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One of the non-training services offered by the Centre is the facilitation of meetings and events. The portfolio of these event management services has expanded rapidly in recent years on the back of non-traditional formats such as virtual fairs and online conferences. The portfolio is poised for further growth in 2022-23, as it is likely that particularly online events with a global audience will meet demand due to environmental and health and safety concerns but also cost considerations.
To consolidate and further grow its footprint in the segment for event management services in the coming years, ITCILO has sought expert advice on building a robust channel-specific quality assurance system founded in the quality principles promoted by the International Standard Organization.
is to embed continuous improvement into the overall system. So the goal is to develop an innovative approach that works well, captures excellent practice as well as lessons learned, which can be shared and incorporated into the overall system.
The ITCILO’s 2022-23 programme and budget proposals highlights ‘a new service mix’ that says ITCILO plans on shifting from a single focus on individual capacity development, to institutional capacity building for both ILO constituents and partner organisations. Meetings and events make up one of six ‘non-training services’.
The first clear distinction in ITCILO events is between internal, and those done for/with other UN bodies.
The second clear distinction is between small scale, local or regional events, and large scale global events.
The third distinction is between Business to Business (B2B): events that are built around the needs of a paying institutional client, and Business to Consumer (B2C), where ITCILO markets an event directly to paying customers.
ITCILO is likely to organise events that:
Different types of events will have different approaches, and different desired outcomes, but all events should be recorded in a common way, and circulated across the organisation to ensure learning is organisation-wide.
The number of different stakeholders can also add complexity to these dichotomies. It is clear that a ‘one size fits all’ solution to quality assurance in ITCILO events is an inadequate response. However, there needs to be a common and consistent process to achieve quality in all ITCILO events.
All events need to follow a systematic approach through Deming’s Plan, Do, Check, and Act.
Some events will be less successful than others. Less successful events should be treated as learning opportunities.
(face-to-face, hybrid, or online)
Exhibitions / Fairs
Seminars / Webinars
The principle can be directly applied to event management with a standardised system for registration, attendance, engagement in specific sessions, pre-event and post-event participant and presenter feedback questionnaires to support the collation and interpretation of data.
the ISO 21502 presents a list of considerations:
Each of these have some weight and need for consideration in the planning and development of an event.
* The Centre supports the consultants' recommendation of using the Project Management ISO context for ensuring the quality of Event Management Services. This approach provides the Centre with a replicable and reusable model that draws on the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle and provides clear guidelines and considerations for developing appropriate standard quality assurance systems for other types of non-training services offered by the Centre.
Project management should be performed through a set of processes and methods that should be designed as a system and should include practises necessary for a specific project
- ISO 21502 -
ISO 20700: 2017 Guidelines for Management Consultancy Services
ISO 21502: 2020 Project, programme and portfolio management
ISO 29993: 2017 Learning Services Outside Formal Education
Events are generally approached through a project management frame. Quality management should be integral throughout the whole process. It does not begin with the event itself: it begins as soon as the idea for the event is formed.
Despite the differences in scale, requirements and budget, all events share some central principles. All events:
All of these, done well, and with any lessons learned recorded, provide an iterative path to ongoing improvement of all aspects of an organisation’s event preparation, implementation and evaluation for future events.
Each of these areas will generate a great deal of data, which needs to be analysed, and where required, findings need to be used for improving the quality of future events.
Particularly when working with partners there is real value in committees and checklists, clearly assigning tasks, roles and responsibilities and ensuring everything is covered.
A formalised ITCILO events community of practice for sharing good practice, in addition to the quality improvement process should be considered.
The quality improvement process is the feedback loop that constantly updates the quality assurance system with innovative successful practice, and can provide ‘warnings’ about where things can go wrong, or issues that need particular attention.
Events are kinetic. An event is a dynamic social activity, and even if you are clear about your purpose and role in the event; different social interactions, different personal expectations of the event, and even what you think of the catering, or the signposting, will impact on what you take from the event.
Since early 2020, with the onset of COVID-19, there have been massive changes in the events industry. It seems likely that in the future, the number of purely face-to-face events will reduce, and ‘hybrid’ events, with both face-to-face and online aspects, will increase in number. And online delivery will become the standard for many events.
