Community Co-Ordinator Becky recently repeated her popular event management workshop – read on to find out how to book a place on the next one!
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was first established in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. The company remains independent and family-run, and is currently in the hands of the fifth generation of the Freeman family to operate the business. With further offices now also open in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint, the company continues to provide a high standard of service to people across the county.
Community Co-Ordinator, Becky Hughes, is employed specifically with the aim of strengthening links with and providing additional support throughout the communities the company works within. Today, she tells us more about the links she’s built with Horsham District Council’s Voluntary Support Service…
Immediately after the event planning workshop that I facilitated for the Council’s Voluntary Support Service in October, I took my own advice: I packed my kit up, and took myself for lunch to have a break… and assess how things had gone. I took time to congratulate myself – I’d actually been quite nervous about it, as well as excited – as well as critiquing my performance. And this was entirely justified, as the feedback had been overwhelmingly positive.
It was an experience which I really enjoyed, and the delegates had left happy too, so I again took my own advice, and quickly looked to book the next event. The Voluntary Support Sector, who had organised the workshop, were also pleased to book another date, and we settled on one in March.
The fact that things had gone well the first time around was actually good and bad news: it was great that the course had been so effective, but good news doesn’t give you much feedback in order to improve future events! It did also mean that I didn’t have a lot of work to do in order to prepare though. I tweaked my presentation for timings and activities, and made sure that my content was still relevant – the presentation contains a cautionary tale about ‘events gone wrong’ and an event took place in January 2020 which I was able to point to as another strong example of this (not one which I was involved in, I’ll hasten to add) – before I was ready to deliver the workshop again.
During the first workshop, it had been interesting getting to know the delegates – they all had different reasons for attending. One organised events in support of her daughter’s pre-school, and in fact has successfully created an event from scratch which people look forward to annually. Another works for a local cancer support centre, and has been tasked with setting up a new branch of which awareness must be raised. Others are working in charity roles where there is limited human resource, so they need to be as effective and efficient as possible.
Volunteers are known for being particularly generous with their time and efforts, and it was important to me that I impressed upon these people the idea that they should still enjoy their task – as they’ve chosen it, after all! – and don’t take on too much. The events industry is sadly rife with those suffering from work-related burnouts and mental health issues, which is bad enough when someone is fulfilling a paid role, and even worse when they are participating as a volunteer. Throughout the workshop, I stressed the importance of organising events at an appropriate scale, and ensuring that enough help is on hand in order to manage tasks at all stages, whether that’s pre-, during-, or post-event.
With the workshop being held on 11 March, as the ongoing international situation with COVID-19 continued to develop, I was unsurprised to receive some questions about cancelling events. With the group, I discussed how this decision may be made, if left to Event Managers themselves, and not taken over by government or Public Health officials. It’s an increasingly challenging time for many industries, including the events industry, and I really feel for charities and local independent businesses already, as they will continue to be heavily impacted.
The workshop group also asked how to manage complaints, both in person and via social media – this can be an incredibly tricky situation, as it can simply be a difference of opinion and an impasse can quickly be reached! My advice would always be that, if you’re on the receiving end of complaints, to try to find out what the complainant hopes to gain from airing their grievance – it may simply be the act of being heard – and do your best to resolve things in this manner. It’s surprising how often a problem can be solved by listening, I’ve found that I often haven’t had to act beyond that.
Donating my time in order to run a second workshop fulfilled one of our objectives as part of our ‘165 for 165’ campaign: Freeman Brothers celebrates 165 years in business in 2020 and, in recognition of the fact that we’ve been running for so long, we chose to focus heavily on our community support this year. The idea behind ‘165 for 165’ is to complete 165 charitable or community-focused activities throughout the year – some of these will be sponsorships, others will be donating items to charity which we no longer need, and there will also be our more regular activities such as donating raffle prizes and printing event materials for those who aren’t able to.
When I mentioned both the ‘165 for 165’ campaign and the events workshop to some business contacts in the area, they expressed an interest, and wondered whether it would be possible to combine the two things. People thought the workshop sounded great, but weren’t eligible to attend via the Voluntary Support Service, so I considered how to open it up to a wider audience. I wanted the workshop to remain accessible: Horsham has a thriving entrepreneurial scene, and many independent businesses have restricted budgets for training and development, though the need is high.
Fortunately, I found an appropriate venue which represented great value when hiring it, and was able to book at date for June. In order to add further incentive and increase the charitable element, I decided that, rather than asking delegates to pay a registration fee, I’d ask them to donate what they felt able to charity. I’ve nominated Brighton-based Grassroots Suicide Prevention, which is a leading charity in the field. I first came across Grassroots whilst in my previous role, when I went on two training courses they ran: the first was Safe Talk, a half-day course teaching delegates how to open conversations about suicide risk – I was impressed by the facilitators and how they ran the course, so when the opportunity arose to attend ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) with the charity, I booked a place immediately. ASIST is a two-day course, which works through the stages from identifying a person who is at risk of suicide to supporting them with the goal of keeping them safe. It was a challenging two days, but remains one of the best courses I’ve ever been on – I left feeling empowered.
Booking for the event management workshop is currently open, though places are limited, so if you’re interested, please reserve your place soon! I’m looking forward to delivering this course to a slightly different audience, and sharing the knowledge that I’ve gained during my time in the events industry.
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