Amsterdam: Ernst & Young goes Dutch

Accountancy firm's FAAS series meeting is held at 'Amsterdam's beach'

Pre-event planning: Ernst & Young's financial accounting and advisory services (FAAS) division is a fast-growing part of the firm. To help staff stay abreast of the latest developments and how it markets its services, the division started a series of meetings last year. Past events have been held in central Amsterdam, Paris and London Heathrow. Once the decision is taken to have a meeting, Ernst & Young undertakes a cost analysis, says manager Pamela Eligio. "We look at cost in the widest sense, so for example, if there are time savings for some delegates by having the event in a particular place, it may outweigh room rates." Eligio considered five destinations that its agency Zibrant proposed, along with various travel options.

Objectives: The aim of the event was to ensure that delegates were aligned to the firm's FAAS objectives, summed up under the tagline 'One FAAS'. Colleagues have the chance to network, collaborate and learn from each other.

Challenges: A challenge for Eligio was working with an external agency for the first time. However, having undertaken a cost analysis, she was convinced of the business case for working with Zibrant. "It allows me to focus more on the quality of the event and have an opportunity to participate during sessions. I was able to take more of a back seat once we had agreed the brief.

I don't need to tell them how to do their job, but it was key that the team were both responsive and provided me with service to a standard that I was satisfied with," she says.

This was tested when Zibrant's project manager became ill shortly before the event. The agency replaced the individual quickly, and kept Eligio in the loop, so the event was able to proceed smoothly.

Solution: About half of the delegates were from the UK, Ireland and Channel Islands, with the rest travelling from neighbouring countries. Hotels van Oranje was an obvious choice, as Ernst & Young's Netherlands firm had used it in the past for various summer training courses. Noordwijk, sometimes referred to as Amsterdam's beach, is also 30 minutes from Schiphol Airport, making for easy access while allowing delegates the chance to appreciate the Netherlands beyond the tourist capital.

Delegates arrived the night before to register and network at a drinks reception. This was followed by a private dinner, after which the space was available to continue mingling or to relax quietly by the fireplace. The first half of the following day was taken up with break-out sessions in various rooms. The second part brought groups back together for a final plenary.

Client verdict: Overall, Eligio was pleased with the event. "I had excellent feedback from our delegates and am happy with the way it was handled behind the scenes," she says. "Next time around we will be more familiar with each other, which means things will be easier and more fun. We'll definitely be working with Zibrant again and as with any event, will be using our experience to build on the success of the next event."

Post-event analysis: During the conference, the decision was taken to relocate the Zibrant business office to a central location. "Looking back, this was a very good decision for the convenience of the delegates," says Eligio. "It also made it easy for me to easily locate them if needed." This was the third FAAS event and the team is already planning for the next event in September.

FACTFILE
Company: Ernst & Young
Event: Internal meeting
Group size: 100
Agency: Zibrant
Date: 15 April
Venue: Hotels van Oranje, Noordwijk

TIMELINE
December:
Planning starts immediately after successful 2010 conference
15 March:
Eligio carries out site visit and approves service levels and rooms
15 April:
Event runs and planning starts for the next meeting
September:
Next in series set to take place.

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