6.1: In the Beginning...
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People have been meeting for centuries, officially and unofficially. Planning has varied from casual to formal, depending on the desired outcome. Some gatherings, such as an impromptu dinner with friends, are informal and require minimal planning. More formal events and meetings have existed throughout history - from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to the first Olympic games in 1896 to fully online conferences in 2020. Although people likely held meetings in hotels long before, it wasn't until the mid-1600s when the first recorded event was hosted at a French Inn, essentially the first-ever gentleman's club.
As time went on events evolved. From small corporate events to large, week-long meetings, elaborate weddings, and much more. While events occurred in all types of venues over time, a shift began to occur in the 1980s. Hotels began to dedicate space to events and offered the convenience of hosting conferences, weddings, and other events in a location that also provided food and lodging to the event's attendees. Although events are regularly held in conference centers or other dedicated event venues, event hosts and planners are finding that it is much more convenient to hold events in hotels for these reasons.
As events changed so has the technology that supports the event industry. When events first started, everything was done by hand. Notes were made for booking processes and any changes meant rewriting the event contract and/or Banquet Event Order (BEO). As computers became more common and user friendly, systems were created and used to manage the planning and booking of events. Systems such as Opera, eSpace, and other software are used to make booking easier and more efficient.
Meetings & Events
Meetings are powerful tools to build consensus, convey information, or celebrate successes. Unlike impromptu family dinners, meetings and events often take much more planning. Those tasked with planning the event must come together to determine what an event should accomplish and how to reach those desired outcomes. Every event has key stakeholders. These may be individuals within the hosting organization, such as owners, employees, or shareholders, or outside, such as customers or vendors. Balancing the needs of all stakeholders in an event can be a challenging task. A professional event manager can be hired when appropriate personnel isn't available within the hosting organization.
Meetings and events, come in all shapes and sizes. They are held for a variety of reasons, vary in size and scope, and range across industries. Meetings and events can be held in several types of venues, some are one-time events, and some are recurring opportunities. Some of the organizations that hold gatherings are referred to as SMERFs; Social, Military, Educational, Religious, and Fraternal. From corporate training or a topic-specific convention to a wedding or gala, meetings and events vary greatly.
There are many moving parts when it comes to planning and executing a successful event, especially one in a hotel. While hotels may vary in size and features available to event hosts, most provide their event operations out of three distinct departments; Catering Sales, Set-Up, and Banquets. Each of these departments and its staff play an important role in making sure that all events are a success. Through that success, they help retain established clients and attract new clientele.
- The Catering Sales department is responsible for securing new clients, scheduling events, establishing the BEO, and maintaining relationships with current clients. They are the event host's point of contact before and after the event.
- The Set-Up department handles the setting up the event space, including tables, bars, stages, dance floors, etc. They are also in charge of running all the audio-visual (AV) equipment needed for the event. In some venues they even double as the bar managers, making sure everything is needed for the bar to run smoothly.
- The Banquet department is in charge of executing the event. From coordinating food service and working with the event host to meet any urgent needs to maintaining the event timeline and keeping things on schedule. During the event, they become the point of contact for any changes that need to be made.
As a Catering Sales, Banquet, or Set-Up manager, your responsibilities can vary. Each department is in charge of a different area and aspect of the event. But while there are differences, they all share important tasks such as ensuring proper staffing, setting up room and amenities to meet the client's needs, sticking to the established timeline, and overall making sure that everything runs smoothly and the client is happy. Leadership and customer service skills are vital in all of these roles.
Catering Sales Manager
In addition to planning events and managing contracts, Catering Sales Managers are also in charge of securing staffing for events. They must ensure there are enough managers, set-up staff, servers, bartenders, etc. scheduled for the event to run smoothly.
Most hotels do their catering in-house, meaning that there are adequate kitchen facilities and staff on-site to take care of the event's catering needs. Prior to an event, the Sales Manager must relay all catering needs to kitchen management. They should communicate, menu selections, presentation, timing, allergy concerns, and more.
