Introduction

As a valued member of your branch's committee you will be able to make recommendations on many aspects of the branch operation, including suggestions for branch event topics.

Many branches like to include a YPG focused event in their yearly programme. However, you are not limited to a single event in one year. With the support of your branch committee there is no reason that you cannot suggest and/or run additional events, either as regular branch meetings or perhaps at a local university.

You will probably need to put together a basic event plan for consideration, especially if you will need funding from the branch. If your event idea is approved you may well find yourself tasked with daunting prospect of organising it. Don't Panic! Organising an event can be a very rewarding, even fun experience. The following sections aims to give hints and tips on how to make your event a success.

How do I come up with an event idea?

Inspiration for a branch event (that the YPG can promote) can come from many sources. It might be a personal interest you have in a technology, a suggestion from a YPG member, a conversation with a colleague - the list goes on. Once you have identified a theme for your event, the next stage is to put together a short proposal presentation to your local committee.

This does not have to be an elaborate or involved document, it just needs to outline what the event is and what it is intended to achieve. The construction of the proposal serves two main purposes.

Firstly, It provides an opportunity for you to consider in detail, the three key elements of the event - subject, audience and format.

It is worth remembering that the YPG encompasses a diverse membership with wide ranging interests and levels of career development. A dinner evening at a top hotel costing sixty pounds a head would probably not be the best format for encouraging a student audience.

Secondly, it provides a way of identifying any costs that will be associated with the event. Your proposal doesn't have to include a detailed budget, but it would be beneficial to have a rough estimate as to how much you think it will cost.

Once the topic has been decided, you will need to identify a suitable speaker (although these stages may be reversed if a speaker suggested a topic to you). It is worth noting that it is not always necessary to have identified a speaker before presenting your event idea to your branch committee.

Can I organise a boat cruise?

Yes, a gathering on a boat would provide attendees with little room to escape! Seriously, events can be of any type, they don't necessarily have to be presentation based, a boat cruise would provide an ideal networking opportunity (just think of the ITDF competition) However, it is worth bearing in mind that neither YPG nor branch funds can be used to totally fund social based events with limited learning. A boat cruise combined with a speaker running a networking master class mid-ocean, would provide an novel learning environment and give attendees immediate opportunity to practice what they have learnt.

The golden rule is that your ideas can be as creative and wacky as you like, but ultimately the branch or YPG committee must approve any funding requirements - so you need to be able to present a compelling case for expenditure.

Who will be the speaker?

One of the key elements to a successful event is getting the right speaker(s), and your local branch committee is a good place to start when looking for ideas. One of your fellow committee members may have a colleague who would be willing to take part. The advantage of this is that they may be from the local area and therefore be more flexible when it comes to availability. In addition, a personal recommendation should give some guarantee of the speaker's ability.

If you are not able to locate a speaker through your fellow committee members, there are several other options available. The most obvious being the YPG mailing lists. The list was set up for all YPG representatives so that they can share such information with each other. The national committee would also be more than happy to pass on any suggestions or contacts that they may have, or the BCS specialist groups are another possible source of information and contacts. They are usually more than happy to talk about their chosen subject area. Depending on the topic of your event it might well be worth contacting the press office of companies who are involved in that subject area.

If you are inviting a speaker from outside your branch area you will need to determine what travel expenses will be incurred. In some cases the speaker may be able to claim travel expenses from their employer. Once you have got a rough estimate of the travel costs it is worth informing the treasurer and committee chair to ensure that the branch will be able to meet those costs.

Can I run an event with someone else?

Absolutely! This can help an event become more popular and will almost certainly be easier to organise, although be wary of the "two many cooks" proverb.

You can also use other branches and specialist groups to help you run and organise your events. Other good collaborators may include local companies; educational establishments and you may want to recruit some local members to help you run your event.

Can I promote and existing non-BCS event?

Definitely, you might like the YPG and BCS to get involved, or promote events you hear about, or are yourself involved with. You should discuss with your branch committee as to whether there is an opportunity for the branch to become directly involved, if the committee feel it would be of benefit to a wider audience you can update the YPG directly via the YPG's Contact Management System.

When and where will the event be held?

You should book the venue as early as possible, ensuring it is easily accessible by all and caters for your needs. You may want to get your branch committee involved, as they may have suggestions.

Local companies and higher educational establishments are also worth approaching for venue hire.

