Having organised a number of events in Beijing, I kind of get a little bit critical of myself over how they are managed and turn out. However yesterday’s trip to YeYaHu Wetland National Park to go bird watching with Terry Townshend, was properly kick-ass.
People had a lot of fun and gained a lot from it, which is what it is all about!
So here are my 10 reasons why:
- Invite an expert
Beijing is fortunately blessed with one of the world’s renowned birders, originating from Norfolk, Terry Townshend, runs a Birding Beijing Blog, consults the Chinese Government on Climate Change and is also a really nice fellow. The initial date of the event depended completely on his schedule. He chose a day that coincided with the start of a 3 day Chinese holiday. Not great for traffic leaving Beijing, but he provided the intellectual knowledge that enabled attendees to learn something from coming. Terry’s expertise was the marketing and the focal point of the day.
- Power of WeChat
Baring three cash payments, all 50+ transactions for the day (accumulated worth: RMB 5030) were done through this messaging app, as well as that: communication to attendees, marketing the event, sharing pictures was all over WeChat- it goes without saying to organise an event in China- you 100% need a solid WeChat game.
- If it is niche enough, then there is no need to over promote, people will come
Me organising a Birding event even a month ago is laughable. I’ve never given two hoots about the art. However because it is such a peculiar hobby, it was perfectly engaging for the British Young Professionals and the Beijing Energy Committee (two groups I’m a part of) for one day people to give it a try. I was confident it would fill up so there was no need to over share. Over promoting raises expectations, people get sick of reading about seeing this event advertised and allows the people who have found the event to feel like it is more valuable and almost edgy!
- Building a Tribe
People want to feel special upon joining the tour group before coming. A simple message welcoming each member into the WeChat group goes a long way. It encourages people to feel comfortable and confident to speak out and allows for better cohesion amongst each other. A friendlier tour group makes for a more memorable time.
- Hire people who are reliable
In terms of the logistics planning, hire people who you have a prior relationship with and you know are reliable. First impressions are not so important in China, it is developing a relationship which really ensures rewards. Our long term relationship with one bus company has ensured we get a decent rate with friendly, punctual drivers and comfortable plush buses. My 100% reliable man, Li ShiFu, never lets me down.
6. Give honest communication
The traffic to YeYaHu Wetland National Park was seriously jam packed. We’d left at 6am and it was now 9:00am, I’d stated we’d get there by now but instead we were in a big jam on the G6. Pressure was rising. People needed to receive verbal communication in times of uncertainty. So I got on the mic and told the bus honestly that the initial estimations were off but also promised hope from receiving the (real) news that a person in the group who travelled by car had arrived and the traffic would subside. Soon enough it did!
7.Always value your group
During this mega jam, we had two people asking for a bathroom break. The thought crossed my mind to open the doors and get people to relieve themselves at the side of the road. We were moving pretty slow and that is what we’d do in my family car!
Thankfully the thought subsided, I acknowledged the calls for the bathroom, and after trundling on for a little longer, we pulled up at a roadside toilet. If overall the day is a great experience, people forget that you arrive 20 minutes or even 2 hours late to a place, but they would never forgive someone showing a lack of respect by asking them to pee behind a tree!
7.1 …...but especially value your guest speaker/tour guide
Without a doubt, your guest speakers or tour guides are the most important part of a trip or event. They are giving up their time (usually for free) and to ensure that you as an organiser are seen positively for future events, it is imperative that a thoughtful gift is prepared (a card is more personal). The day after all must not be a chore for them but an enjoyable, mentor-led experience.
8. Networking is most important
Despite the education that took place: to do with bird watching and a wetlands ecosystem; the biggest gain from any event is meeting new people. Allowing time for breaks, picnic lunch, extra time at ice cream stalls and the countless spottings of birds gave people ample time to chat with each other which when you compare that to typical panel/speaker-led events, is a rare and valuable thing.
9. Altruistic marketing
The day in itself was pretty budget- the cost of a ticket was RMB120 ( I even sold some for RMB80-100), overall that included a 6 hour bus ride, Terry’s expert advice and a flat RMB 50 entry fee. That said all proceeds from the profits (of which there were some!) went to the environmental charity volunteering group- Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots. This attracts attendees who are conscious of where there money goes.
- Pictures sell
First off, to my delight birding is actually a very subtle art. We spotted over 25 different species during the day and experienced some great sights. Everyone shared their photos at the end of the day which allowed you to create a bank of great photos from which to market the next event whenever it comes 🙂
At the end of the day, organise things that excite and interest you, and quite honestly going bird watching was one of them! Beijing Birders For Life!