The dos and don’ts of planning by European eventprofs

It doesn’t matter if you are a rookie putting on your very first event or a seasoned-veteran organising your 1,000th conference, we all need a little help sometimes.

During the busy European Cities Marketing (ECM) spring meeting in Edinburgh meetings professionals, amongst other things, debated the successes and the failures of urban events’ organisations all over the continent .

The spring meeting welcomed a record-breaking 200 delegates from more than 80 European cities, learning some interesting tips from their peers.

The ECM is a non-profit organisation improving the competitiveness and performance of leading cities of Europe and promotes the interests of members from more than 110 major cities in 38 countries.

Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, ECM‘s president, said: “European Cities Marketing is all about sharing, inspiring and connecting.

“Events are a great way of manifesting cities to a global audience and attendees heard about the successes and failures of events, whether they were global events or homegrown ones. Getting useful tips from their colleagues on the dos and don’ts of bidding and event organisation.”


Add value to your community

Robert Govers, international scholar and author, explained how and why cities need to stage imaginative events that appeal to audiences’ dreams.

He said: “When creating an event, look at the sense of community and use it to create a unique event that can only happen in your city”.

Govers added that cities must use events in an imaginative way to reflect local identity and purpose, by creating something new, extraordinary, memorable, distinctive and “uniquely local”.

His point was compounded by Leanne Buchan, principal officer for culture & sport at Leeds City Council, who shared tips on how Leeds galvanises its communities.

Buchan added it was important that the city’s story is told during the cultural and sport events they host and how the events can also maximise the benefit for Leeds.

Help events evolve

Julia Amour, director, festivals Edinburgh, and Shona McCarthy, chief executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, shared their belief that helping established events evolve has seen the Scottish capital emerge as a strong city of culture.

One way Edinburgh has done this, Amour pointed out, was by keeping abreast of new technology, at established events, such as ‘tap to tip’ technology allowing contactless payments for street performers.

Make guests want to return 

Ulrik Ørum-Petersen, concert promoter and festival director of Live Nation, Copenhagen, told the audience his challenge was to create festivals where people want to return to and tell their friends about.

Invest in homegrown events

The meeting was asked what’s more important investing in, either a recurring smaller event that develops with the destination DNA or bidding to host an international mega-event on a global cycle of different host cities around the globe? 90 per cent of the audience was in favour of homegrown events.

Be careful what you bid for

Camilla Nyman, former CEO of Göteborg & Co, discussed hosting the 2017 equestrian event FEI European Championships in Gothenburg. She told delegates that the “scientifically guaranteed sand” used for the competition took up an unexpectedly  huge chunk of their budget and added that they destroyed the park where it was held “but it was worth it”.



To avoid a festival of failure you must prepare correctly. Wonderful Copenhagen alumni, Peter Rømer Hansen and Emil Spangenberg, shared how Copenhagen was unprepared for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest saying “it was like a train coming at us”.

With the legal issues that followed, Spangenberg added that “It felt like a family being in grief” and the fallout left people with stress and depression.

Underestimate the competition

Marina Wollheim Araoz from Propaganda GEM said that cities, like brands, must compete with each another on the global stage.

One tip Araoz gave was to secure your city a placement in a movie or TV show that could showcase its best points.

“You have control on the message, you choose how your city is viewed in pop culture. You want to be the city where people dream to go to,” Araoz said.

Assume your event is just about entertainment

Patrick Roubroeks, from brand staging event company XSAGA, told delegates that it’s not about entertaining people, it’s about engaging them through “living communication” that makes them want to be involved.