During and after an event, the Sales Managers handle client and guest complaints. It is their job to make sure that any issues are properly resolved as quickly as possible. A Sales Manager’s biggest asset is the ability to communicate effectively. This is vital when it comes to getting all the details from the client and passing them along to the appropriate staff members.
Catering Sales Managers generally work 40 hours a week, making anywhere between $60,000-$70,000, as of 2019, depending on the hotel or size of the venue. Most Sales Managers hold at least a Bachelor's Degree in various areas of study, often business, marketing, or finance.
The Set-Up Manager generally makes things happen behind the scenes. They oversee the set-up of event space according to the contract, including making sure any AV equipment works properly. Set-Up is in charge of making sure all tables, chairs, stages, podiums, etc. are in the proper place before the event begins. They are also responsible for flipping the space between events, often resetting a banquet hall in a few hours or less. They generally oversee a crew of five to seven team members who assist them in accomplishing these objectives. They must also work closely with the Sales Manager and Banquet Manager to make sure the specifications of the BEO are met.
On top of setting the room, they also assist the banquet staff and kitchen staff throughout the event. They will help ensure that buffets are set properly, enough staff is available to help carry during service, and if required, assist in serving guests. Set-Up staff may also assist banquet staff in setting up beverage stations, clearing dishes after a meal, or cleaning up when the event is finished. Set-Up staff begins their work well before the event starts and wraps up well after the event is over, split into several shifts if necessary. The Set-Up Manager must ensure there is enough staff to manage the event, from set-up to cleanup.
At some venues, the Set-Up Manager is also in charge of the bar. This includes setting up the bar and making sure that all required supplies and ingredients are stocked for the event. They may also be responsible for motoring to prevent underage drinking from occurring or outside alcohol from being brought in.
The most important asses to have as a Set-Up Manager is prior experience. Most venues require 2-4 years of prior experience, especially experience in leading a team. Time management and leadership skills are critical. A degree in business or a computer-related field is a big plus. Most set up managers work 40-60 hours a week and make around $40,000-$60,000 a year, as of 2019, depending on the size of the venue.
Banquet Managers are the client's point of contact during the event. Any last-minute changes, added items, or problems that occur go straight to them. The Banquet Manager’s job is to deal with any issues in a timely manner. The goal is that the client doesn't realize there is an issue until after it has already been resolved.
The Banquet Manager should know every detail in the BEO and make sure that it is executed exactly as planned. They are also in charge of getting all meals, breaks, and receptions set up on time. During any hosted food-service, it is the Banquet Manager's job to make sure all items are restocked as they run low, so they never run out. During meal service, the Banquet Manager may help serve beverages, clear dishes, and otherwise assist their team in making sure that everything runs according to plan. Once the event is over, they are in charge of assisting the banquet servers and kitchen staff in clearing the room of all service items and preparing for the next service.
They are also in charge of communicating with the kitchen staff. The Banquet Manager will inform the kitchen if the event is running on time, if the guest count is higher or lower than expected, and any other food-related issues that may come up. Having an open line of communication with the kitchen staff is critical to ensure that food and beverage service runs smoothly.
In addition to scheduling enough service staff for each event, the Banquet Manager must ensure that all staff arrive on time and are dressed appropriately. Unlike other staff who may work behind-the-scenes, banquet staff generally interact directly with event guests, making their appearance and presentation extremely important.
Most Banquet Managers have a Bachelor's degree in either hospitality or culinary arts. Many also hold certifications in catering or the like. Most venues also require 3-5 years of banquet serving experience. Exemplary customer service and problem-solving skills are also required. Banquet Managers generally work 40-60 hours a week, making around $30,000-$50,000 a year, as of 2019, depending on the size of the venue.
While everyone plays a part and has a job to do, the most important thing to remember is that everyone is a team. It is the job of all the departments to make sure that everything flows and the event is a success. If one area falls short, it is the job of everyone to step up and help. If one department fails, all of the departments fail.
