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Functions, disfunctional and otherwise

I have always hated functions and events. They entail a modicum of behaviour, a certain sense of dress and if not time away for productive relaxation at home then time away from productive work at the office, or at home. On the other hand, the maxim seems to be ‘all work and no play’, or perhaps ‘a change is as good as a holiday’.
I find the rewards of attending slender at best. I am not happy to be part of the Hollywood vibe or to have my picture taken in the company of people who represent the local glitz. If I have to be present, I will find something professional to fuss over and stay out of the limelight. That’s my escape. If I need to network, I have LinkedIn, which isn’t particularly productive, but can be done in less than ten minutes per session. That’s my excuse.
Nonetheless, a small and bustling industry has sprung up, and functions seem the way to keep up with the Joneses.
Now that the gripes are over, it’s time to begin thinking about how to make the things productive. Productivity is the first word that should be mentioned as functions have a way of slipping into the realm of a complete waste of time. That implies planning to begin with, and in order to do that, you will need to know why you are holding a function in the first place.
Planning is a critical point because this sort of gathering is horribly expensive. If there isn’t a defined purpose, you might as well invite everyone round for beer and chops at home, it will cost a lot less and the
There are four broad reasons to hold one: information, demonstration, reward and association.
Information is possible the easiest to handle. Set up a slide show, do the presentation, give everybody snacks and beverages with an informal opportunity to ask questions, then send them on their way. These will most likely be handled during the working day or at breakfast.
A product launch is possibly a bit more complex. The slide show is normally augmented by sight of the product, if not a hands on experience or in some cases an opportunity to take the product home. The same rule applies. The third type is the reward function, which notionally gives everyone an opportunity to relax in one another’s company and socialise. This can be problematic as there are typically a large number of individuals and circulation has to be choreographed. If you are faced with one of these, it may be worth looking at splitting the groups up and doing smaller, more manageable gatherings on a weekly basis.
If however the reward function celebrates an event with a date it can rarely be split up.
The fourth type, the function which creates associations can be extremely useful if the function associates the brand with knowledge, in the form of a specialist speaker. On the other hand, if it is intended to associate a brand with celebrities, it must be controlled with scripted roles and photo opportunities.
There are three aspects which are vital in holding a productive function.
The first is that it is not a relaxed party, rather a business tool with desirable outcomes. The function must be scripted with all the cunning at your disposal. People must be given roles and should be able to report back on their results. There is nothing quite as depressing as watching staff shuffle into a corner and avoid clients and stakeholders. There is no reason for that sort of person to be there.
The second is to rely on a reputable planner and communicate the goals very clearly. That person should be aware of relationships that need to be reinforced and developed, and should be able to plan accordingly. That person will also be responsible for everything else, up to and including décor and presentation.
The third is a walk-through or rehearsal. This can mean the difference between success and those embarrassing moments that are remembered.
In a nutshell, a function is business. It may be fun, but don’t waste a cent.

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