • Cancellation/Abandonment: to cover total budget (expenses plus revenue) of £35,000
  • Public Liability: up to a limit of £2,000,000
  • Employers Liability: up to a limit of £10,000,000
  • Property: up to a limit of £50,000

Scenario 1

The night before the exhibition open, disaster strikes. There is a storm and the venue is struck by lightning. The roof collapses and damages the shell stands, which have been erected in the exhibition hall.

Damage to your property amounts to £40,000, which is insured as above and you are compensated.

The exhibition hall is unusable and the event is cancelled. A claim to the value of £35,000 can be made for the total cancellation of the event. Alternatively, assistance will be provided in helping find and fund a replacement venue in order for the event to still take place. It may take time for arrangements to be made, reducing or restricting the open period and effecting revenue. This would mean there would be a partial loss (possibly £20,000). A claim could be made for the additional hire costs, plus advertising/notification costs and reduced revenue of the rescheduled event, as these costs were incurred in avoiding a larger loss.

Scenario 2

Your event opens and an attendee has a stand light fall on their head and in turn damages the venue wall. The injured person is taken to hospital suffering from concussion. The attendee believes, you, the organiser of the event, are accountable and makes a Public Liability claim against you for £10,000. Your insurance cover would respond and your court expenses and any amount awarded (up to the level of indemnity) would be paid. Also the damage to the venue would also be covered under the same Public Liability section of your policy.

Scenario 3

Your employee suffers a back injury when she trips and falls during your event. She believes that you have not taken adequate steps to avoid such accidents and alleges your negligence was the major contributing factor to her injuries. She engages a solicitor, who puts a claim for £10,000 on your company. Your Employers Liability insurance would react paying for legal defence, court expenses and the award given. Protection is available for all wide range of events from exhibitions and conferences to fetes and firework displays. Event insurance can be expensive, however the decision not to purchase it can prove to be a costly one.

Thanks to Terry Waller CERT CII, Managing Director, Arc International Event Insurance, email: twaller@arc-int.co.uk

International VAT refunds

European legislation was introduced in the 1980s to enable companies to reclaim VAT (also known as sales tax), which is automatically charged on a wide range of goods and services sold within the European Union and some other non-EU countries. The VAT rate varies from country to country and can change at any time.

The items that can be eligible for VAT refunds are expenses that have been incurred via:

  • Taxis, car hire and transportation
  • Hotel bills and accommodation
  • Restaurant meals and subsistence
  • Business entertaining
  • Conferences, trade exhibitions and training courses
  • Marketing and advertising, promotional materials and printing

These vary according to the country and may have restrictions. There are also time limits when making a claim, so it is important to understand the requirements in each country.

Claim eligibility

Before making a claim, a company should check if it is eligible. Most businesses wanting to make a claim should be able to do so if:

  • The business is not registered, liable or required to be registered for VAT in the country where the expense is incurred
  • The business is EU based and registered for VAT in their home country, or the business is non-EU based and registered for business purposes in the country of their origin
  • In the case of non-EU companies, a reciprocal treaty arrangement is in place between its own government and the government of the country it wishes to make a claim in

There are companies which specialise in claiming back VAT and it may be worthwhile using one as it can be a time consuming and complicated procedure. An expert will be able to prepare the correct documentation for the tax authority in the country where the claim will be lodged and employ foreign language speakers with knowledge of the procedures. Often these companies work on a % commission of the refund, so there are no upfront costs.

For more information about VAT refunds for EU based companies, visit vat taxback

Industry Information

Event management

Every event is different, so how do you ensure that you end up with a successful one, each and every time?

There are several key areas to concentrate on throughout the planning period and also on the day:
Location, location, location
The devil is in the detail
Check, check and double check

Event management is a complex, time-consuming, frustrating and stressful job but it also has great rewards when the event goes well.

Location, location, location

Selecting the right destination and the right venue is key to ensuring that your audience is motivated by the country, inspired by the venue and, even more importantly, can travel there as easily as possible.

