Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Event Queen...

I organised an event last week. Well, I organised it well in advance of last week so it is more appropriate to say that the event I organised was held last week.

It was the first social gathering of all 6 teams in our business unit. I think I have mentioned before that there is a lot of change taking place across the board here so things are quite unsettled. So my mandate for this event was to make it as informal and low key as possible. No presentations, no pep talks, no long-winded speeches from the leadership. Just an afternoon of food and drink and mingling.

Given this is Australia and, if you believe the hype, we are a nation of great drinkers, you would think that people would look forward to an afternoon off work where their employer pays for the food and the grog. Wrong. Well, maybe somewhere out there this is true but in the current institution I am working for - all very corporate and conservative - the drinking culture is not encouraged.

This just seems mad to me for I am sure it was not like this when I left Australia almost 7 years ago. Either that or just I spent far too long working in the UK whiling away many afternoons and/or evenings drinking alcohol paid for by my employer!

So imagine my dismay and consternation (Can someone let me know exactly what that word means please. One of these days I'm going to use a word I've heard just cause it sounds impressive and get it horribly wrong) when I was informed at the outset that the focus of the event was not to have a drink but to socialise in an informal ambiance where alcohol is available though consuming too much of it is perhaps not the done thing. Coming from KPMG in the UK I felt like someone had turned my head inside out.

So I endeavoured to find a venue where the focus would not just be what we would consume. Not too difficult here in Melbourne. The short list included the Aquarium, the Museum, an art gallery space and the Observation Deck on the Rialto. Given my love of heights (and that I'd spent the last 5 years working on the 4th floor of a building in Manchester where, the view, as it was, was obscured by an opaque film of muck that could not be cleaned because the firm were in dispute with the window cleaning firm and could not contract another firm in while it was going on) the Observation Deck was my preferred candidate.

I digress. I sent out the invitation to 300 odd staff members and the acceptances started rolling in. In my experience of events and numbers for catering (gleaned entirely from my mate Annie the Queen of Events)) is that you probably lose a third of your RSVPs on the night. So, 220 responded in the affirmative and I catered for 130 which I know is less than 2 thirds but I was told this lot are notorious in not turning up for events.

So, at 3pm I am standing at the registration table with my colleague and 2 rolls of sticky lables and a marker pen each. Annie, I know at this stage would be utterly dismayed with me for, apart from the slipshod name badge arrangement, I had no MASTER LIST!!! Still, I devised a way of keeping track of numbers - we counted the empty sticky label backing. Ingenious ha?

Imagine my alarm when during the course of counting our rolls of empty labels we discovered the numbers had crept up to 150. A short while later they reached 170. The final count at 4pm was 195!

My boss congratulated me, everyone around me declared the venue inspired however I spent the next hour trying to make food for 130 stretch to feed 195. There must have been a run on oysters at the market that day cause I've never seen so many in one place. My boss kept mumbling that half the people there would be off work the next day as it did seem slightly dodgy that all we seemed to be getting were oysters.

Anyway, despite the fact that food was a bit thin on the ground - personally I blame the group of people who sussed out where the kitchen was and practically mauled each food waiter as they emerged, tray laden - the event was a rage. It was one of those gorgeous clear autumn days and as the sun set over the city and the mood mellowed, I silently raised my glass to my friends over the seas who, at moments like that, I miss terribly. Cheers folks.


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