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Meeting the University Challenge

September 2015

To the casual observer, booking a conference venue must simply be a matter of browsing online or leafing through a directory – and then picking up the phone.  And sometimes it can be that easy.  But quite often it’s a real challenge to match the desired location with a suitable facility that is available at the required time.  Especially when flexibility is not an option.  There are times when even the professionals admit defeat, and the client is left with the uncomfortable prospect of accepting second best or going back to the drawing board to come up with an entirely new plan.

These were the unhappy circumstances that prompted keyword technology provider Grapeshot to contact KDM earlier this year.

Grapeshot is proud of a corporate philosophy that’s based on working hard, loving the work you do and loving the people you are working with.  The company provides an innovative environment where staff are given big problems that they are encouraged to explore and solve.  To further enhance these collaborative working relationships, team-building events are staged throughout the year and the company’s Summer Meeting brings together as many members of its international team as possible.

Reflecting this ideology, Grapeshot’s summer event incorporates a morning meeting and an afternoon of fun.  The company is building an internal reputation for putting on unique summer parties, so the event co-ordinator’s brief was to find a venue that offered both indoor conference facilities for a morning’s team meeting, together with outside space suitable for fun and frolics in the afternoon.

With the company headquartered in Cambridge, the city was the obvious hub for the national and international teams to convene.

At first glance this seemed a simple enough requirement. Cambridge offers a wealth of colleges all with extensive grounds. However, the chosen date happened to be the last day of term and the   universities were still populated by students.  Other event companies drew a blank in pinpointing a suitable venue in the city centre. Beginning to despair, Grapeshot found KDM Events online.

At times like this, a vast venue database compiled over a period of years, coupled with local knowledge and excellent contacts can make all the difference.  We were confident that we could not only secure an appropriate venue but also devise an afternoon of appropriately-themed activities to delight the Grapeshot team.

Our research identified the prestigious Churchill College, part of the University of Cambridge and one of the most forward-thinking academic institutions in the world. Not only can the College offer a comprehensive events and conferencing service within a truly collegiate atmosphere, it also boasts more than 40 acres of parkland featuring a huge range of on-site sporting and recreational facilities.

So with an end-of-term feeling in the air and a whole campus to play in, how could we resist a School Sports Day theme for Grapeshot’s afternoon fun?  Liaising with College staff and outside suppliers we managed and delivered all elements of the day’s agenda, including arranging and co-ordinating old fashioned sports day races, a barbecue, liquid refreshments, first aid provision and prizes.  Not surprisingly the whole day had the effect of stimulating and motivating Grapeshot’s 50-strong employees – converting our sports teams from reluctant competitors to triumphant participants.

Grapeshot was delighted with its Summer Meeting from beginning to end. Gael Norris, Grapeshot HR Business Partner based in the company’s London office was tasked with organising the event and said:

“Our experience of working with KDM Events was outstanding. Not only did they find us a suitable venue where other event companies had failed, the whole process was simple, seamless and delivered within a very reasonable budget. Lyndsey was so accommodating, friendly, flexible and nothing was too much trouble. She handled changes to the plans like the addition of a BBQ professionally and her communication was exemplary. Despite the Grapeshot team’s apprehension about the Sports Day theme, once they got involved in the games they really enjoyed themselves. We will most certainly be using KDM Events for any requirements we have in the future.

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Posted in Team Building Blog

The Happiness Factor

September 2015

Who’d have thought five years ago that employee wellbeing would one day be the focus of  boardroom concern?  Now that the fiercest threats of economic gloom are receding, global corporations like Google and Starbucks are leading the way in addressing the cost to their business of  stress-related sick-leave and high employee turnover.  It’s beginning to dawn on the business world that companies literally can’t afford to have unhappy, unwell staff.

But while these multi-million dollar global brands are at the forefront, many smaller companies have a long way to go in addressing workplace stress.  Although businesses are finally back in expansion mode, organisational leaders are slow to invest in new people to share the load. They are not ensuring that working conditions will keep staff feeling motivated and fulfilled.  Instead, people are expected to do increasingly more in less time.  The numbers of over-stretched staff working under unmanageable pressure are climbing.

