I've been asked to organise some client hospitality. The venue and menu have been taken care of, but hosting the event is down to my team. I don't really know where to start. The job sounds easy but I suspect it isn't.

I've been asked to organise some client hospitality. The venue and menu have been taken care of, but hosting the event is down to my team. I don't really know where to start. The job sounds easy but I suspect it isn't.

You suspect right. Few companies have any idea how to host a business function successfully, apart from throwing enough booze and grub down their clients' necks to ensure they go away happy but disorientated. Getting your guests guzzling is far from enough, though. You need to go on a charm offensive. This is prime-time, make-or-break corporate image/PR stuff. If you host well, your customers will be impressed. If it goes badly, all the money spent will have been wasted.

Six main tips, then:

* Know your objectives. What is the aim of the event? Are you launching a product, talking business, or just wanting to get to know your clients better in a social environment? The theme is important. Trying to sell or do business at what is primarily a "social" event can be a big turn-off.

* Have enough staff. Work out the client/host ratio and err on the side of caution. Make sure every guest is greeted on arrival and introduced to a member of staff.

* Brief your team. Tell them what and what not to say. Let them know who their guests will be and allot hosts to named guests if the numbers are going to be large. Make sure they all have business cards, but only produce them when appropriate.

* Learn the art of circulating. Plan to do about 6-8 people per hour. Go armed with a few lines of intelligent small talk and only move on once you have introduced your guest to someone else. Question, listen and acknowledge, and be prepared to give information, if asked. Be interested, but never dominate conversation.

* Eat and drink in moderation. Check your guest is fed and watered first. Choose food that moves from plate to mouth gracefully, which means boycotting delicacies like vol-au-vents and chicken legs.

* Debrief your team after the event. Find out who they spoke to, what they learned, and whether a follow-up by the sales team is appropriate.

 

I will be doing the round of job interviews soon. My university did some training on questions to expect, but I wonder whether I should also be asking vital questions about the company itself?

Remember that an interview is a two-way, fact-finding process. You are not just there to be interrogated, you should expect to be given information as well. Find out as much as you can about the company before your visit, but feel free to ask questions during the interview itself.

Write a chart of variables and weigh them in terms of importance to you. How much do you expect to get paid, for instance? How far will you be prepared to commute? How important is promotion and/or training? List cultural values as well. Do you prefer working in a large team or are you a loner? Are you quiet or hugely sociable? What are your main motivational factors? What do you need in terms of environmental well-being?

Companies vary tremendously in terms of working environment and cultural "personality". Asking too many questions may sound arrogant, but keep your eyes open during any tour of the workplace. Ambience can be as affecting a factor as money or perks.

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