Photo by Asiya Kiev on Unsplash
There are countless ideas, efforts, and decisions that contribute to an event's success. Those listed below are just some of the details that should be considered when planning an event.
Goals & Objectives
All projects require that you start with a goal, what you hope to achieve, and objectives, the action steps you will take to achieve the goal.
Program Design & Content
Program Design is the process of using research, consultation, input from stakeholders, and applicable skills to communicate the message (content) to your attendees.
Budget & Finance
A budget is a detailed forecast of expenses or costs associated with the event. It helps prioritize which elements to include in the event based on available funds. It also helps measure the success of a meeting or event.
Marketing & Promotion
Marketing is the communication used to inform or persuade a target audience of the merits and benefits of your product, service, brand, or issue.
Site Selection & Inspection
Site selection is the process of narrowing the type of facility required by reviewing the event needs and specifications. Inspection is the process of reviewing several locations in-person to determine and finalize the best choice for the event needs.
Speakers & Entertainers
Individuals hired to deliver a message or entertain an audience to leave the attendee feeling more educated, more positive, or more aware of the business and inspired to participate in the goal of the event or the organization hosting the event.
Contracts are formal agreements between two parties. They usually involve the exchange of goods, services, money, or a promise of any of those.
A process to confirm attendance at a meeting or event. This may or may not involve money. If attendance is free, the registration will simply track who is attending and regulate the number of tickets available if space is restricted.
Housing & Reservations
A process usually set by contract, for out of town attendees to make reservations at specific hotels, usually at special event rates.
Food & Beverage
Used to enhance the overall experience and further networking, shared ideas, and fellowship. Used to energize and create moods for attendees. Used creatively sometimes to carry a message or theme using food stations, buffet, plated, or served family-style. Consideration of food allergies and dietary preferences need to be made.
Setting up the room to best utilize the meeting or event space for the specific goals of the planners.
Usually used to display a product or service for consideration by an attendee in a reserved space in or adjacent to the event location.
Using lights and/or sounds to communicate a message to attendees. This may include lighting a stage and/or entire event space, amplifying those who are speaking or performing, and/or sharing visual presentations.
Digital means of communicating and interacting with attendees during an event. A potential way to collect data on meeting statistics using badges, surveys, and other applications.
The action of moving people to, from, or between specific destinations (airport, hotel, event venue, etc.). This often requires signage and may include the use of a vendor such as a shuttle service.
The sending by mail or courier, the materials to be used for the meeting or event. Items may be delivered at the venue ahead of time and stored until the event.
To provide a safe and secure setting and to operate in a manner that ensures the hosting organizations or individuals achieve their objectives in a proper and profitable way, event risk management must be fully integrated into all event plans and throughout the event management process. Risk Management for Meetings and Events examines the practices, procedures, and safeguards associated with the identification, analysis, response planning, and control of the risks surrounding events.
Environmental & Social Impact
Some meetings and events add purpose by including a local charity or fundraising element to attract and engage attendees. This is a great public relations opportunity for the company or group hosting the event.
Provide translators and specific signage for each language represented at the event. Provide detailed instructions for attendees, advising them of local customs and standards, to encourage respect of local culture. Provide information on money exchange and other relevant resources as applicable.
Ethics, Etiquette & Culture
It is important to be sensitive to the location of your meeting or event and those who will be attending so that special attention can be paid to honoring and respecting customs and traditions as appropriate. customs. This practice shows respect and encourages cultural growth for attendees.
Virtual & Hybrid Meetings
The ability to produce events online for the entire or partial audience is important. There are many platforms that can stream these events and you would partner with an audiovisual company to help provide necessary equipment and staffing.
Evaluations & ROI
Evaluations are a tool used to measure event success or shortcomings in reaching the established event goals. Return on investment (ROI) is also a good measurement of success.