One factor that might help to reverse this trend, is the acceptance that employee happiness has a measureable impact on business. Economists at the University of Warwick conducted research amongst 700 participants and found that their productivity increased by around 12% after being given happiness-inducing treats.  Trying the experiment in reverse, subjects who had good reason to feel unhappy (such as those going through bereavement or divorce) had significantly poorer performance levels.

Increasing employee productivity is a critical goal in many businesses, and the 12% improvement will go straight to the bottom line.

And while we’re focusing on that bottom line, let’s not forget that unhappy staff are likely to leave.  It’s well documented that costs related to directly replacing an employee can be as high as 50–60% of the employee’s annual salary, but the total cost of turnover can reach as high as 90–200%  when you factor-in the value of the knowledge they take away with them (especially if they take it to a competitor!).

So strategies to increase employee motivation and reduce turnover should be viewed by employers as an essential financial investment.

But how do you make your staff happy?  Motivational strategies used to be based on money: in the form of bonuses and salary rises, but psychologists have proved that beyond a certain comfort level financial incentives become progressively ineffective.  Other factors such as peer-group recognition, a sense of community and social interaction all play their part in making people want to give of their best at work.

Clearly HR leaders need to consider a whole raft of initiatives that will make employees feel cared-for.  In addition to the bonuses, rewards and training programmes these should include experiences both inside and outside the workplace that leave a positive emotional impact.  Organisational stress-busting programmes can include lunchtime tai-chi, yoga or massage; or one day a year charity fundraiser bake-offs or bike rides.

We’ve discovered that the most noticeable (and measurable!) improvements in staff motivation occur when a company’s board publicly champions wellbeing as a pillar of its business strategy,  allocating resources to sponsor and support these initiatives.  Social interaction and a sense of community can be fostered through a carefully planned schedule of events throughout the year.

So if the annual Christmas party is your company’s only opportunity for staff to have fun together, maybe it’s time for a rethink. Especially as fun activities and motivational games can be incorporated into many internal events that have a business objective.

Corporate wellbeing is a truly sound investment and should be a part of every business strategy – no matter how small or large.  If we compare that to the cost of maintaining an emotionally sick workforce it’s a no-brainer!

Twenty four/seven quotes for event planners

August 2015

Have you ever been working over a weekend and found yourself needing to price a business event, but frustrated by the fact that sales offices are closed?

This is a problem that arises ever-more frequently as busy event planners take their work home with them.  Getting a fast quote can be a challenge any time – our own turnaround time is less than four hours – but when you need it at the weekend, that’s no help.

And this is why KDM have been working feverishly to devise a tool to give event planners instant online ideas for teambuilding and motivational events – complete with package prices.

We’ve developed what we believe is a ground-breaking solution that allows you to get started on your event-planning process – whenever and wherever it suits you.

Introducing our new Event Search tool, which has been designed to offer a range of options based around your event objectives, using search software that can throw up ideas and compute prices within seconds.

By clicking here, you can input basic details such as numbers, region, format and objective, for either daytime or evening events.  The system will then present several suggestions, showing descriptors, images and video clips of the chosen activity.  It also includes wildcard suggestions to inspire outside-the-box thinking.  Prices are shown against the activity once the number of participants has been specified.

We’ve priced a huge range of popular activities – from collaborative problem solving exercises to creative team-based experiences or themed reward parties – to give you an instant view of what can be achieved with your budget.

And rest-assured – just as with any other quote – our teams will be on hand to refine and adapt solutions to meet more specific event objectives once you have selected your preferred initial concept.

Is the UK skills shortage helping drive events growth?

July 2015

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We certainly are seeing more companies planning events to train, motivate and thank their staff in 2015. Companies seem to be loosening the budget purse strings and acknowledging the importance of positive communication with staff through events. I recently had an interesting conversation with Allan Norbury at M&IT on the subject of growth – you can take a look at the release here:

http://www.meetpie.com/Modules/NewsModule/newsdetails.aspx?t=UK-skills-shortage-driving-events-revival&newsid=21294

What are your experiences with the UK skills shortage and retaining talent?
Nicky Whyman

 

Things aren’t always what they seem

July 2015

At Office 2015 we’ll be running an unusual training session on ‘How to Prove the Success of your Business Events’.  At first glance this could seem a bit unnecessary and already quite obvious.  Surely anyone can tell if their conference, client event or product launch went well?   In fact you might be surprised at how we (and Office) arrived at the conclusion that such a session will be of great value to event organisers.

