How to ace this job interview
November 2, 2010 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Please help me ace the event planning component of this job interview!

I have an interview next week for a job I really really want. It is for a communications role (internal) for a large company.

They sent me an assignment to work on prior to the interview. The brief is to plan an all-staff annual event, the purpose of which is to provide staff with a business update as well as to provide recognition to staff. I'm to plan the event and tell the interviewers how it would be executed as well as how the results will be measured.

While I have done some event planning in the past, my focus up to now has been more on writing for the web and intranets.

To all corporate event planners: any advice? What will the interviewers be looking for? Any tips are appreciated! Thank you!
posted by Pademelon to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Who: which staff members, invite & RSVP list, VIPs and special speakers

What: Events during, running schedule, evaluations

When: dates (considering industry busy times)

Where: inhouse, external, costs, benefits, technology available

Why: they already told you but you could come with reasons such as motivation etc.

HOW: (this kind of covers other areas as well) catering costs, seating available - if there is, do you need to get there early and arrange it, presentations, displays, awards (trophies, prizes, certificates), timekeeper for the event, schedule leading up to event eg 3 weeks before reconfirm venue & VIP, 2 weeks before check with caterers and so on.
posted by b33j at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2010

The planning and the execution are relatively easy. From a managerial standpoint, the metrics are most important to me: how will you show that you didn't just waste the company's time and money?

Depending on the culture (digital or analog) this could mean a pollmonkey email the morning following the event wherein you question the value of the event blah blah blah... or pencils and paper during a five minute "reflection" period prior to closing.

People are more likely to respond favorably to the event if they are directly involved in it, before, during and after. I would like to see attendees presented with an agenda as soon as one is available (the sooner the better) with built-in time for discussion mid-meeting. Ask questions in advance so people have time to prep for this.

One of the biggest complaints I get for day-long meetings is that my people don't have any "white space." I'm sure this event is important but remember that people have jobs to do and you will greatly reduce anxiety if you give them some space to make calls, respond to email and such. If this is just a couple-hours-long meeting, they'll still appreciate a 15 minute break. If this is an hour-long meeting, a break is probably not necessary.

As for the planning - research the company culture (and, more specifically, the tastes of upper management). If they are spendy, find the best of the best in terms of catering and location. If they are more "Main St." than "Wall St." err on the side of modesty. If you're comfortable doing it (and I wouldn't be in some situations), you could go above and beyond by calling the assistant to the hiring manager and asking her for information about past events.

I guess the best tip I could give you is to put yourself in the shoes of the people running the joint; don't do anything they wouldn't do.
posted by Siena at 2:52 PM on November 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you, this is very helpful.

I was thinking of bringing in printed material to show my planning. Do you have an recommendations for software to use to illustrate some of these things, perhaps a timeline? Excel? Other visuals I could use at the interview?

Thanks again!
posted by Pademelon at 8:13 PM on November 2, 2010

If they use a project management tool (Microsoft Project is probably the most popular PM software though I've run into Apex a lot lately) - you'd get bonus points for also using that tool (it's fairly intuitive and great for timelines, scheduling, resource allocation etc.). Otherwise, I'd say Excel or Word (templates here). Whatever you decide, keep your presentation consistent. I would love for someone to hand me something like this (not the content, just the format).
posted by Siena at 9:32 PM on November 2, 2010

Involve employees with the planning. A brief, before-the-fact, on-line survey could serve the purpose. Include a question like, "Name one challenge you face in your work right now." That might give you some insight for program planning."

Include a structured networking session, so employees get to know each other better than before. And not just socially; have them interact around a company-specific issue, question or challenge.

These days, any event for a large number of people should include an emergency recovery plan (e.g. off site meeting place, cell phone numbers of key contacts, calling tree to get breaking information out quickly; emergency services contact numbers, etc.).

In my experience, big companies tend to go for a 100% passive, talking-head format, because it's safe. If your fictional budget allows, you can play to that with a keynote speaker who has an inspiring, relevant story to tell (e.g. Dara Torres on winning three silver medals at age 41).

Since it's an annual event, you'll want to compare evaluation scores to previous events. In the follow up evaluation survey, ask questions like, "Describe one thing that you will do differently/take action on as a result of attending this event," "What was the best thing about this program?" and "How can we make next year's event better?".

Just some thoughts. Have fun.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:23 AM on November 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this was great advice. I prepared a huge event plan and it helped me to get the job!
posted by Pademelon at 6:08 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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