Many branches tend to have regular locations that they use for events. There is no reason why you cannot use one of these if it is suited to the event type and its audience. Using a familiar location has the advantage that attendees are more likely to know where to go and you have a good idea what, if any, cost implication there is for hiring it. For example, A pub quiz in a university lecture room would not be much fun, equally a presentation on the finer points of .NET integration would not be very audible in Dizzy's bar and nightclub, even if the seats are more comfortable!.

A number of branches regularly hire lecture theatres at the local universities for presentations, as they have a nominal cost associated with them and are usually centrally located for ease of access. In addition, companies are often willing to host events run by charities and professional bodies for free (of course this is at the discretion of the company concerned.) If there are any costs associated with hire of the venue they should be disclosed to the branch committee for approval. The venue should be booked as far in advance of the event as possible. When booking your venue remember to check the terms and conditions to determine if there are any costs incurred for cancellation.

As well as the venue you should also consider the audience that you wish to attract. Organising an event that finishes after the last available train/bus etc, will automatically reduce the potential attendees. Timing of an event is also crucial. If you are restricted to an evening event, try to go for a day early in the week as more people are likely to attend. Don't forget to make allowances for travel times and the need to provide refreshments as attendees are likely to arrive straight from work. Ensure that you check the calendar for notable events such as cup finals, public holidays, elections etc.

You should check the availability of you target audience. An event aimed at students in the middle of the exam season is not likely to be well attended - unless you are handing out the answers! However, this could be an opportunity to run events based on the exam syllabus to aid student revision.

How do I get the funding for the event?

The primary funding source for your events will be your branch committee. Each branch has an annual allocation from BCS HQ to fund it's activities and events. In addition, a 'special projects' fund exists at BCS HQ and branches can make an application for funding of specific projects. This fund is not intended to fund general branch events, but could be used to obtain funding for a high profile event with specialist speakers. The branch treasurer will be able to assist with making an application for funding from this source. It should be noted that this funding cannot be obtained retrospectively. An application must be made at the inception of the event, and will require a detailed project plan containing both costings and the benefits to the branch and the society.

In addition to the branch funds, sponsorship provides a good way to fund your event, whether through direct financial aid or the provision of free facilities or equipment. See the sponsorship section below.

The YPG national committee also willing to consider requests for funding, although ideally this will be to augment existing funding obtained from the branch or sponsorship. To apply for additional funding from the YPG, the first stage is to create the event using the contact management system. This will enable a member of the YPG committee to contact you to discuss your event and explore the possible funding opportunities.

How do I present and funding proposal?

Now that the proposal has been constructed, it is time to present it to the local committee. This can be done in a number of ways, and probably depends on how your local committee is organised. Depending on the type of event, or if there are a significant number of costs expected, they may ask you to go away and build up a more accurate and detailed budget before they will approve it.

Generally, if you would like to invite a friend of the branch to speak at a local university or venue, your proposal may simply consist of a verbal presentation at your branch committee meeting, perhaps supplemented by a short summary of the proposed activity, likely outcome and details of those involved. However, if you wish to hire a conference facility for a two-day seminar, perhaps involving the transportation of leading experts to your location you will need to work, probably with several others, on a detailed proposal to cover the significant time and financial aspects involved.

When finding reasons to justify sponsorship of the event, think about how it fits in with the branch, or the YPG's aims of encouraging younger members into the BCS membership, as well as providing more interesting and wide ranging events for existing members. Events at universities are particularly welcome as we are keen to encourage more of an on campus presence for the BCS, and also to encourage increased involvement between Universities and their local branches.

You may like to read the section below on obtaining sponsorship.

Sponsorship

One great way to run high profile and elaborate events is to engage a willing sponsor who has some domain knowledge of you event topic.

You should exercise caution when approaching sponsors. The BCS and the YPG cannot endorse any particular product or service or promote any one product over another. It is essential that the nature of the sponsorship agreement is fully documented and understood before a binding agreement is entered into. The branch committee and BCS HQ can provide detailed advice on this and you should approach them at the earliest opportunity to ensure that they can assist you in the process.

The good reputation of the BCS means that you are likely to receive unsolicited offers of sponsorship. You should exercise caution when responding to these as it likely to be of more benefit to the sponsor than the YPG or BCS. Please ensure that you inform your branch chair of any communications that you receive.

The above advice is not intended to dissuade you from attracting and engaging with sponsors. The BCS and the YPG can and do benefit greatly from very generous patronage from a number of sponsors, for which we are very grateful. Sponsorship can come in many forms not just financial. A number of organisations, for example, will provide meeting rooms and equipment free of charge for branch events.

How do I get support?

