Each year, Wilko, the high-street retailer, hosts a week-long conference at its head office in Worksop whereby approximately 400 store managers from across the country are invited to attend on specific days to receive business updates and divisional performance reviews, and to learn about what to expect from Wilko’s forthcoming seasonal collection. This year wilko had planned to hold an additional February conference to share information with managers regarding their spring/summer product range.
With only six weeks remaining, Wilko told the bold decision to fundamentally change the format of the conference and instead, opt for a roadshow-style event. The reason behind this decision was to prevent its store managers from unnecessary travel and to minimise time away from their teams and day-to-day business operations.
MCS was well-equipped and tasked accordingly to pull out all the stops and rapidly deliver the roadshow which would consist of three internal conferences spanning across the North, South and Midlands.
Faced with a roadshow format, MCS firstly looked to getting the venues scouted. Only once the venues were booked could all the set designs be confirmed due to the varying shape, size and ceiling height of each venue’s event space. MCS liaised with each venue to discuss the space and clarify what facilities would be available, how many speakers could be on the stage at one time, etc.
MCS took care of all the logistical elements, including booking a guest speaker, arranging sufficient trucking and crew, and booking accommodation for the senior management who would be attending and presenting at each event.
MCS worked with the wilko events team to devise a well-planned agenda for each event, recommending a shorter conference length than had previously been worked to. By kicking off at 10:00am, rehearsal time was factored in for those regional representatives who would be presenting at their respective conference.
The conference would open with a short intro from the relevant regional manager, followed by a presentation from Wilko’s new retail director, enabling the store managers to hear from him for the very first time.
Delegates would then be invited to an hour-long Q&A session with the Board, giving them the opportunity to hear directly from company director, Lisa Wilkinson herself, as well as the company COO and CFO, on topics such as the ongoing strategy, business performance and plans for the year ahead.
Following a comfort and refreshment break, the conference would conclude with a guest speaker who would be animated and theatrical enough to lift delegates from any post-lunch energy slump. The day would then finish with a brief awards presentation for those store managers with the most improved sales, best customer service, etc. before closing at 3:00pm.
The MCS team (consisting of an event manger plus two technicians) travelled to Sunderland on Sunday 19th February to set up at the first location and facilitate the main rehearsal the following day with senior members of the Wilko team who would be speaking at the conference.
Conference 1 took place on Tuesday 21st. MCS then derigged and travelled to Warwick where a second team was waiting to set up conference 2 while team 1 rested. Following completion of the conference on Wednesday 22nd, MCS again went through the motions of derigging and travelling on to the third and final destination, Cirencester, where once again the tag-team was ready and waiting to get everything ready for the next day.
MCS was on hand throughout the week to ensure the Wilko team had everything they needed, to make sure each venue was fully briefed on all the logistics at every step of the way, and to also make any required changes to the video content, imagery and slides.
Each conference welcomed an average of 140 store managers. There was a degree of apprehension amongst delegates about the content of that day as rumours had somehow spread that some significant business changes might be unveiled.
Due to this, pre-prepared questions, based on internal feedback on staff concerns, were used for the Q&A. To address any questions that the delegates may have wished to ask on the day, comment cards were made available to everyone so that the Board could follow up and respond after the event.
The chosen speaker was a highly engaging psychologist and behavioural expert that Wilko had worked with previously. Whilst presented in an amusing way, he delivered an important underlying message about shifting the company culture and urging the store managers very inspiringly to become leaders, rather than managers.
It was clear to see that the delegates left the conferences on a high and looking forward to the year ahead. Feedback from each conference reported sentiments of: “Really enjoyed the day, great sessions and length of the day was just right” and “The day was really informative and personal, I left feeling very positive” And with the final day captured on film by the MCS crew, the footage has been edited into a DVD which enables store managers to share the messaging with their own teams.