Behind the Curtain – Organising The Staffordshire Business School Celebrating Success Awards 2021

On 28th January, myself (Ben Cooke), Lia Bover Armstrong and Cerys Chilton hosted the Celebrating Student Success awards for the Staffordshire University Business School. The event was a fun-packed, exciting evening which praised students for their outstanding efforts over the last year. The three of us thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to host the event and have decided to compile a short Q&A in order to offer “a glimpse behind the curtain”.

How did you work together as a team?

CC: This was our first time working together as a team and I felt we worked well. It was an amazing opportunity to develop skills and knowledge, by working with people I don’t normally work with. It also benefitted me learning where I fit in with different types of people’s work styles. In the beginning we managed to delegate roles amongst ourselves to help plan the event. Considering the short period of time to conduct the event, we successfully used each other’s previous experiences in the event industry to decide roles in planning the event. Working with people you don’t necessarily know is going to be a part of any industry, in particular events, being thrown into a challenging task has built my confidence in communication. Throughout the planning of the event, the role of Team Leader transferred to different individuals throughout the stages of the event, depending on factors that we had to consider and manage. For example, Ben managed a lot of the technological side of the event and Lia managed the communications via email. This opportunity gave us a real-life experience of the industry we all hope to go into, and I feel our joint appreciation for this motivated us all to succeed in the project.

What challenges did you face during the planning process?

LBA: Thankfully, there weren’t many challenges we had to face, but I think Ben and Cerys can agree with me that having to meet virtually and having a short amount of time to plan everything was a bit stressful, as getting information across is slower that if you were meeting face to face. However, it was a good way to learn how to work in a team with people you don’t usually work with; to see what it would be like to work in the events industry during these current times where you must work from home even if you are part of a team; and that there is always a solution for everything, even if that means getting out of your comfort zone.

What challenges did you face throughout the event and how did you deal with them?

BC: Being on the technical role, using a new software was challenging. It took a bit of playing around to get used to it, but with a bit of practice it became easy. I would say the challenge using StreamYard throughout the event would be changing from screen to screen to share content for the viewers. This task takes a lot of patience as the software might play up at certain times due to the pace you are trying to change the visuals at. In order for the viewer not to realise the delay, we used the private chat not visible to the attendees in order to inform Lia and Cerys that there was a technical issue and to keep the content rolling in order to fill any gaps. This was a useful tool as it appeared to the viewer as a seamless transition.

What went well?

CC: As previously mentioned, we worked well as team and we delegated roles efficiently according to our skills. On the night we worked well as a team, as well through the private chat box to ensure that everyone was okay. Where needed gaps were filled and any crisis were quickly solved, for example if there was a delay, me and Lia as hosts would continue to chat and talk to prevent awkward silences. The creative ideas we came up with for the awards ceremony such as the use of Mentimeter and a short acoustic performance from Mick Williams were a success, engaging with the audience. The use of StreamYard was also successful as we could see the engagement of the stream as we were hosting and could refer to the comments throughout the live stream.

How would you improve and what have you learnt from this?  

BC: If we were to host a similar event again, I would use a computer with two screens to change visuals over at a quicker pace. Due to being under lockdown restrictions, I only had the one screen available which caused a slight delay in proceedings to get the content on the stream. Despite this point I would possibly look down other routes of streaming software. StreamYard can be slightly limited in the content you can share on the screen, so further research into similar software would be a great idea.

What advice would you give to people hosting an online event?

LBA: Make the most of it and make sure you give yourselves enough time to plan it all. Enjoy every second of the whole process and just be positive and optimistic about it all. Get yourself out of your comfort zone, even if it feels scary at first, and don’t let it get to you if something doesn’t work straight away because it’s normal and even the biggest events out there have technical issues and learn from those experiences.