Sunday, February 4, 2007

Event Planning 101

At the beginning of the term the CUMBA office sent an email inviting me to attend their gala 40th anniversary dinner at the HK Convention Center. I was tempted, but after looking at the HK$700 (~ US$90) price tag, I balked and passed.

However, when I received another email saying they were discounting the price for students to HK$350, myself and a number of students decided to go, thinking it would be a great opportunity to newtwork and meet new people. Boy were we wrong. . .

Last Saturday was the event, and after class ended at 5:15 we rushed to change and get to Wan Chai to partake of the "cocktails" from 6-7:30. When we arrived we noticed servers circulating with glasses of what looked to be screwdrivers, gin and tonics, and rum and cokes. We figured it was odd to have such a structured choice, but hey those were 3 of the most popular tipples out there, and as students we weren't picky.

Imagine our surprise, when we found that the drinks were sans alcohol. That's right, they weren't screwdrivers, G&Ts, and Rum&Cokes, they were OJ, Sprite, and Coke. We go over to the bar, but all the bartender is doing is pouring more of glasses of these non-alcoholic drinks. At this point we were kind of upset, I mean to advertise cocktails but not provide them was a party foul of the highest degree. Especially at a mingling event, where alcohol is a necessary social lubricant. Its event planning 101. OK Strike 1 for the evening

Someone suggested that maybe it was a translation error, but us westerners disagreed vociferously. Yes, a cocktail doesn't have to be alcoholic, but it does require a mixture of two different beverages and none of the options were mixed. . . Well, the Tuck student wouldn't accept this situation (ah glad to see that Dartmouth trains its grad students just as well in the fine art of drinking), and took matters into her own ends by asking the bartender if there was anything with alcohol. The bartender pulls a can of beer from under the table and purs her a glass. Of course, we all then ask for the same since it was better than nothing though we found it weird not to advertise this option.

Next we noticed that all the students were assigned to the same 2 tables. . . Basically we were at the postgraduate kiddie tables, and none of us were happy about this. We came assuming that we'd be able to meet new people and now we were going to eat with the same faces. Not that we disliked each other, but we could have spent much less than HK$350 to have dinner together. OK Strike 2 for the evening.

Realizing that I wasn't going to meet anybody new at the dinner table, I tried mingling during the OJ reception, but breaking into circles is hard when people are speaking Cantonese. . . I did meet one person, and we had a good conversation butI was hoping for more than 1 new contact.

Upon sitting down, things looked up momentarily. The menu was filled with all the traditional Chinese banquet foods that I hadn't tried before. Shark Fin Soup, Abalone, Steamed Garoupa, etc. However we got such a little amount of each delicacy that many of us were hungry at the end. Plus, Shark Fin and Abalone are WAY overrated. OK Strike 3.

Strikes 4, 5, and 6 occurred when the program started. Since this was an anniversary dinner there were lots of speakers and videos about the history and future of the program. It lasted 4 hours (WAY TOO LONG) and much of it was in Cantonese. Now I understand many of the alums were Cantonese, but there was a fair number of non-Cantonese speakers in the audience as well and leaving us out for 1.5 hours was not acceptable. Especially since serving the dinner paused during this portion of the program, and I was starving.

Anyways, what promised to be a great night ended up being lackluster. I was pissed about spending $350 on the meal, but even more that I wasted my Saturday night. Anyways, yesterday, my buyer behavior professor asks us what we thought of the dinner. A few of us answer truthfully. Of course it was us westerners, as I've discovered that many of the Chinese will remain silent (or lie) when not pleased with something.

He was a bit surprised and said we had valid points, but also said that we weren't the target market for the dinner. Yes that was painfully clear, but then why in the hell were we marketed to in the first place? Wasn't that the first rule of marketing, don't waste your resources on the non-target market, shouldn't an MBA program know that?

1 comment:

shmoo said...

That's pretty bad. But I wonder, if the original price were $350, would you have paid, or was it the fact that the price was lowered from $700 that convinced all of you?