By Gwen O’Toole
As event professionals, we tend to know what works best and what doesn’t so when the universe throws a spanner or two in the works, it’s essential to know you can rely on the skills of your team to ensure smooth sailing. Which is just what happened at an event earlier this year for BI WORLDWIDE (BIW).
The New Zealand subsidiary of a global automotive manufacturer wanted to unveil an award-winning, all-new vehicle to dealer principals, managers and staff along with fleet customers and wholesale staff. The launch event provided them with the opportunity to drive the car and its key competition, as well as a leadership presentation conducted by a noted author and customer experience expert.
BIW proposed five waves of attendees and located a venue offering European ambiance to highlight the origins of the vehicle. The meeting space needed vehicle access, multiple break-out rooms to support training sessions and leadership presentations and areas in which to display the vehicles. A driving route was designed to best demonstrate the vehicle’s capabilities and to fit within the prescribed time frame.
The dinner venue was French Market La Cigale, a location chosen to enhance the European theme through a family-style meal service and entertaining operatic performances.
From a logistics standpoint, 240 individual flight reservations and airport hotel bookings were arranged for all attendees.
Leading into the event, the client was unable to participate in many of the decision choices, says Tu Tran, Event Program Manager at BI WORLDWIDE. So it was up to BIW staff to step up and make choices on the client’s behalf based on the provision of limited information.
However, that was just the beginning of the challenges this event encountered such as vehicles being delivered with incorrect or missing number plates. BIW staff had to think on their feet to change the line-up of cars to be utilised during the drive program and use those without plates as display vehicles.
But the hiccups didn’t stop there. There were last-minute changes to the daily agendas, leaving the BIW team to arrange evening debrief meetings with all stakeholders, print and distribute revised agendas and make changes to the meeting room set-up and audio-visual requirements when required. It was the team’s quick thinking says Tran, that allowed the team to take it all in stride.
“The most challenging part was the pressure to make the right decisions on the client’s behalf,” she said. “We wanted to make this launch successful for her as well as her company. Ultimately, we did what we thought would make the best, seamless participant experience and were successful.”
Adding to the mix, inclement weather conditions resulted in flight delays and lengthier transfer times over both days. BIW rallied together to adjust transportation arrangements and amended the schedule on those days. Three groups became two groups on the drive program, resulting in the need to revise and reprint the colour coded name badges.
“There’s nothing to do in these situations but to keep calm and carry on,” said Tran. “The participants need to feel that everything was well in hand so that they can focus on the launch activities rather than other things in the background.”
It was essential, she says, to have a strong an experienced team who has the resilience to stay focussed even when things became stressful.
“Event attendees enjoyed a smooth experience without knowing about the challenges,” she said. “The client was pleased with the overall success of the event, which was seamlessly delivered to our stakeholders. The new vehicle generated a good deal of excitement amongst the attendees and the leadership presentation left them with a feeling of unity and clear goals.”
The most rewarding aspect of the whole event, despite the obstacles, she says was that none was any wiser about any of the changes that took place in the background.
“The stakeholders were incredibly pleased with the final event, some of them were aware of the program changes and some didn’t notice, which was fantastic. All of the participants had the experience that was intended, so it all worked out well,” she added.