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How to Plan an Incentive Trip: Part 1 – The Recce

Managing an incentive trip

[What? The venue didn't tell you that the square they are on is where the local drunks take their siesta?]


Let’s not forget, fellow Eventurers
, winning an incentive trip, whether in the UK or overseas is a big thing for the winner. There might be a few bragging rights earned amongst colleagues; friends and family will be impressed but ultimately of course, the trip is a reward for all of the winner’s hard work and dedication.   There should be plenty to look forward to and if the planning has paid off, the real power of the incentive is when the winners return and share their stories with their work mates – what better motivation for everyone to work towards the next one?

Key to ensuring this sort of response is the recce.

A recce is basically a site visit – but on a whole different level. The amount of planning that goes into the recce can seem disproportionate to the duration of the visit, but this is where you find out whether your desk research has given you an accurate picture of what you are dealing with.

And let’s not forget, in order to even get to the stage of the recce, you’ve already carried out a whole lot of research into options for locations, venues, activities, transport etc. Your client has selected this option as their preferred choice and so between you, there is already quite an investment of planning, time and emotion into the recce option.

The information you’ll need to gather on the recce will vary slightly depending on whether the final incentive trip will be hosted or not. Either way, the four core elements should be as follows:

1.  Identify the Suppliers
The chances are, your group will be staying at least one night so start with the basics – identify some target hotels to visit. There’s a lot to consider: the location, price, quality of rooms, vibe and fit with the group, can coaches drop off nearby and crucially – the kind of service you’ve received so far. We would usually have one or two targets in mind but have another three visits scheduled as back ups.

All of the above applies equally to all of your other suppliers such as activity providers, restaurants or transfer companies. Have a preferred selection already in mind along with some back-ups. Plans can change at short notice for reasons not of your own making.

2.  Plan Your Meetings
It’s not enough to just stroll around looking at places and spaces – prior to arriving on your recce, you’ll need to have scheduled meetings. Not an easy task when you’re only there for a short while and you’ve got to work around their diaries too. Not only do you have to find the suppliers, you have to find where they are on the ground, relative to each other, so that you know how to get to and from them, the quickest way possible. You’re a stranger in a strange town, often with a language barrier. Google maps will get you so far but it might take longer than you think for your mind map to kick in!

Also, you need to check out the immediate environment. Being there, on the ground can tell you a lot that perhaps, you wouldn’t learn from the venue. They’re unlikely to share that scaffolding clads the building and dust is everywhere, or that the square outside is where the local drunks gather for an afternoon nap.

3.  Absorb the Bars & Restaurants
Tough job eh?
The chances are, bars and restaurants will be as important to the success of your incentive as the hotel and activities. You may not be able to sample all of the food options at every restaurant you visit but you can get an idea of menu, prices, spaces within the restaurant, atmosphere and how you think your group would be treated. Look for any potential enhancements such as welcome drinks, exclusive seating areas and critically, whether they accept card payments. Strange as it sounds, not all places do, especially in Europe. This could be critical if the group won’t be hosted by someone from the agency.

4.  Become the Font of all Knowledge
If you will be hosting the group (and the host should always have done the recce!) they will quickly come to rely on you for everything, that includes local knowledge. Keep an eye out for local ATMs, pharmacies, taxi ranks, local points of interest such as squares to visit, even doctors and dentists could be useful! Talk to everyone you have a meeting with to gain as much on-the-ground knowledge as possible. You’re on the lookout for hidden gems that can enhance the group experience and potholes that might cause it to lose a wheel. For example, your recce might be taking place at a different time of day/week/month/year to when the group will be visiting. You’ll need to overlay knowledge of this difference on top of the knowledge of your experience. For example – if the town is going to be a whole lot busier at the time of the trip, would you plan things differently?

At the start of the recce you’ll be like a sponge soaking up information and by the end, you should be able to start formulating a draft plan. It can be quite exhausting working on the recce but the information gathered is hugely rewarding. Hopefully, you’ll be overwhelmed by positive options, although the reality is that you may be separating some chaff from your wheat! Some of your draft plan may resemble your original desk-based plan, but by now you will have so much more information to fill in the gaps.

Our biggest two tips are to leave some downtime between meetings and visits – not only will timings fluctuate but you’ll be able to write up notes immediately after your meetings. You’ll be amazed how quickly they’ll begin to blur.

Secondly, take pictures of as much as the town/area as you can – not just the venues you visit. Not only will you have visual references of the places you end up using, you’ll have general imagery for marketing and comms.

That’s all for part one – part two will look at post-recce planning and creating the comms and marketing programme to really drive enthusiasm for your incentive!

Until next time, Eventurers!

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Event Management in Manchester: a day in the life of an event co-ordinator

Event management in Manchester by Emma Bolam

Event Management in Manchester: a day in the life of an event co-ordinator

I enjoy being an Event Co-ordinator at Assured Events because it means that many different project types pass over my desk. Over the past month I have been planning a conference, organising incentive travel, arranging team building activity, arranging a gala dinner as well as meeting new suppliers and sourcing new venues. Venue finding is such an important process – and our clients demand and expect only the best!

We are based in Manchester, but the events I am working on may be anywhere in the country.  I currently have event  projects in Exeter, Bristol, Lincoln, London, as well as Italy, France... and Manchester!

My day usually starts at around 08:45. I begin by logging on and checking through my emails. I have received a CV. I reply straight away, as we always respond to everybody who expresses an interest in working at Assured Events.

I have quite a list to get through today. Firstly, I need to send out some enquiries to some suppliers. I am looking into room gifts for delegates and speaker gifts for one of the annual conferences that we organise. It’s a huge event and conference planning for an event of this size takes almost a year! Once I receive these back, the most suitable items will be added to a proposal for the client to choose from.

Next, I am currently working on an event pack for a client - this is for a Christmas party, very early in December. The event pack includes details such as, hotel locations, restaurant and bar information along with anything else the client ought to know about their event.

Morning over and I haven’t eaten any of the chocolate in the office today! However, there is still time!

This afternoon I am focusing on building a delegate registration website for another annual conference we are planning. This is something I haven’t done too many times before, so Sarah guides me through this ... she is very patient with me!

It is already 3:30p.m. - My next task is creating an event app for an annual conference taking place in February. This is something that I will be working on frequently from now until the event. I will need to regularly update details as they come through.

Before the end of the day, I flag any emails that need responding to the next day. I then write myself some reminders of jobs that need completing tomorrow.

We are all working across many different event types as well as business development. I ask Ella if she needs anything doing on the incentive travel brief she is working on. It’s a ‘no’ and the day is done. Where it has gone, I don’t know - time to go home!

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Incentive Trip to Copenhagen

Incentive Trip to Copenhagen - IN  THE PRESS

Our incentive trip to Copenhagen for PageGroup earlier in the year made the news in M&IT's November edition!

If you are considering running an incentive trip in the UK, Europe or beyond or are looking to motivate staff or customers with exciting well planned activity, then give us a call on 0161 428 1115.  We have a hugely experienced team to help you plan unique incentive travel or rewards programme.

 incentive trip to Copenhagen and incentive travel company Cheshire

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