10 things event planners can learn from the BBC Apprentice

I barely have time to watch TV, but I do make time for the BBC Apprentice, which is now on every Wednesday from 9 – 10 pm GMT. For those of you who are not familiar with this business reality show, it is a business competition for aspiring business men and women to get investment for their business from Lord Sugar, very prominent British businessman. Each week two groups compete against each other and someone is fired from the losing team.

I came up with the idea for this post after watching last week episode at which the groups had to organise two day trips outside London. Also last season they had an episode for eventprofs at which the groups had to organise corporate away days. That was interesting! This show is a great source of ideas for eventprofs because we can learn few things:

  1. The brief

    Sometimes we get a short brief, sometimes long and we have to come up with a brilliant concept. The brief last week was “coaches are money making machines, now I want you to create your own coach tours. I’ve laid on the coaches, you need to fill them, selling tickets to tourists in London who want a day trip outside of the capital. You need to plan the tour, negotiate entry to some top attractions, and show people a good time. The team, that makes the most amount of profit in this task will win, and the losing team, at least one of you will be fired”.  Emphasises in this task was profit, but other elements are as important! It is always fascinating to see the completely two different end-results!

  2. Who’s the project manager

    As soon as the teams are set and the brief is clear, each group needs to decide who the project manager is. The PMs are usually selected based on their professional background or industry specific knowledge or sometimes with no experience at all in regard to the task in hand. Being a project manager (or event manager in that case) requires you to be very focused, results driven, know how to delegate and take responsibility. Among the two project managers last week one claimed to be an ‘event planner’ as his background is organising pub quizzes. The event community, including myself highly disagreed on that and think that there is more to event management. Very luckily his team won. The other project manager had a financial background. Many people think that it is very easy to organise events, but these task just proved how challenging it is.

  3. Teambuilding ideas

    BBC Apprentice is full of ideas for teambuilding activities. Some of the past episodes include creation of a new beer, new condiment, candles, website and so on. This show is a source of inspiration!

  4. Incentive ideas

    The group that wins each week gets rewarded. These rewards are very often a good idea for a high-end event you would organise for a client or an idea for a corporate team incentive. Some of the past rewards include:

  • Dinner in a luxury house with a top chef from Fortnum & Mason
  • 5 star country club with including a Segway experience
  • Cocktails made by UK bartender of the year
  • Art inspired reception with cocktails and canapés (Amazing idea!!) And more on YouTube
  1. Karren Brady is a great speaker

    I had the great pleasure to attend one of her key noted last year at the International Confex, you can read my summary here. She’s a fantastic presenter!

  2. Commercial awareness 

    When delivering events on behalf of our clients, we have to think commercially – how to save costs, how to generate higher margins, how to sell more tickets etc. What is your ROI?

  3. Ideas for venues

    Each time I watch an episode, I try to spot as many venues as possible. Usually they change venues for each scene and you can spot at least four per episode! Series 10 episode 4 was filmed in Imperial College, The Goring Hotel, Mahiki and the Home House Private Members Club, for example.

  4. What makes a perfect pitch

    In most of the episodes, the teams need to pitch their products to potential clients. What makes a good/ bad pitch, what feedback they receive and what makes or breaks the deal are great case studies to consider.

  5. Teamwork

    In events it is all about the team work. In the BBC Apprentice, even though they are competing against each other, they need to work as a team to win the task. They have to be coordinated, supportive, have good communication between each other and a clear strategy that everyone follows.

  6. Think of Lord Sugar as your client

    I know event planners who use the “what if” scenario. What if the supplier or the speaker doesn’t show up? What if we don’t sell enough tickets? Etc. What if you have Lord Sugar as your client? It can be very challenging to have someone like Lord Sugar as your client, true, and he will make you to go beyond all limits and over deliver. But, if you always keep in mind what will make Lord Sugar to hire you, you will be fine 🙂

To conclude, this is a fantastic show for anyone who is interested in business and entrepreneurship and wants to get inspiration for events. It is a fantastic show to watch and to critically analyse the episodes and see what elements can be improved.

What else can you add to the list? And who do you think will win series 10 :)?

With Karren Brady at the International Confex 2014, London 

© The MICE Blog

© The MICE Blog
All photos © The MICE Blog
© The MICE Blog

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Comments (2)

  • Sarah Hill 9 years ago Reply

    A great checklist for next event. Some of these ideas like Ideas for venues, Teamwork, Teambuilding ideas, Incentive ideas are major parts to consider while planning for an event.

  • Harvey Lee 3 months ago Reply

    Great guide! Really very informative and helpful for me. Love information. Thanks and keep sharing.

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