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Case history: Fast Forward 15 leads the way with live event

Fay Sharpe, founder of Fast Forward 15, reveals how she brought together this year’s cohort for the first time…

Friday 9 October was a day of a few firsts for me. The first time I’d brought this year’s FF15 cohort together in person, the first live small meeting I’d had since lockdown – and the first time I’ve had my temperature taken at a meeting. 

Bringing together this year’s cohort of FF15 mentors and mentees was challenging to say the least. Things kept changing, venues that had been open then weren’t, delegates felt a little unsure as to whether they should attend. Local lockdowns and looking for a venue that could help wasn’t as easy as you would think – many venues aren’t operating as normal, as staff are on furlough and many non-hotel venues are still closed. But eventually, Declan Murphy stepped in from the Great Scotland Yard, and I am hugely grateful for his help! 

Great Scotland Yard

Firstly I set about doing a thorough site inspection. Even with small meetings, this is a non-negotiable in today’s environment, the Covid precautions in place already were a huge help in planning.  

Next, I booked a session with events and safety consultant Sarah Threlfall. I briefed her to prepare me a base template and then used that to complete all the checks for a Covid risk assessment. She did a great job in advising me, it’s well worth the investment to get your staff trained and have an outside expert give you some insights. She also advised of extra things to ask the hotel, who readily supplied me with their own health and safety documentation, along with Covidsafe room plans and ventilation details. We also had the hotel in-house expert to explain fire procedures on arrival 

I’m convinced that small business meetings can be effectively held with the right preparation

My team had done a great job sending detailed joining instructions for delegates, including details of not to attend if any symptoms were showing, requirements for face masks, hygiene instructions etc. Our meeting was for 16 delegates plus speakers and staff, well within current government guidelines. 

Prior to the meeting we had some people in quarantine or feeling uncomfortable with attending, so we came up with a buddy system. Attendants in the room set up a one-on-one Zoom meeting with a person at home; this helped to keep the ones joining from home engaged and it helped me whilst I was delivering the content. 

This worked well and as delegates were doing minipitches we also had a group Zoom meeting at a certain point so that every mentee, either in the room or at home could do their pitch and join in. 

Speakers included Abi Wright of She Stands and founder of Festival of the Girl who gave us insights into posture, delivery and wellness. Our FF15 BAME ambassadorsGabby Austen Browne of Diversity Ally and Felicia Asiedu of Cvent, were covering their activity so far and future projectsExmentee Rhiannon Kirk did a great piece on knowing yourself and we shared a few psychometric tests which were real eye-openers. 

Two of the 2019 mentees, Megan Anstee and Rachael Kenny, gave insights into last year’s Soaring 20s virtual charity event and the challenges they had overcome. All speakers were held in a sanitised meeting room, and we had perspex masks issued to each speaker.  

We took everyone’s temperature on arrival, everyone wore a mask all day except when eating, the room was set up with delegates two metres apart and speakers were at least three metres from delegates. 

Coffee and tea were served but with plenty of room and by a server and people attended individually. There was floor signage as to the direction of travel to avoid people bumping into each other, sanitiser on checkin and around the room, delegates had their own water bottle, no badges, tent cards left there 24 hours before to avoid any risk, disinfectant wet wipes available and there was no paper on the tables. 

Geoff Allwright

Lunch was DIY and brought by delegates themselves. Chairs were spread out with plenty of signage to be two metreapart. did health and safety briefing at the beginning and reminded people all day – no handshakes or hugs! 

I’m convinced that small business meetings can be effectively held with the right preparation and respecting and making provisions for those that aren’t able or comfortable attending in person. Im glad we did it, we all bonded as a group and you get that facetoface thing you can’t get over a call. People left feeling motivated and inspired that’s why as an industry we must lead the way. 

I left delegates with this quote“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and then suddenly you are doing the impossible. 

“The meeting and the hotel was lovely and felt very safe. All your colleagues were excellent”- Geoff Allwright, Travel Manager Airbus. 

“It was great to be at a live event delivered logically and safely in the current circumstances – and the virtual buddy system worked a treatnobody had to miss out. The venue team were incredibly thorough, frequently cleaning touchpoints and upholding safety measures, yet still warm and friendly – loved it! – Julianne Johnson, Vertu Motors. 

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