First you need to start with your audience. Who are they? Employees, customers or partners. Why are they being invited? What sort of people are they - age, gender, job role? What ROI do you want out of the event: increase in business, skills training, increase in performance/productivity, networking, or is it just a thank you with no strings attached.

If you are running an incentive trip for your top performers or customers, then the destination certainly has to be motivating. Whether you choose long haul or short haul will depend on the duration of your trip and on your budget. As event organisers it can be easy to dismiss the ‘tried and tested’ destinations, but remember that your audience may not be well travelled, so somewhere like Prague, for instance, may still be on their wish list. If your travellers have ‘been there and bought the t-shirt’, then some of the emerging destinations such as Cambodia may seem interesting, but you still need reassurance that the infrastructure and service levels are what you require for your group.

If looking to take guests overseas, always check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to ensure that it is safe to travel to your destination.

Once a destination has been selected, you need to think about a hotel: do you want city centre or resort; is it a business meeting or an incentive. or both.  How far do you want to travel from the airport, are you keen for your group not to be distracted by shopping opportunities! Knowing your audience and your ROI will help you with questions such as this.

The devil is in the detail

Attention to detail is key to any successful event. Here are the elements to think about:

  • Venue: what goes where and when
  • Delegates: how do they get there, how do we communicate, what do you want to tell them
  • Production: how are you going to deliver the message
  • Catering: what type and style of meals, what time, dietary requests
  • Theming / entertainment: how do you keep them entertained and well looked after
  • Travel / Visas: where are they coming from and how do they get there
  • H&S / Risk assessment: duty of care and how to make sure they have a safe and happy time
  • Not rushing the job. Although some events may have short lead times, still make sure you take time to think through every area thoroughly. If you make a change to something, then it will certainly impact on something else.
  • Making sure that you have everything in writing from all your suppliers and thinking through contingency and insurance options for your event. No event is ‘cheap’ so you need to safeguard your budget as best you can. Planning for contingencies in the budget and in your preparation will ensure that you have no nasty surprises along the way. So what type of contingencies should you prepare for?
    • If you are paying for all food and beverage, then allow 10% contingency in your budget for late bars and additional drinks
    • Make sure you have ‘bad weather’ options for any event that you are planning outdoors
    • Have you considered what would happen to the event if the airline went on strike?
    • What is your procedure should a delegate fall ill?
  • Will your event be ruined if your keynote speaker cannot make it at the last minute?
  • Preparing a minute-by-minute schedule of the event early on. It is good practice as the schedule will evolve during the planning period and it will help guide you through all the areas you need to consider
  • On the day, make sure you have enough signage so that delegates know where to go. Ensure they are greeted professionally and feel well looked after. It is important to stick to times, so that catering is smooth and efficient as delegates will feel disgruntled if things run late
  • Most importantly, make sure your team and your suppliers are so well briefed that everything works like a well-oiled machine and then you can actually enjoy the event unfolding

Check, check and double check

It is very easy to assume that something has been done on an event, but if you are in charge, then make sure you and your team check everything at least 3 times. There are so many elements to event planning that it can be easy to overlook something that you think has been done, only to find out on the day that it hasn’t! Nothing is more stressful.

Even if you, your team or your suppliers have done it a thousand times before, there is still no harm in checking and checking again. If you are involved in every detail, get someone else to do a final check as they will have an clear view on any issue.

Good luck with your events and enjoy every minute.