We recently conducted some research into event evaluation and began by posing the simple question:

What does event success look like to you?

Most of us are likely to say “It was a great conference – lovely venue, great food; the speakers all turned up on time and there was lots of applause throughout the day.”  Another successful event, then.  Or was it?  We discovered that the 88% of us who do conduct post-event surveys, only skim the surface in trying to establish whether our events actually achieved their original purpose.

And the reason for this is that in many cases we have only a general idea of why the event was conceived in the first place.  Or – during the busy planning process we lose sight of that original intention because, for all the right reasons, the up-front imperative of getting the practical arrangements in place commandeers all of our attention.

Our research revealed that  ‘everyone enjoying themselves’ was quoted most often as a business event success  indicator, while getting the logistics, budget and scheduling right scored heavily as well.  These are all very valid and necessary components. But they don’t feed back to the original purpose of the event.

It was impressive that 71% of our research respondents said success meant having their event objectives met against targets.  But when we delved a little deeper to look at what those targets actually were, the answers were often rather vague.  ‘Raise staff morale’ appeared quite frequently, as did ‘Communicating business strategies’ and of course ‘Education’ (training or raising staff knowledge) was high up on the list.

But we discovered that in most instances there were no measures in place to determine just how successfully those objectives had been met.  Very few figures had been gathered to actually quantify the degree to which staff morale had been raised, or the level of understanding that had been reached after the new business strategy had been communicated. So it boiled down to a general consensus that the audience had probably understood most of what they’d been told. Not the most scientific of outcomes – and hardly likely to impress the Finance Director or the CEO!

In fact, setting goals that could be measured and monitored for business performance improvement came way down the pecking order. Only a fifth of our respondents cited the improvement of staff retention or the collection of new business initiatives, and a quarter mentioned helping to achieve sales targets.  And while goals like these could have had numerical targets set against to enable post-event analysis, they usually weren’t.

All of which led us to the conclusion that to make a business event truly successful there’s a need to retain some strategic thinking right the way through the planning and delivery process. To get some form of measurement in place that would help event planners prove the success of their event with hard numbers.

So intrigued were we by this whole issue that KDM approached the Office Show and suggested running a seminar to show event planners just how they can introduce measurement into their events.  Because to be able to demonstrate to the CEO or the Board that the event provided a real return on its objectives, will link the event organiser directly to the overall performance improvement of the business, earning considerable kudos in the process!

We’re delighted to say that the Office Show organisers jumped at our suggestion, and our seminar ‘How to Prove the Success of your Business Events’ takes place at 9.30 on Tuesday 13 October in Office Theatre 2.  We hope you’ll come along and join the discussion about measurement and evaluation, while discovering how you can add some smart thinking into the planning of your next business event.

And don’t forget that this seminar will be CPD-accredited, so you can get a CPD Certificate of Attendance if you come along.  Not only that – we’ll be on stand 9020 throughout the show and will be delighted to meet you in person. So please, save the day and we look forward to seeing you at Office 2015.

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Register to the Show FREE: www.officeshow.co.uk
Look at the seminar timetable: www.officeshow.co.uk/timetable

Who says fun can’t produce measurable ROI?

April 2015

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Now that corporate Britain is setting its sights on growth again, bosses face the challenge of hiring and keeping the best people – the very people whose enthusiasm and ambition will shift company performance into a higher gear.  At the same time there’s a lot of work still to be done to dispel the lingering uncertainties over job security that stalked the corridors during those lean recessionary years.

All of which has brought Motivation back to the top of the HR agenda.  At KDM we’re receiving a lot of enquiries for social-style internal events, on top of the purely business-focused activity that has characterised our order book in recent years. We’re already seeing more requests for team events, engagement activity and incentive experiences, as well as a resurgence in demand for family fun days.

