The Gathering celebrated its tenth birthday this month. This year’s event was a two-day conference and exhibition bringing over 100 different third sector organisations together to connect, share and showcase their work. It was held in Glasgow’s SECC from February 19-20.
Who was behind it?
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) organises the Gathering every year. The events team made up of Alex Thomson, Helen Swatton and Scott Keillor spent around six months planning and promoting it. They were assisted by 20 volunteers from West Lothian College's events management course, as well as a number of returning volunteers and SCVO staff.
The aim was to bring together third sector organisations from all over the country. Exhibitors tended to be charities who wanted to promote themselves or a campaign and benefited from meeting with potential partners. Conference style event topics ranged from the independence debate to digital participation and from human rights to food and music.
The Gathering was sponsored this year by Charities Aid Foundation which wanted to raise its profile in Scotland. Guest speakers were Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling who brought a new audience to the event. Almost 100 organisations exhibited in the main hall and over 50 free events took place.
SCVO event and training manager Alex Thomson says getting people booked up early was one of the biggest hurdles faced. This is important, he says, so event spaces can be booked, programmes made and floor plans created. To act as an incentive for organisations to book early, offers were made to previous attendees and a constant campaign of emails and telephone calls were made to potential exhibitors before the turn of the year.
Was it a success?
Around 3,700 people attended over the two days – an increase of over 500 people from 2013. The event programme had an average audience of between 70-90%. The Gathering was featured on national television news and the Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling events provided more press coverage than previous years. Social media also exploded with the number of tweets using the Gathering hashtag G2014 increasing by 238% from last year. Booking enquiries have already started for 2015’s event.
The atmosphere! As it was the Gathering’s tenth birthday the two days had more of a party feel to them. A civic reception was renamed the Gathering party and cupcakes and balloons with “I am 10” branding made it more of a celebration of the sector than ever before. Proving particularly popular was a free-to-use photo booth where attendees could dress up in hats, wigs and glasses and share their pictures on Facebook and on the wall of the exhibition hall.
|Alex Thomson's 10 tips for organising an event|
|1. Plan, plan, plan – Creating a timeline of when things have to happen is crucial|
|2. Keep a reserve – Put aside around 10% of your budget for the unexpected|
|3. Triple check everything – Get someone with a fresh pair of eyes to go over everything|
|4. Be friendly – Create good relationships with your venue, staff, contractors and guests and they will go the extra mile for you|
|5. Branding – Keep it fresh if you hold an event more than once by making subtle changes|
|6. Technology is your friend – Use the internet for bookings and social media to create a buzz|
|7. Evaluate twice – As well as post-event surveys personally visit some guests or customers a few months later – they will share much more then|
|8. Learn from others – Go to other people’s events and see what you like – it’s not shameful to pinch good ideas|
|9. Training is key – You can’t be everywhere but your staff will be. Do a full walk through with them before the event so they are confident and knowledgeable|
|10. Enjoy it – If you don’t enjoy planning and going to your own event you can’t expect anyone else to|