Key dates

Selected industry exhibitions, hospitality and sporting events in the UK and Europe.  The event names link through to official websites:

Industry Exhibitions

EventDatesLocation
International Confex1-2 March 2017London
IMEX16-18 May 2017Frankfurt
The Meetings Show13-15 June 2017London
Venues & Events ShowSeptember 2017 tbaLondon
IMEX America10-12 October 2017Las Vegas
World Travel Market6-8 November 2017London
IBTM28-30 November 2017Barcelona

Events and Hospitality

EventDatesLocation
London Fashion Week17-21 February 2017London
Cheltenham Festival 14-17 March 2017Cheltenham
Grand National6-8 April 2017Aintree, Merseyside
The London Marathon23 April 2017London
Chelsea Flower Show23-27 May 2017London
The FA Cup Final21 May 2017London
The Epsom Derby2-4 June 2017Epsom, Surrey
Tennis: Aegon Championships19-25 June 2017London
Royal Ascot20-14 June 2017Ascot, Berkshire
Henley Royal Regatta28 June - 2 July 2017Henley
Wimbledon Tennis Championships3-16 July 2017London
Hampton Court Flower Show4-9 July 2017Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
British Grand Prix7-9 July 2017Silverstone
British Open Golf Championship 16-23 July 2017Royal Birkdale, Southport
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition12 June – 20 August 2017London
Cowes Week Sailing Regatta29 July - 5 August 2017Cowes, Isle of Wight
Edinburgh Military Tattoo4-26 August 2017Edinburgh
Farnborough Air Show16-22 July 2018Farnborough, Hampshire

Industry associations

Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBBA)

The HBAA is the only professional body representing independent UK-based organisations specialising in hotel accommodation, meetings and conference reservations. Formed in 1987, the association now has over 60 Members who book more than £850 million.  The Association was formed to create a single voice for this fast-growing sector through which to bring about consistent, improved standards in product and service through a series of working parties the HBAA addresses common problems in fields such as IT, law and training, in each case seeking practical solutions. Members and hotels also meet regularly to discuss industry trends, exchange ideas and develop

HBAA: serving companies
As the procurement function has taken on responsibility for corporate travel in many organisations, the focus on reducing travel and transaction costs has intensified. At the same time, the benefits of outsourcing their hotel requirements to a specialist have become more widely recognised. To ensure consistent service levels from Member companies, the HBAA has developed a Code of Conduct that sets out standards of good practice covering all aspects of the hotel reservation process from the perspectives of the agent, corporate client and hotelier. Every Member pledges to adhere to this code, which is recognised and respected throughout the industry.

HBAA: serving hotels
As brokers in the relationship between client and hotelier, hotel booking agents play an important role in introducing hotels to the corporate market and vice versa. Hotel chains and independent properties alike are encouraged to forge even stronger relationships by becoming HBAA Charter Partners and signing the Code of Conduct as confirmation of their commitment to appropriate standards of protocol between hotel and agent. This group now consists of more than 70of the leading hotel chains, training centres and independent hotels and venues, including Hilton, De Vere, Intercontinental, Park Plaza, Marriott, RF Hotels and Sodexho Prestige.
Contact: HBAA Secretariat, 3rd Floor, 122 Bath Road, Cheltenham, GL53 7JX
Telephone: 0845 603 3349
Web: www.hbaa.org.uk

Eventia

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Eventia was formed in 2006 from the fusion of two complementary trade associations: the ITMA and the CEA. Together they represent organisations that provide business solutions through the use of events. Eventia is the hub for conference and incentive travel organisers, live communications agencies, producers of experiential marketing activity, performance improvement companies and corporate entertainment agencies - as well as suppliers of services to these event management companies.
Contact: Eventia - The Events Industry Association, 1st Floor, 192-198 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1DX
Telephone: 0870 112 6970
Web: www.eventia.org.uk

The mia

The meetings industry association (mia) is the leading association for the meetings industry in the UK and Ireland. The Association has been a hub for all organisations committed to improving standards within the sector.  mia members are comprised of a large number of organisations from all sectors of the UK meetings industry, including destinations, venues and suppliers. Membership enables them to continuously improve their service offering and grow their business, though innovation, dedication, knowledge and integrity.  The mia’s accreditation, AIM, which all members have achieved, is an assurance of excellence. Venues and suppliers that hold the accreditation are able to present tangible proof their business is committed to value, best practice, industry codes of conduct and legislation. AIM is the only UK meetings industry national standard endorsed by VisitEngland, Visit Wales, Meetings Professional International (MPI UK) and Association of British Professional Conference Organiser (ABPCO).
Contact: mia, PO Box 515, Kelmarsh, Northants, NN6 9XW
Telephone: 0845 230 5508
Web: www.mia-uk.org