But we’re also hearing that some CEO’s are pretty dismissive about fun-style corporate activities. They are questioning the benefit of purely social events as contribution to corporate performance and dismissing them as an unnecessary luxury because the outcomes, and therefore the return on investment from such events, are difficult to quantify.

To KDM, this viewpoint misses the bigger picture.  Companies that are committed to raising and sustaining levels of motivation amongst their workforce need to apply a strategic approach to their internal events.  It’s absolutely true that a one-off party or anniversary celebration is a blip in the calendar that has the same effect on company-wide motivation as a crash diet has to sustained weight loss. The feel-good factor fades as soon as ‘real life’ returns.

And, as with any other business strategy, the starting point must be a measurable objective. This could very easily be that of reduction in staff turnover. Experts estimate that it costs around twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement, so reducing churn is already a critical goal in all companies.

We’ve been helping some of our clients to devise a calendar of motivational activity – which can include anything from quiz nights to on-site massage sessions.  Using current staff turnover figures as a baseline, it’s easy to monitor churn over a period of a year.  Further metrics can be supplied from annual employee well being surveys, examining such factors as how valued employees feel, to what degree they are proud to be working for their company and to what extent they would recommend their employers to job seekers.  The statistics enable you to progressively measure the effects of a long-term motivational strategy.

So making staff feel appreciated, recognising the important role that all of our families play in our daily lives, and creating an occasion to thank employees and their loved ones for continued support, turns out to be a sound business investment with measurable return, after all.

Brad Davies, Account Director

Posted in Team Building Blog

Self awareness and perception create realities

February 2015

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Not the title of a new mystic self help article (you may be relieved or disappointed to know) but rather an observation of just how different personalities interact in the workplace. How we understand ourselves and those around us really does build or erode successful working relationships … read our full PA Life article here www.kdmevents.co.uk/palifejanfeb2015expert.pdf

Article used with kind permission of PA Life . To read the full Jan/Feb 15 issue see http://www.palife.co.uk/magazine/janfeb2015/PA-Life_JanFeb2015.html.

Posted in Team Building Blog

Will team events help with business goals?

January 2015

Can you use team events to help reach your business goals? Absolutely!

We were asked an interesting question by a client last year “Have you got an event that will help my team achieve their new sales targets? We think we need to do some team building?” After delving further into the specifics of the team and their industry they were able to work with them to design a series of team events that met the motivation and training needs of the team members – enabling them to meet their sales targets in 2014.

However even when you don’t set a specific programme of events, any participative activities should have a very positive impact on your delegates and consequently your business in a number of subtle ways:

Improved team performance

When the energy of your delegates is directed towards a united purpose, your team will feel a sense of togetherness that translates fluidly back into the workplace when working together towards common business goals.

Improved individual performance

Activities enable people to experience winning and achieving in a way that their normal work might not. Learning something new and different liberates the mind – facing a challenge, meeting it and mastering it helps build confidence which can contribute to success in the workplace.

Forging stronger bonds and lines of communication across your business

Your team-building event will act as a catalyst so that your guests will connect better with one other. Few people feel comfortable with making the extra effort to chat with colleagues they don’t know, so a shared experience and something interesting to talk about facilitates better networking.

Greater business implementations back in the workplace

Adding interaction to your meeting means that participants will remember and gain more from the experience, enabling your delegates to implement more from your key messages back in the workplace.

Creation of relevant new business ideas

Team building events create excellent forums to promote lively discussion and debate around your key messages, often resulting in innovative new business outputs.

Higher ROO

Simply getting people together is expensive, so making the most of the time you have with your delegates greatly improves your overall return on objectives. By investing in a team activity that aligns with your business messages, the likelihood of your guests retaining and implementing new knowledge and communicating with colleagues increases dramatically.

Forms cohesiveness and a can-do culture

People often enjoy events which include new non-work activities, especially when bosses and superiors take part in the same teams as their junior staff, which also helps cohesiveness.

