There's a knack to hosting great events: Pullman Hotel's experts.

Conferences can be brilliant – creating genuine connections, delivering valuable insights and providing memorably positive work experiences. Get it wrong, though, and a conference can be dull and forgettable.   

How can a business deliver a conference that’s memorable for all the right reasons? Marion Bausse, Director of Sales and Marketing at the newly renovated Pullman Auckland Hotel & Apartments, has some definite views, formed through the Pullman team in Auckland hosting hundreds of events every year, from five-person board meetings through to 500-head dinners and 800-seat seminars.

Plan early

Planning early gives the best chance of achieving a superb event that doesn’t go over budget – a key part of the benefits of planning well ahead. You have time to compare prices and consider where to save and where to splurge. You can work closely with suppliers to come up with ways to achieve as much as possible on your budget.  

You can run a rehearsal event and meet everyone ahead of time, creating the relationships that will make your event run seamlessly.  

“We have 16 event spaces here and, if you make your enquiry a long time in advance, you have first pick,” says Bausse. “We have more time to plan tailored menus. We can engage with suppliers early, so they have time to think about theming, for example.”    

How early should you start? For a large multi-day conference with 200 guests, you might need 4-6 months. In contrast, a smaller cocktail-style event or board meeting might only need a week or two. If your event requires meals, remember a good chef will need time to source local ingredients to cater to your guests’ dietary requirements.   

“Our chef always wants to base the menu on the season and sometimes it’s not easy to source food last minute. We are very flexible and can cater for any dietary needs or allergies, but I would always recommend a week’s notice so we can make sure the ingredients can be sourced.”

Pick the right venue    

Organising a world-class event is a stressful undertaking, requiring you to coordinate an astonishing number of elements. An experienced venue team will help remove most of the logistical anxieties and allow you to focus on managing the guests and flow of the event.  

Their knowledge will also prevent you from overlooking crucial details, because their planning will include questions and checklists that cover everything you need. The right venue will have a team to sort out all those minor hassles than could otherwise disrupt the day.   

“There is nothing worse than an event that is not the way you wanted it to be – the room is not set up right way, the morning tea runs late, the AV doesn’t work,” Bausse says. “With a highly trained and dedicated team like the Pullman’s, you don’t need to worry about these things.  

“We have an on-site AV team, so you don’t have to call someone out if your PowerPoint isn’t working. If you haven’t catered for a last-minute vegan guest, we will talk to the chef and it will be sorted. The events team is on the floor with the client from the beginning, checking throughout the day to make sure everything is running smoothly.”  

Encourage positive interactions  

Guests always remember the food, says Bausse, so investing in high-quality catering will pay dividends. Beyond that, though, what really differentiates an event is the way it brings people together. When you can help people connect and interact in positive ways, they will leave your conference feeling they’ve had a valuable experience.

“This is a people industry and part of your budget should go on human connection,” Bausse explains. “You want to create an element of surprise for guests and bring something out of the ordinary. For example, we serve food on a wooden train. We have games available during breaks, like giant Jenga or Connect Four, which help people connect with their colleagues.

“It might also be the right team-building activity which creates the connection – every event is different.”

Clear communication  

Take the time to form relationships with your venue and suppliers; you are their only point of contact and they want to do a great job so you’ll come back. Travel to the venue, meet the team, and familiarise yourself with the location.   

“We are only dealing with one person who represents the client, but they have to communicate with hundreds of attendees,” says Bausse. “As the organiser, you don’t want guests to arrive at the venue and not know what to do. You must tell them about parking, explain that they can come early and have tea and coffee.  

“For those guests from out of town who are staying at the hotel, you need to let them know when they can check in and that we will look after their luggage if they come early. Communicating these details lets them relax and enjoy their journey.”  

With the right communication, ample planning, and those essential relationships established, you can run a conference that sets a new bar for your industry.   

“Our event motto is ‘convene, connect and create’,” Bausse adds. “A great corporate event will fuel creativity, encourage interaction, foster wellbeing and unlock new opportunities and collective progress.”   

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