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Home >  OPINIONPressurise junior planners at your peril
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Pressurise junior planners at your peril
Roy Ying says offloading excessive event-organisation tasks to juniors risks offending VIPs and igniting even more mishaps

26 Apr 2017

I find it hard to comprehend why certain bosses would have the courage to assign junior executives to manage complex events attended by top executives, key clients, regulators and media representatives.

Perhaps those who have managed events before would agree to the following statements:

  • All bosses expect events to be perfectly run, yet they are not willing to invest in hiring (or even training) the right talent.
  • Perfectly run events won’t be noticed but any small blemish will be remembered for a long long time.

Of all the mistakes junior event managers can make, I would pay most attention to official protocol, especially when it comes to seating, photo line-up and order of introduction. If the rules are not followed correctly, there’s the possibility of offending the guest of honour, an important keynote speaker or a VIP guest. Perhaps I could illustrate by an example.

I was at an event attended by a group of very senior government officials and business leaders. One of the VIP guests was a senior officer recently retired from the central government. With his stature, he was naturally assigned to sit on the front row next to the top representative from the Hong Kong SAR government, and he was greeted by several top executives from the organiser upon his arrival. The arrangement seemed to be in order.

However, the poor event manager didn’t pay attention to the MC’s script, which listed the retired officer down at the bottom of the VIP guests to be introduced. I didn’t know what the organiser would have to do to rebuild the relationship, but I would bet the retired officer was offended by this protocol arrangement (or the lack of).

I honestly cannot blame the event manager as the poor girl had obviously not been exposed to such high-level VIP handling. Her mistake reminded me of something the former US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfield once said: “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  However, I do have a problem with her employer’s corporate culture where every single event detail is delegated to a junior staff and she is expected to deliver.

Such culture is not uncommon among blue chip companies, government agencies, universities, NGOs and statutory organisations. Perhaps the bosses of these organisations have underestimated the damage a poorly run event can cause. 

However, I can almost certainly guarantee that if the CEO receives a complaint from a key client or a top-level government official, the culture could change fairly rapidly and the willingness to invest would start to grow.

Roy Ying is a senior corporate communications manager with a blue chip company

More articles by Roy Ying


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