The first step in planning an event is to consider the stakeholders, says University of Cape Town (UCT) senior marketing and stakeholder relations manager Aloy Gowne, who was sharing the core elements of the institution’s planning strategies for functions with event management students on 15 August.
Gowne, who is based in the Communication and Marketing Department (CMD), and his team are primarily responsible for developing and implementing strategies that engage with stakeholders at the university.
“So really our thing is not just events; events form a small portion of it,” he told the students.
Nevertheless, when it comes to planning for an event, the stakeholders are front of mind.
“We think first: ‘Who do we need to be engaging with? How do we need to be engaging with them? What’s the appropriate event for the stakeholder’?”
He explained that outcomes are also crucial to a successful event.
“You can’t just have a party for the sake of having a party, you have to have a purpose ... What do you want to get out of the event? There have to be clear, tangible outcomes... ”
UCT’s goal with event planning is to stand out, he said.
“We are always competing; in the university landscape we have 26 universities in the country. But we have international events, so we are competing with universities worldwide. We are competing for a particular share, we are competing to position ourselves.
“Part of UCT’s strategy is to be the best in Africa, but also to be the gateway to the rest of Africa, and to be the knowledge hub for Africa. So we need to offer something different, something that’s never been done before, or something that leaves some impression on the person who attends that particular event.”
“We are always competing; in the university landscape we have 26 universities in the country. But we have international events, so we are competing with universities worldwide.”
Aligning events with the university’s values and vision is also essential. Gowne explained how the university’s strategy of inclusivity on campus informed the changes made to the UCT Annual Staff Awards, which were previously divided into four separate events.
“How do we break the barriers between academic staff, [professional, administrative support and service] PASS staff, and all sorts of things? We decided, one way of doing that is to bring together all these four events into one and make it a UCT annual staff event.”
In addition to the university’s busy calendar of local events, there have been some notable international events over the years.
Some of the “top-notch” international events that UCT has hosted include visits by the Norwegian royal family in 2009, former United States president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama’s visit in 2011, Prince Charles’s visit in 2013, and a visit by Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, in 2014.
“These are not child’s play, they are really high-profile, high-risk events. Again, this gives testament to [the fact that] UCT’s Communications and Marketing Department can do it so well,” said Gowne.
Each new vice-chancellor brings a fresh vision that will inform the strategies of the events team.
“We are now trying to see how we can make most of our events inclusive, bringing all groups of staff together and all groups of students together under one roof.”
“These are not child’s play, they are really high-profile, high-risk events.”
An important annual event is the First-Year Parents’ Orientation, said Gowne.
“Next year it will probably be different because this vice-chancellor is very hip. She wants things to move. She wants to excite the parents and say: ‘Your kids are in the right place’.”
Technology is also influencing how events are run.
Gowne suggested that virtual events may be on the horizon: “I think in the next couple of years we are going to be seeing very differently how events are done.”
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