Notes from Australia

Event management contest helps students (and my business)

I have been slow to adopt videos to showcase my decór products. But opportunity knocked when I met a venue manager at an industry gathering last year who was planning to open a new location in mid-2018.

We discussed how he would promote the new venue. We also discussed my lack of video content, how video could help more venue managers know about my products, and the need for event management students to obtain real-world experience.

We also discussed another trend: Businesses are increasingly diverting their advertising and marketing dollars from traditional channels to influencer events.

With the rise in these events, there is a corresponding increased need for the venue to thrill its (often blasé) guests enough to share the occasion on social media.

Event management competition

In late June, I had a brainstorm: I would create a competition for three event management students to produce nine themed events for three stylists in three hours — while being videoed and photographed. All of this would occur here in Australia at a venue called “No. 1 Events” at the Malvern Valley Golf Course in Melbourne.

The “3 Interns, 3 Stylists, 3 Events, 3 Hours” competition would (a) give stylists the freedom to provide creative themed briefs and (b) provide students experience in executing events. It would also expose my rental range to the students. And all of us — students, stylists, suppliers, and me — would receive invaluable video footage and photography.

With just an hour to decorate a themed table, each student would encounter the rapid turnaround required by venues, which typically give suppliers as little as 90 minutes to deliver and set up an entire room between, say, a lunch and dinner event.

Securing stylists, contestants

To secure my three event stylists and three students, I approached 10 stylists — six were busy and one was on holiday — and five event management schools.

Within three days, the event stylists (Ruffles and Bells, The Hattie and Bairn Tribe, and Artmospherix) created their mood boards and briefs for the students.

These included the following themed parties.

  • “Mad Men 40th” birthday for a man.
  • One-year-old’s pink birthday.
  • Jumanji movie-themed 30th birthday.
  • Weddings in bohemian, glamorous, and contemporary styles.
  • Corporate product launches for furniture, luxury watches, and a wine company.

With these briefs, the students had to select suitable items from my event rental range as well as contact suppliers (such as bakers, florists, and stationery designers) and convince them to take part.

This sorted out the wheat from the chaff as most millennials have poor phone manners and otherwise shy away from calling suppliers.

Considering there were hundreds of prospective students in the five-event management schools, only three applied once they knew that calling suppliers was required.

A baby with a wine glass

The students showed varying levels of creativity in the items selected. Some required help due to their lack of experience and knowledge.

For example, the winning student specified pink wine glasses and backless bar stools for her one-year-old’s pink birthday party. She did not know 12-month-old toddlers lack the strength and dexterity to hold a wine glass stem with one hand — they hold sippy cups with two hands at that age — and they’re still in high chairs. Thus they would fall backward from a barstool.

I suggested alternatives.

The contest begins

At 11 a.m. on July 27, the three students started creating their first round of tables while being videoed from a stationary camera.

The most experienced student set to work immediately on her bohemian wedding in the courtyard. She was the fastest to finish each event, but surprisingly she did not meet the brief for the wine company’s product launch.

Another student spent the first 15 minutes off-camera preparing her floral centerpiece until I reminded her we were videoing an empty table. Nonetheless, she scored best overall for adherence to the brief and for time management.

The youngest student spent 45 minutes filling the test tube chandelier with colored water, giving her only 15 minutes to decorate and position the new tub chair collection. Had she been scored for only her final event, the Jumanji-themed birthday party, she would have won.

The three stylists scored the students per event for execution, time management, and adherence to the brief. The students received the highest scores for the weddings and the lowest scores for the corporate product launches. They learned that attractive wedding tables are easily achievable, but product launches require much skill to “sell” the items to the guests.

When the video footage arrives, I look forward to seeing the impact on the stylists, the students, the venue, the suppliers — and my business.

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