Online events can attract many participants and presenters that would not be able to attend a face-to-face event. They are much cheaper to put on, and, technology permitting, can provide asynchronous access to presentations beyond the event itself. It is more difficult to create a sense of community with an online event, and there is less of an element of serendipity, (the fascinating person you sat next to at lunch) than a face-to-face event can permit. Hybrid events should be able to provide the advantages of both: the wider outreach available through online, together with the serendipity of face-to-face events. But they are more complex to manage successfully for both audiences.
The recommendations are based on the ISO quality standards for Project, Programme and Portfolio Management (21502), but will also fit within the Plan, Do, Check, Act paradigm already in place within ITCILO. Other relevant ISOs are referred to as well. The recommendations are based around the process map:
The six stages are matched to the PDCA paradigm, related ISO standards, and with the outreach, engagement, and conversion paradigm used by the advocacy and communications section of ITCILO.
Note: Other ISO standards can be used for particular aspects of an event.
It should answer the following questions:
Event Design: basic considerations
To highlight innovative successful practice, and provide ‘warnings’ about where things can go wrong, or issues that need particular attention.
If ITCILO already has a general CRM database, we recommend a ‘tagging’ of appropriate contacts with an ‘Events’ tag, and specifying their areas of interest with regard to the thematic areas the different events address
This group should meet regularly before the event to assess progress, and identify any issues as early as possible.
The progress comments for each area should be updated e.g. each week, and exceptions reported to the planning team.
Proper consideration should be given to:
This is best done by people with a good understanding of the topic area, with skill and experience in identifying, attracting and managing high quality speakers/presenters, ensuring that they have relevant expertise and profiles, and will provide a good experience for the participants.
The ‘flow’ of the conference also needs to be carefully considered.
not only on their part in the event, but on the overall purpose of the event, who the audience will be, where their contribution ‘sits’ in the overall form of the event, and to consider what their presentation will contribute to achieving the purpose, and the ‘learning’ they are expecting participants to gain from their contribution.
The answers can form the baseline information for the immediate post event evaluation of the success of the event for each individual participant.
Examples of possible questions:
to develop and identify indicators that can be monitored and tracked, pre, during and post the event.
A sample of indicators:
with specific people responsible for particular areas to ensure a smooth event experience.
To be held in a central ‘secretariat’ whose role is to both circulate learning from the event to the wider organisation, and to update the quality improvement guidance for event management across the organisation.
The evaluation form should be short, and easy to complete. Personal details, include the participants ‘objective’ in attending the event, and ask if this was achieved, partly achieved/not achieved. What has changed since you attended the event? To increase the number of responses, incentives could be provided.
Examples for KPIs for long term evaluation
Development of the initial draft toolkits is devolved to the teams with most experience of a particular type of event.
Also a longer term evaluation strategy, which can identify common trends across events, in terms of connected impacts in the longer term, for example, inter- and intra-organisational collaboration, publication of research papers, promotion, job / role change linked to engagement in the event.
A quality assurance system underpinned by a culture of quality improvement, primarily through the application of the “Plan, do, check, act” cycle adopted by the ISO and referenced by ITCILO, and supported by a clear evaluation strategy, is core to the continuous innovation and development of the event provision.
How this is developed and implemented is key not only to the continuous improvement in quality of the events at ITCILO but in the measurement of their success and impact.
In order to ‘embed’ quality assurance in event management, a clear process for recording evaluation of event management needs to be established, together with a process for entering the learning into the ‘corporate memory’.
Follow a staged approach to the implementation of the recommendations. Each step below is dependent on the previous steps having been done.
Decide which recommendations will be acted on, in particular, whether to use ISO 21502 as the basic quality measure closely linked to the PDCA system.
Establish a nascent ‘events secretariat’. This person/group will use the learning from the pilot events to develop a first draft of an event quality management documentation.
Socialize the event documentation for use across the organisation. This ‘training event’ will also follow the quality guidelines being proposed.
The ongoing rollout and implementation of the new quality management approach.