Meetings Professionals International (MPI)

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MPI is the industry’s premier educational, technological and peer interaction resource, for members to stay on the cutting edge of today’s constantly changing and challenging meeting environment.
The association focuses on professional development and the ability to be cost conscious through educational programmes and timely topical communication. There are more than 19,000 members, in 60 Chapters throughout the world, providing a network of contacts at local or international level.
Contact: MPI Membership Office, c/o Clarity Event Insurance, 44 Greenacres, Oxted, Surrey RH8 0PB
Telephone: 01883 734999
Web: www.mpiuk.org

Society of Incentive and Travel Executives (SITE)

Sitelogo.gif

Founded in 1973, SITE is the only international, not-for-profit, professional association devoted to the pursuit of excellence in incentives. SITE provides educational seminars and information services to those who design, develop, promote, sell, administer, and operate motivational programs as an incentive to increase productivity in business. Currently SITE has over 2,000 members in 82 countries, with 33 local and regional chapters. Members represent airlines, cruise lines, corporate users, destination management companies, ground transportation companies, hotels and resorts, incentive houses, official tourist organisations, trade publications, travel agencies and supporting organisations such as restaurants and visitor attractions.
Contact: SITE – Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, 12-15 Hanger Green, London W5 3EL
Telephone: 020 8601 2400
Web: www.siteglobal.com

Industry magazines

Conference and Incentive Travel
www.citmagazine.com

Every month C&IT brings you up to speed with the most stylish venues, the most sought-after speakers, the coolest destinations and the best suppliers. With reports and case studies on high-profile events, and over 40 UK and 50 worldwide information-packed reports, there’s no better way to get great ideas and profit from the experiences of others.A selection of corporate event, conference and incentive travel magazine information.

Conference News
www.mashmedia.net

Conference News resides at the heart of the conference industry examining the issues affecting organisers, venues and suppliers. Published monthly, Conference News features the latest news, interviews with market influencers and industry analysis.

Incentive Travel and Corporate Meetings
www.incentivetravel.co.uk

Incentive Travel & Corporate Meetings magazine has for 20 years been reporting on the developments in the MICE market from all around the world. The ITCM website brings you the latest news every day from hotels, conference centres, unusual venues and destinations. If you plan or organise meetings and incentives, conferences or exhibitions make sure you keep up with the latest news.

Meetings and Incentive Travel
www.meetpie.com

Published 10 times per annum, Meetings & Incentive Travel is the magazine voted best read magazine by event agencies, corporate and association buyers in every major market research survey in the past year, including the UK Conference Market Survey, venuemasters Buyers Market Survey and the BDRC UK Meetings Market Survey.

Industry speak

This glossary is not a comprehensive guide but a useful reference to terms frequently used in the travel and event industry:

Allocation
Agreement by a hotel to hold an agreed number of bedrooms at a fixed rate, for a set period of time.

Best available rate
Also known as a flexible rate. This is a variable rate according to demand and occupancy.

Build-up and Breakdown
Additional time to set up and dismantle audio/visual and production equipment. If you need access in advance or after the event there may be an additional charge, depending on the time required.

Comp. rooms
Complimentary rooms allocated by the hotel.

Confirmed Reservation
Verbal or written agreement to proceed with the booking.

Contract
Binding agreement where there are legal responsibilities for both parties.

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
Company’s self-imposed policy or responsibilities on a range of issues such as ethical, legal and environmental standards.

Cut-Off Date
Date when the venue will release a block of bedrooms to the general public.

