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Event planning from start to finish: the build-up

When you’re planning a grand event that really counts, you don’t do it alone. For Shruti Doshi, Institutes Co-ordinator in International Relations at the University of Birmingham, having a team she trusts to support the planning process from start to finish is essential.

So what does that process actually look like? Here’s a behind-the-scenes view of the build up to the launch of the India Institute, here at the University of Birmingham.

The venue

Underneath the stately rotunda, the Great Hall

First impressions matter.

For the launch of the India Institute, Chancellor Lord Karan Bilimoria and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood are welcoming His Excellency Mr Y.K. Sinha, High Commissioner of India to a vibrant and sincere day of celebration. The university is fortunately graced with venues that befit such a prestigious occasion.

The Senate Chamber is perfect: a serious, elegant space with excellent acoustics, flexible seating and built-in audio-visuals. It’s ideal for┬áspeeches, a round-table discussion and the unveiling of a plaque to be placed at the institute’s entrance.

Note book and ipad on a desk

After these formalities, invited guests will gather for a reception under the fine domed roof of the marble rotunda at the entrance to the Aston Webb building. Then, the celebrations will leave us for a lively cultural night of events, a short walk across campus to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

The atmosphere

People smiling in the senate chamber

Here’s where the imagination comes in!

Shruti arrived with the event organiser’s ideal combination: high expectations, clear ideas, and receptiveness to new suggestions. 6 weeks ago, she met with the Conferences & events team to continue the process of reimagining the space in a suitably grand and unique way.

On a practical level, that meant assessing the best room layout to ensure everyone was comfortably seated, with the invited guests given due prominence. Visiting the space itself allowed close consideration of other fine details: which entrance to use; where to place drinking water; how best to use the built-in automated window screens and adaptable lighting for presenting a video.

More creatively, time was given to how best to transform both the Senate Chamber and the Aston Webb reception, using dramatic vibrant uplighting in themed colours, drapery, and extensive flower arrangements.

The food

Event organisers chatting to chef

A lunch buffet, canapes and drinks, a light meal: all in a day’s work for Hospitality Head Chef Stewart Turner.

A bespoke menu began to come together in the festive atmosphere of the Aston Webb rotunda, early last December. It’s through this kind of open, free-ranging conversation that a really inventive, thoughtful and personal menu comes about. Canapes which Shruti herself had enjoyed at previous events; freshly-cut fruits which would reflect the colours of the Indian flag; a focus on vegetarian food, including consideration for Jains: all ideas which arose from this face-to-face.

The team

People talking in the senate chamber

It takes a village, they say. In event planning, it certainly holds true. From porters to move tables and chairs into position, to the box office managing tickets for the evening event, everyone needs to be kept up to speed.

That needs an individual co-ordinator with experience of managing large-scale events. A single individual as the key point of contact.

In this case, that’s Christine Lyons, Conference and Events Co-Ordinator. Shruti’s worked with her and the rest of the Conferences & events professionals before, and describes them as her ‘dream team.’

The build up

The University of Birmingham India Institute launch will take place on Monday 29th January.

Until then, Christine and the team are on hand to adapt to any unexpected challenges thrown up by inclement weather or travel disruption, and to take up any last-minute inspiration from Shruti or the in-house team.

Come back next week to see another behind-the-scenes view of event planning, from the day itself.

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