Managing international meetings means hefty budgets and mounting pressures, with a high price to pay for learning from your mistakes. The events team at Mason Frank International plans dozens of B2B events every year and has six lessons to share so you don’t have to figure them out the hard way.
1. Don’t skimp on rental equipment. We’ve learned, especially when working internationally, to rent directly. You’ll save shipping costs and eliminate the risk that equipment could get damaged en route. An unlikely occurrence? Not according to Mason Frank’s Nicola Lloyd. Rather than pay rental fees, “We thought we’d just buy everything and own it to cut down the cost,” she said. “When our monitors arrived, they were all smashed, and we couldn’t present all the media we’d created for the event. We don’t cut corners now.”
2. Know the venue’s electrical capabilities inside out. Check you have everything you need to make your equipment work, especially when meeting in a country with a different electric current than what you have at home. It’s easier to call ahead and confirm than to run around desperately searching for a converter kit. Stephenie Wright, who manages Mason Frank’s European events, notes this is an issue even in the comfort of your own country. “I went to an event and assumed my laptop would be compatible with the monitor from the venue,” says Stephenie. “Turns out, it wasn’t. We had recently got laptops which didn’t have HDMI ports but I hadn’t even considered I needed to check.”
3. Develop a communication system for before, during, and after the event. As a manager of multiple events around the world, you won’t always be there in person, so make sure you’ve got a system for feedback and updates. If you’ve got teams in different parts of the world, it is even more important to plan out a communication schedule to account for time differences and eliminate the chance you will be under prepared. Before an event, we use a simple schedule of weekly phone calls. Avoid pre-event organization through emails alone as there’s too much risk of missing information. During the event, we rely on WhatsApp to communicate with attendees and the logistics team. It’s a great tool that allows you to share images easily. Slack is another useful app for staying organised and centralizing communications. Finally, after the event, we plan a post-event phone call to summarize successes and failures.
4. Triple check that physical items have been delivered. We rely heavily on couriers for transporting event materials internationally. It’s cost-effective and efficient, but you need to be vigilant about getting arrival confirmations, particularly if you don’t have a relationship with the venue. Don’t settle for just a signature to confirm arrival; always call and ask for a personal confirmation. “I’ve had a parcel misplaced because there was a ‘pre-event shipment area’ and a ‘during-the-event area’ and the package got mixed up,” Lloyd says. “Speaking to a person over the phone ultimately saves time and avoids stress.”
5. Pay for accommodations to avoid being left out in the cold. It’s a good idea to pay in full for hotels ahead of time when managing long-distance events. More importantly, if you’re booking accommodation for someone else, if you can assure them everything will be ready for their arrival, it makes the whole process that much smoother. You can’t be assured everything is 100 percent until you have paid in full.
6. Know your storage space. Whether you’re at home or abroad, there’s nothing worse than finding out you don’t have enough storage space. Quantify your materials in terms of numbers of boxes so you can simply call ahead and ask the venue if it has enough space for ‘X’ boxes. Events team member Rachel Long won’t forget to do this again. “I’ve had the experience of having to take everything back to the hotel every night for a multiple-day event. Not ideal, especially when there’s a language barrier between you and the taxi driver.”
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from working on international events?
Maria Baranowska is a digital marketing executive at U.K.-based Mason Frank International.