The SWWE branch dinner held on 7 November 2018 at the Double Tree Hilton in Bristol was a very different event than originally planned, but none the less an enjoyable event with 31 attendees.
Unfortunately, despite a securing an excellent speaker, Dr David Hillson, the Risk Doctor, there was insufficient interest in the dinner to proceed as planned. Therefore, a risk mitigation plan had to be used.
Our planned speaker, David Hillson was to have spoken about the challenges and joys and lifelong risk taking, branch Chair, Martin Gosden, in his after-dinner talk, picked up on this theme of risk management using the example of the planned branch dinner.
The branch dinner is aimed to be cost neutral, with ticket venue meeting the cost of dinner, drinks and the speaker. Hotel contracts always include a cancellation clause, which protects them against any financial loss arising from a late cancellation. Knowing this, the branch mitigates the risk of cancellation through learning from member feed back about location and timing. Members prefer a central Bristol location, and sufficient time is needed after the summer holiday period to market the dinner effectively. Also, the Christmas party season must be avoided, hence a date of early November meets the criteria.
The marketing focus is on having an interesting speaker, and Dr David Hillson, The Risk Doctor, was chosen as he is well known, entertaining and risk is always a top requested topic in the event surveys. The e-flyers are designed to catch the eye and imagination, and are sent out from the end of August, and repeated regularly. Corporate Partners are sent the flyers individually, and there is an incentive to book a table of 10. The APM Corporate Partner event and Branch Corporate Advisory Group meeting in early October was also used to raise awareness of the dinner.
Unfortunately, despite all of the risk mitigation efforts, the risk materialised and we did not get enough bookings to proceed.
Efforts were made to negotiate to reduce the cancellation charges with the Hotel, but understandably, they felt unable to do so.
Therefore, the branch was faced with a substantial cost. There were two options: firstly, to simply cancel and accept the cost for no benefit at all; secondly to go ahead with the dinner, but minimise the overall costs, and make the event free of charge.
The decision was taken to get the maximum benefit for APM members by holding the dinner. To minimise costs, we had to cancel the speaker David Hillson, which saved accommodation and travel costs, and to limit numbers to a maximum of 37 so that dinner and drink costs kept within the contracted minimum spend with the Hotel. It was decided that refunds would be made to those who had already paid, and that they would have priority places.
A new flyer was prepared, explaining the situation and asking members who would like to attend to apply. We had more applications than places, and so priority was given to members on a first come first served basis, and then to non-members.
In life, as in projects, risk happens, and it is how you respond to try and get the best out of a situation that marks you out as a good project manager.
SWWE branch Chairman