IOSH vice-president Angela Abbs CMIOSH gives an irreverent view of handling face-to-face events. But are we ready to go back to in-person meet-ups?
Following IOSH’s ‘new normal’ hybrid approach to events, we may find ourselves working with colleagues we haven’t physically met.
We have reached global audiences with our exceptional virtual offerings, and must continue to do so. But are our in-person social and organisational skills a bit rusty?
Remembering how face-to-face events used to be, let’s take a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the skills you need.
Great people skills: Most attendees are appreciative, but there’s always the awkward one who knows the speaker’s subject and who asks a challenging question where you have to intervene.
Listening skills: Someone will hijack you to bend your ear when you really need to be elsewhere dealing with another problem.
Superb time management: So you can accommodate the hijacker and keep everything else on schedule.
Diplomacy: Despite great speakers and a top-notch venue, someone complains there’s nothing new, that they took a whole day out for little benefit, and that the parking was rubbish. So you need another skill – self-control.
Cool under pressure: Like a swan – paddling crazily underneath, but so smooth and serene on top that no one notices – you even kid yourself it will all work out in the end, it really will.
Problem-solving: The speaker is delayed. With half an hour to fill, thinking on your feet, you string out some vital housekeeping messages, expand on future events and lengthily welcome key people in the audience.
Public speaking: You’ve done the meet and greet, remembered to go to the loo, and you stand at the front looking the true professional – in total control of yourself and the day. That swan again.
A fount of information: Knowing the programme, the venue, who’s who, where’s where, what’s what, the time to the minute, and even what day of the week it is!
Technical wizardry: AV equipment failure, an HDMI cable missing, no image and no sound… but, hey, you resolve it. There’s guaranteed to be an IT geek in the audience who enthusiastically takes over. Smiling gratefully, just now you can do without the IT lecture.
A hygienist: We used to shake hands, hug colleagues, double-dip into finger buffets, sit close, shut windows, stop draughts, and turn up the heating. But now? I’m not sure elbow bumps are that professional, but what’s good for Boris Johnson must be good for us. At least someone’s taught us how to wash our hands properly – who knew?
A caterer: Chasing up those vegan, dairy and gluten-free options. Surely we ordered them – they’re not on the table, so where are they? The helpful lady from the venue has chosen right now to disappear.
A waiter: You arrange for a top-up of hot water and coffee, and for more cups and plates. We catered for 50, thinking that would be plenty, but we have 72. We need extra food – and that lady is still missing.
Flexibility: Jack of all trades, and master of a couple. Turning your hand to anything – including checking the loos, which naturally goes alongside being master of ceremonies.
Endurance: Like the Duracell rabbit you keep going... and smiling!
Delegation (eventually): The greatest skill of the day. Realising you can’t do it all, you have the people in your fabulous team to help, and the ability to let go and trust them.
Before you know it, it’s all over. It went quite well actually, just like you always knew it would. Off people go, content with their day, warmly thanking you on the way… but just wait for the feedback, always brave after the event.
Now it’s time to catch up on calls and emails you’ve missed, thank your team, join the traffic and you’re on your way home. Remember to order a G&T on arrival.
We do it because we love it, it’s going to be fun getting back to face to face… isn’t it?
Looking forward to seeing you there, and to shaking your hand – sanitised of course!