Develops mutual respect

Everyone is different. Taking part in new challenges and activities outside of the work situation illustrates people’s different strengths and working style preferences. Mutual respect develops when people see skills and attributes in others that they didn’t know existed.

The solutions you might need will depend on the specifics of your team dynamics and business goals. And as with any business activity, clear measureable objectives should be set beforehand so that success can be measured. But team events are an essential part of motivating, rewarding and training staff – it’s definitely money well invested when you have clear set goals in view!

Posted in Team Building Blog

Brighton Festival anyone?

November 2014

The chance to work on a truly bespoke event is always an exciting prospect, and a recent event delivered for a leading Housing Association & Developer was certainly no exception!

The brief from the client was very simple – they wanted to create an indoor festival atmosphere for their annual staff away-day for 250 guests, to be held in a unique & quirky venue.

Hence the 1st task was to source a suitable location & venue for the event, step forward Brighton Dome which is a renowned multi-arts venue located in the heart of Brighton – its origins date back over 200 years, and the character & enormity of the Corn Exchange room provided just the right environment to allow for lots of varied entertainment, food and drink to keep the group engaged over the 4 hour event.

Of course food is supremely important and as the venue is ‘dry-hire’  we worked with independent caterers to find the best solution to keep within the catering budget. Fish & Chips was the perfect menu for the day to deliver the fun informal festival theme and tie in with the venue being by the seaside!

A mix of music, live comedy, games, green screen photo studio and simulators gave the vibrant festival feel the client was looking for and we chose to book Dan Mitchell to act as both compere & comedian. Dan is a veteran of the comedy circuit appearing on a number of TV shows & didn’t disappoint on the day!

Following the serving of lunch & Dan’s stand-up set, the DJ kicked-in for the remainder of the event whilst guests enjoyed a variety of games & activities ranging from Crazy Golf & Test Your Strength, to a Rodeo Bull & Surf Simulator amongst many others. Our green screen photo studio was popular with guests enjoying posing on the Brighton Pier…whilst remaining warm and dry inside!

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On the day itself our team of 7 Event Managers were on-site from 7.30am to transform the room, set up the various games & activities along with managing the delivery of tables, caterers, comedians and DJs. As a lasting memento for the client, our staff were also able to film the event to produce a 3 minute video recap of the day – ensuring that the event will live on in the client’s memory!

Most importantly the client’s feedback was that “The event & venue were fantastic – we have had very good feedback from everyone, who all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the event”.

Now enough words! See the video of the day here

 

Sabre are shaken not stirred…

July 2014

Whilst it may be a cliché to state that no two events are the same, this was certainly proven to be the case when KDM were recently tasked by leading technology company Sabre with organising a bespoke event for 30 VIP clients of CEO level from across the world – with the brief involving The Shard, James Bond, creativity & technology.

Our initial thought was for a unique James Bond themed experience using classic cars in Central London; however upon considering the logistics of transporting guests around Central London at a pace quicker than a comatose snail we unfortunately had to shelve this idea.

However from this came the inspiration for a unique event – a James Bond themed GPS Treasure Hunt, but with a rather unique format!

Hence after a briefing south of the river, guests were met by a fleet of black cabs with all drivers suitably dressed for the occasion – to be ferried to an exclusive Private Member’s club in the heart of the City, for a martini-making masterclass.  After learning the history & basics behind 007’s favoured martini’s (and some equally important tastings), teams were put on the spot to design their own martini, with the outcome judged by our very own barman.

Part one of the challenge over, guests were then transported to a variety of locations including the National Portrait Gallery & Westminster Abbey to tackle a range of Bond themed questions & challenges, finishing up at the Shard before the results of the event were announced later that evening at the James Bond Exhibition in Covent Garden.

End result of the event was some very drinkable martinis, great photos, lasting memories for the guests & a satisfied client on the day!

Guests arrived at an exclusive Private Members Club in the Heart of the City, but didn’t have long to relax in the luxurious surroundings! Half of the group headed straight for a Martini-making master class..

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Whilst the other half of the group took in a Classic Bond film in the oh so cool Cinema room, whilst sampling a selection of Bond-inspired Martinis!

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