DDR (Daily Delegate Rate)
Usually comprises hire of one meeting room, lunch, refreshment breaks and water in the meeting room. Generally better value than paying for all the elements separately. Check whether there are two or three refreshment breaks included, if you want tea and coffee for delegates on arrival as well as mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

RDR (Delegate Rate, 24-hour)
Also known as residential delegate rate. As daily delegate rate, plus dinner, bed and breakfast.

DMC (Destination Management Company)
Company with local knowledge and which uses local suppliers at the destination.

Inclusive rates
Including all taxes and service charge.

Microphones
There are a variety available:
Cordless/Wireless - portable, using its own power source.
Lapel - can be pinned to clothing, used if speakers walk around or need their hands free.
Lectern - attached to the lectern.
Roving - hand held, used for taking questions from the audience.
Standing - attached to an adjustable stand on the floor.
Table - on a short stand placed on the table-top, usually used by a panel of speakers.

Options
Option Date (Release Date) - the date that the option expires and the venue can offer the space to another client.
First Option - the space is being held for one client until the option date and they have first choice to confirm the booking.
Second Option - the space will be offered to the second option client if the first option does not proceed.
Joint Option - the space is held by two or more clients and the venue will proceed with the first one to confirm (contract) their booking.

Overnight hold
Exclusive use of the meeting room for the duration of a multi-day event. You may be using the room during the day, but the venue may wish to book another event there in the evening. Check this, as it has implications for setting up and production. There may be a charge for overnight hold.

Rack Rate
Published standard cost of a hotel bedroom.

RFI (Request for Information)
Process of gathering information to decide how to proceed. This can be the first step in a process and is often followed by a RFP.

RFP (Request for Proposal)
Invitation for suppliers to submit a formal business offer, which includes details of the products and services they can provide as well as a quotation.

ROI (Return on Investment)
Measurement of the success of an event, which can be by a range of criteria such as financial, educational, motivational…

Room Hire Rate
Charge to hire a room and any equipment provided in it, with water for delegates. Usually used for syndicate rooms, as the main room is included in the delegate rate.

Run of House Rooms
Available bedrooms which are allocated at a flat rate, regardless of the standard of the room and at the discretion of the hotel.

SLA (Service Level Agreement)
Agreed standards that all parties will work to.

Syndicate Room (or Breakout Room)
Smaller room for group meetings away from the main event.

Travel advice

When organising a meeting abroad, there are additional factors to consider, both for the organiser and the attendee. For example, has everyone got a valid passport, are visas required, has travel insurance been arranged, are there any special medical requirements, what are the luggage guidelines?

The websites listed below will be able to help, but remember the regulations can change at any time.

Different areas of travel advice and information:
Overseas Travel Advice
UK Airports
Airlines
Trains

Overseas Travel Advice

Passport information www.ips.gov.uk

Visas and tourist/travel permits contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and follow the link to a list of all the foreign embassies in the UK

Travel advice by country contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and follow the link to the list of countries

Immunisation and vaccination NHS guidelines

European Health Insurance Card application

Department of Health Advice healthcare abroad

Insurance - speak to an agent, about the insurance for your event and your liability

Freight - if you are shipping equipment and documentation, consult a freight forwarding agent, who will advise the best method, cost, time and prepare the required documentation.

UK Airports

Aberdeen Airportwww.aberdeenairport.com
Belfast Airportwww.belfastairport.com
Birmingham Internationalwww.birminghamairport.co.uk
Bristol Airportwww.bristolairport.co.uk
Cardiff Airportwww.cardiff-airport.com
East Midlands Airportwww.eastmidlandsairport.com
Edinburgh Airportwww.edinburghairport.com
Glasgow Airport  www.glasgowairport.com
London Gatwick Airportwww.gatwickairport.com
London Heathrow Airportwww.heathrowairport.com
Heathrow Terminal Guide   www.heathrow-airport-guide.co.uk
Leeds Bradford Airportwww.leedsbradfordairport.co.uk
London Luton Airportwww.london-luton.co.uk
London City Airportwww.londoncityairport.com
London Stansted Airport www.stanstedairport.com
Manchester Airportwww.manchesterairport.co.uk
Newcastle Airport  www.newcastleairport.com
Southampton Airport  www.southamptonairport.com

