The Hidden Team – How to Organise an Event

As a Research Technician, organising university wide events had never before been part my job. Coming to this completely untrained, and unexperienced, my recent experience of organising the panel discussion for IWD was a learning experience. And an enjoyable and insightful one. What it really uncovered for me was an insight into the hidden team.

You go to a lunchtime event, head full of previous meetings and plans for the remainder of your day. So of course, the event might be a learning experience, but also, a bit of a break from your day. You enter a relaxed, friendly lecture hall (we had 45 attendees and spirits were high,) view a talk, perhaps take part in a G&Q, then enjoy what you can of the buffet and social time before heading back to the office. But what really made that happen?

From L to R: panellists Xiangli Zhong, Dr Dharshika Pathiranage, Vicki Kelly; and chair Dr Jessica Boland

I identified over 24 people doing their part to make the afternoon run smoothly. I know that a good handful of those will be team leaders of others whom I did not even manage to interact with. In sum (you’ll be able to identify some from description) there were:
• Two at front desk were an enormous help, booking the lecture theatre and booking the lunch space. They were able to spot a gap in the bookings and query a group who had not previously used their lecture hall bookings to ensure the panel could meet.
• These two and two others in the finance and administration team all gave great advice on how to make all aspects of the day go smoothly. And, of course, the latter two helped with the nitty gritty of procuring and purchasing for the luncheon. That was done both on the school credit card and via Food on Campus.
• Two more dealt directly with aspects of the budget.
• Five division administrators got the word out within their respective divisions.
• Eight network leads also spread the word across staff networks. That includes one who was essential in sourcing an experienced chair for the panel when other avenues were less successful.
• One person helped alert the wider university, via a Columba form which gets the news onto the weekly university announcements.
• One person freely allowed use of their multiple coffee pod machines.
• Three people from house services made sure that all furniture would be properly set up and in the right place for the right time, and one made time to sit and talk to me about how exactly I’d like the layout to be.
• Two people from hospitality communicated with me to set up a buffet that was fresh, on time, and beautifully tasty. And it’s not hard to guess that plenty more staff that I did not meet were involved in putting together such a scrumptious buffet. There are menus to view and a simple list of questions to answer to let hospitality know what you need, and they cater nicely to dietary requirements. All bookings need to be made a week ahead of time.
• And of course, there were members of the committee who asked around, and gleaned suggestions for possible panellists, as well as the panel themselves.

As our committee’s tactic was to get in early before the bulk of the International Women’s Month celebrations took over. So we planned the entire event in just less than 8 working days. This included two pre-panel meetings with the panellists and chair so that personalities could gel, and stories and plans could cohere before the session. Our panellists came from a variety of technical roles so some had met only for this event. Organising it all was exciting, nerve wracking as I was unsure how many would come, and in the end both a relief as so many did show and a pleasure as it turned out so well. But my take home message was a great appreciation and value for how many people work unseen to make all aspects of university life what it is.

(contributed by Andrew Angus-Whiteoak)

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