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May 28, 2016

Event Planning

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As part of their training, Watson Burton encourages trainees to get involved of all aspects of business, including planning and running a series of events to develop and sharpen their organisational and networking skills.

First year trainee Callum Reveley takes you behind the scenes of the Young Professional Pub Quiz.

This edition of the Watson Burton Trainee Blog is going to focus on our recent ‘Young Professionals Quiz Night’ but before I get into the details of this, I thought it would be a good to give you an idea of the reasons behind hosting this type of event.

As I am sure you will all be aware, the legal services sector, particularly in a relatively small market such as Newcastle, is becoming increasingly competitive. As a result, ‘soft skills’ like networking and, more generally, business development are now just as important to solicitors as understanding the nuts and bolts of the law which they practice.

Save for helping others to prepare for meetings or telephone calls with prospective clients from time to time, these aren’t skills which trainees generally get much opportunity to practice as part of their training contract. So, for the past few years Watson Burton has encouraged its trainees to organise networking events for young professionals at similar levels in other sectors. This gives trainees not only the opportunity to develop their ‘soft skills’ in a relatively relaxed environment, but also the opportunity to build up contacts who will, with any luck, prove useful both personally and for the firm in the future.

Moving on to the organisation of the event itself, this proved to be no simple task. I had already been involved in organising the ‘Young Professionals Wine Tasting’ last year and, as this has become an annual event, we were able to draw on a lot of the planning from previous years but the quiz was something entirely new. There were a number of important considerations in choosing the date, the venue, the food, and the invites, not to mention the questions themselves!

We felt that the choice of date would be crucial to a successful event and were keen to avoid the Christmas period when people were busy attending Christmas parties and nights out and an evening early in the week that would discourage people from attending with so much of the working week left to go. Eventually we settled on a Thursday night in early January, taking the view that people would not want to attend on a Friday night which would eat into their weekend.

In terms of venue, we were looking for somewhere which was relatively central, allowing people to easily travel straight from work and chose the Bridge Hotel for these reasons.

Choosing both how many people and who to invite was probably one of the most difficult tasks. We drew on the list of invitees and attendees from previous events as well as our own contacts and compiled a list of around 100 people in the hope of getting between 50 and 60 attendees.

We divided the quiz into 6 rounds and paired up to take create the rounds and this proved to be probably the most fun aspect of the quiz. My own round was sport and we found that what on the face of it seemed to be such a simple question could have some unexpected and complicated answers – who knew that the largest football stadium in the world was in North Korea?

The night itself was a success but we learnt that, as the old saying goes, ‘A battle plan is excellent until the first shot is fired’! From the microphone going missing to guests deviating from the seating plan, we learned some valuable lessons in adaptability!

More importantly, I think the quiz achieved its aims of helping us to develop our networking skills and make new contacts which will set us in good stead for our future careers. Many people find networking to be a difficult task, and I’m no exception to this, but I found it to be much easier in the more informal and relaxed atmosphere of a quiz and with people who are at a similar stage in their career.

Could we have done anything differently which would have improved the event? I think the answer is that you can always improve in some way and our debriefing session came up with a number of possible improvements which we can use going forward in our future events and with our Wine Tasting just around the corner they could prove to be valuable lessons!

 

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