Organising an event can be both time consuming and frustrating, especially so for volunteers who only have limited time available. This of course depends on the complexity and scale of the event. There are a number of support mechanisms available, the appropriateness of each depends on the type and scale of the event. Your local branch committee will be more than happy to help support you, with their both their experience and time, to organise a simple presentation at the local university. BCS HQ can provide resource to help organise a large scale event such as a two day seminar, or is more wide reaching than just your local branch.

In general, your local branch is the best place to start when looking for help. They will have experience of organising events and will have a significant local knowledge. The YPG also provides a forum for representatives to discuss issues relating to event organisation, and perhaps suggest speakers that might be appropriate for an event. The YPG try to make as much help and advice available via these web pages, but if members or representatives have questions that they cannot resolve through the methods listed above, please contact the committee via the Contact Management System, or via the contact us section of the website. As I am sure you will appreciate, the national committee are volunteers like yourselves and you may not receive an immediate answer, but we will endeavour to respond.

You may wish to browse the web pages of other BCS branches to see if they have run similar events, or perhaps learn of events that might appeal to your local members. This has the advantage that you can contact the event organiser to discuss how you could implement a similar event in your area.

How do I publicise the event?

The speakers have been selected, the venue is booked - all you need now is an audience.

Most branches have their own website and you should aim to put details of you event on this. You can also use the branch email address list to e-mail an electronic advert to members. If you wish to explicitly target YPG members in your area you can do this via a separate email list (your branch chair will have these details). The email list provides the ideal mechanism to give members a quick reminder of your event a couple of days beforehand, ensuring it is in people's consciousness. Remember, try to use the email list judiciously. People will quickly begin to ignore emails if they turn into a constant flood.

You may also be a able to place an advert in any postal communications that the branch send out, but don't rely on this method of notification as most branches have stopped sending out mail-shots on a regular basis. Additionally, if possible you could place a poster on university and company notice boards. Your fellow branch committee members and BCS Liaison Contacts can assist you in doing this.

If possible, make use of the free advertising space available to the BCS in 'Computing' and 'Computer Weekly'. (It is worth remembering that if you wish to use this option both of these publications require a lot of advanced notice - two months minimum). You should also aim to get your event listed on both the BCS's and the YPG's event listings on their websites. The entry for the YPG can be entered online via the Contact Management System. To get an entry onto the BCS's pages please email Brian Runciman at brian.runciman@bcs.uk

Some branches have a committee member who is dedicated to publicity who will be able to help and advise you on the best type of publicity for your event. A mixture of advertising methods will attract a cross section of people to the event - which is particularly beneficial for the networking.

The press office can also help you to develop a relationship with your local newspaper if your branch does not already have one. This can be a great way to target non-members.

Final preparations

In the last few days before the event it is vital to make final checks to ensure that everything is in place. You should confirm your booking with the venue and check that the speaker is available. In addition you should confirm with the speaker any resources (such as a data projector) that they will need, and check that they will be available at the venue.

During the event

During the event remember that you are representing your branch, the YPG and ultimately the BCS. You should try and talk with as many people as possible about the work of the BCS and YPG and ensure that you are able to answer questions about the benefits of membership to them. If you are unsure, a full list of benefits can be found at www.bcs.org/membership.

Remember, in the rush to promote the BCS, don't forget that it's not about how many people you talk to, but the quality of interaction you engage in. Try to ask people about themselves and you may find people will label you as an excellent conversationalist, even you actually probably said very little to them.

Try to get email addresses for everyone that you talk to, or that visits the stand so that follow up information can be distributed to them. Potential members are often encouraged by value that you personally have derived from your BCS membership, so don't be afraid to talk about how you have benefited from becoming involved!

After event promotion

Opportunities for promotion of the event do not necessarily end when the last person leaves on the night. There are often chances to get an event review published in one of the BCS's publications, or if it was especially newsworthy it may get a mention in the BCS section of Computing or Computer Weekly. Practice your journalistic talents by coming up with an angle on the event which would be of interest to the most people. Be sure to pass any articles written on to the YPG Press and PR team who may also be able to lend a hand or offer tips on writing one in the first place. If financial sponsorship has been provided by either the YPG or the BCS itself, you will be required to draft a post-sponsorship review document sometime after the event.

Feedback

All feedback is good as it can indicate successful events, which we may want to run again in the future or in another location. It also allows the YPG National Committee to track how event are run and how we can improve our services to our members.

Event feedback can be completed by:

  • Organise a write up for the event in one of the BCS publications
  • Send a review on YPG email list
  • Provide the event material e.g. presentation and speeches on the branch website and the YPG website