When two multi-national companies merge the task of bringing their substantial sales forces together at a conference requires major organisation.
Yet this is exactly what Hewlett-Packard's (HP) Enterprise Systems Group needed to do, following the amalgamation of HP and Compaq earlier this year.
The delegate numbers - 4,000 - would have presented a logistical challenge in itself, but getting them all in one place from 41 different countries throughout continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa, plus a large contingent from the UK, was an added test. MICE International had worked with Compaq on events prior to the merger, so it was a natural choice for the merged HP to appoint the agency to organise this event.
"This was the first event where the new HP Enterprise sales force came together, notes HP director, corporate sponsorship and events Andrew Collis. "Our objectives were to equip delegates with the right information and motivate the two sales forces to join together as one impressive new team."
Not only did MICE International have to find a city with excellent international air connections, but also one that offered a large-scale conference venue with enough hotel stock. "We finally selected Berlin as its location meant easy access and its main venue, the ICC Berlin, lends itself well to events of this kind, states MICE's project manager, Sarah Mathieson.
"We wanted to use a comprehensive multi-media solution to ensure that we put across the training messages effectively, she adds. "The ICC Berlin was a logical choice as it has one of the biggest stages in Europe, which was an essential attribute, as was its large number of breakout rooms given that we were running 30 different sessions. Additionally, it has a lot of experience working with high-profile companies on large-scale events."
"The ICC Berlin was very good indeed, agrees Collis. "Berlin proved to be an ideal location for this size of event and all the right infrastructure was in place - from technical support to security, transport and catering."
The task of getting all the delegates to Berlin fell to another part of the MICE Group - Opus Creative Marketing - which also organised the accommodation at a number of hotels in the city. Fortunately, the logistical process ran smoothly. "We were able to source flights easily for the delegates through chartering, explains Mathieson. "We also organised a dedicated arrivals terminal at Schoenefeld Airport, which ensured arrivals went without a hitch."
Over the course of the three-day event, delegates experienced a combination of plenary sessions, sales training and workshops. MICE International created a large-scale video and media projection for the plenary sessions, allowing images to be displayed on a 600 sq m screen. With an event of this scale, the amount of extension precision rigging for lights and audio-visual (AV) equipment required, saw Vertigo Rigging appointed to handle this role.
Collis recalls what a vital role AV technology played in the success of the event. "The power of the big screen and the related software were key factors in some highly effective plenary sessions. With such a large auditorium and audience the AV aspect of the event was crucial, he comments.
HP used its links with Formula 1 racing - the company is a main sponsor of the BMW Williams F1 team - to motivate the delegates further. They were treated to guest appearances by Frank Williams - the principal behind the Williams team - and racing driver Ralf Schumacher. Says Collis: "Frank and Ralf's live contribution was a highlight of the conference, creating a three-minute standing ovation from the entire audience. A major F1 sequence was adopted to demonstrate some key themes of the conference, such as 'The Will to Win', 'Teamwork' and 'Always Looking to the Future'."
Three days of hard work were concluded by a gala evening. In order to ensure that delegates could properly unwind, MICE International decided against a formal banquet and organised a beer festival evening in typical German fashion. A 5,000 sq m marquee was constructed in Alexanderstrasse in central Berlin, and traditional German beers and food were served at a buffet while delegates were entertained by a live band.
Despite the evening turning out to be a big hit in the end, Mathieson recalls how near it came to disaster. "We had a close shave with freak weather conditions the day before. Berlin was hit by a tornado which could have been a real problem as we'd spent the previous ten days constructing the marquee. Fortunately, the anchorage held and we were able to go ahead as planned."
Collis particularly liked how the festival atmosphere was conducive to building camaraderie among the participants. "The beer festival encouraged people to mix - the fact that everyone was singing and dancing together into the wee hours was testament not just to the success of that event, but to the conference as a whole."
Indeed, Collis was pleased with how the entire programme worked out.
"The event team, along with MICE International, moved mountains and invested incredible creativity, expertise and effort to get this show on the road.
By the close of the conference the atmosphere was extremely upbeat and our goal had been fully achieved, he concludes.
Company: Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Systems Group
Agency: MICE International
Event: sales training conference
Date: 9-11 July 2002
Group size: 4,000