Tackling something new? Christina Seow organized the recent Saints and Sinners banquet and shares how to succeed in managing something without previous experience.
One of the courses in the Postgraduate Diploma program is to organize a banqueting event integrating knowledge from Kitchen, Service, Marketing, Finance and HR, subjects which we took in the previous and current semesters.
I was honored to have been elected by my peers as the Events Manager to lead our cohort of 60 students to plan and execute this event which took place on Saturday May 3rd. The theme of the night was Saint and Sinners, and it was a paid banquet dinner and show for 16 tables.
Although I have had some prior experience in organizing events, be it personal social parties, or professionally as a conference producer, this experience was very different from before – I was no longer the worker, I was the leader who had to provide to the vision and direction for the team.
Rather than doing the operations, my focus was very much on the management of people, communication with the stakeholders, problem-solving and keeping a big picture view ensuring that everything was on track. Furthermore, I had never served in a banquet before and had little knowledge of the technicalities other than carrying plates and customer relations. I was very much in over my head from the very beginning, as I had never been in a management position leading anyone, let alone 60 unique, talented individuals!
Throughout this process I had gained a few valuable lessons:
1. Know your people well
When managing a large group of people, it is important to divide them into smaller teams according to functions (Kitchen, Bar, Service,
Marketing, Finance, etc.) and have team leaders to facilitate discussion and also to communicate with. To allocate members to teams, in addition to considering their preferences (as many of them may either have existing expertise, or would like to learn another skill), is to know their talents. As the class delegate for PGD 1A last year, I had the privilege of working closely with many of my classmates and also understanding the personality and character of each individual. One of the factors which contributed to successful team allocation was being able to persuade reluctant individuals into teams which they never thought they were suitable for, but actually were (e.g. Entertainment and Stewarding).
I was also very fortunate to have two extremely capable assistants to assist me in the follow up of teams, to ensure that we had every detail covered.
2. Network and maintain good relationships
One of the challenges we had when organizing this event was that we started from a budget of ZERO! As such, one of our first tasks was to fundraise for our main event. Through pulling together our contacts of external organizations, we were able to put together prizes for a raffle draw on a Friday night party. Through selling tickets to students, staff and alumni, we were able to raise a significant amount of capital for our main event.
In addition, we were also able to sell out all the tickets for the main event as many friends and teachers were keen on supporting us, even though they had to pay a nominal fee to be part of the event.
This would not have been possible without the collaboration of everyone in class, brainstorming and having good relations with the people around us.
3. Be hungry for knowledge, ask and research to fill the gaps
As mentioned previously, this task was way beyond me from the very beginning because of the experience and skills required. However, that does not mean that it was impossible. With the help of my teachers and peers, we were able to put in develop a well-organized plan with a clear idea of the overall flow of the event that night. To supplement the knowledge delivered in school, I also did research online and read extensively on topics of Events Management, Banqueting and Leadership.
I also realized that it is important to have a broad knowledge of everything that is needed to run the event – food production, marketing, entertainment (theatre), service – and I have been fortunate to have had exposure in each of those areas throughout my education leading up to Les Roches.
Overall the event was a great success as all components were executed well and in great synchronicity that night – from the quality of the food, to service levels, to entertainment delivered and drinks.
This happened because every single student put in their 100% and demonstrated great teamwork and dedication in ensuring that we put up the best event that the school has ever seen. I am grateful for this opportunity to hone my leadership skills and to grow professionally as an individual. It was such a privilege to work with these 60 individuals and it was definitely one of my best memories of Les Roches.
PGD 2, 2014 Winter Cohort!