Airlines 

Aeroflotwww.aeroflot.ru
American Airlineswww.aa.com
Austrian Airlineswww.austrian.com
British Airwayswww.britishairways.com
Cathay Pacificwww.cathaypacific.com
Cyprus Airwayswww.cyprusair.com
Easyjetwww.easyjet.com
Emirates Airlineswww.emirates.com
Etihad Airlineswww.etihadairways.com
FlyBewww.flybe.com
KLMwww.klm.com
Ryanairwww.ryanair.com
Lufthansawww.lufthansa.com
Qantaswww.qantas.com.au
Singapore Airwww.singaporeair.com
South African Airways          www.flysaa.com
TAP Portugalwww.flytap.com
United Airlineswww.united.com
Virginwww.virgin-atlantic.com

 Train travel

National Rail Enquiries        www.nationalrail.co.uk
Heathrow Expresswww.heathrowexpress.com
Gatwick Expresswww.gatwickexpress.com
Stansted Expresswww.stanstedexpress.com
London Underground     www.tfl.gov.uk
Eurostarwww.eurostar.com
Eurotunnelwww.eurotunnel.com
Rail Europewww.raileurope.co.uk

International destinations

To make international calls from the UK first add 00, then dial the country code and the area code (usually omitting the first 0 or 9). The time difference is from GMT.

CountryCodeTime DifferenceCurrencyFlight time from London
Austria+43+1Euro2hrs 15min (Vienna)
Belgium+32+1Euro1hr 10min (Brussels)
Canada+1-3 to -9*Canadian dollar7hrs 45min (Ottowa)
China+86+8Yen 11hrs 15min (Shanghai)
Cyprus+357+2Euro4hrs 30min (Larnaca)
Czech Republic+420+2Koruna 1hr 55min (Prague)
Denmark+45+1Euro1hr 50min (Copenhagen)
Finland +358 +2Euro2hrs 50min (Helsinki)
France +33+1Euro1hr 5min (Paris)
Germany+49+1Euro1hr 35 min (Berlin)
Greece +30+2Euro3hrs 55min (Athens)
Hong Kong+852 +8Hong Kong dollar11hrs 30min (Hong Kong)
Hungary +36+1  Forint +12hrs 25min (Budapest)
Iceland +354 +3Icelandic króna 3hrs (Reykjavik)
Ireland+353=Euro1hr 10 min (Dublin)
Israel+972+2Shekel 4hrs 45min (Tel Aviv)
Italy+39+1Euro2hrs 25min (Rome)
Luxembourg +352 +1Euro 1hr 5min (Luxembourg)
Malta  +356 +1 Maltese lira3hrs 15min (Valetta)
Monaco +377+1Euro1hr 55min (Nice)
Netherlands+31+1Euro 1hr 10min (Amsterdam)
New Zealand+64+12New Zealand dollar27 hrs (Wellington)
Norway+47+1Norwegian krone1hr 55min (Oslo)
Poland+48+1Zloty2hrs15min (Warsaw)
Portugal+351+1Euro2hrs 25min (Lisbon)
Russia+7+3Rouble3hrs 55min (Moscow)
South Africa+27+2Rand 11hrs 30min (Cape Town)
Spain+34+1Euro2hrs 5min (Madrid)
Switzerland+41+1Swiss franc1hr 30min (Geneva)
Turkey +90+2Turkish lira 3hrs 30min (Istanbul)
United Arab Emirates+971+4 Dirham 6hrs 55min (Dubai)
United States of America  +1-5 to -11*  Dollar 6hrs 40min (New York)

* Times vary according to location/city.

HBAA Strategic Meeting Management Programme

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