Wednesday, 15 October 2014

International CMP writer, trainer to give workshop on ‘Professional Project & Risk Management of Events’

International CMP writer, trainer to give workshop on ‘Professional Project & Risk Management of Events’

Litha Communications will be running a two-day workshop in Johannesburg on ‘Professional Project and Risk Management of Events’, facilitated by Gwen Watkins, a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP®) accredited by the Convention Industry Council, Washington DC, and an international writer and trainer on events management and PR. She will cover the broad aspects of risk management and a professional overview of project management of events and meetings to assist participants to apply tested project management techniques to events and manage them to budget, the desired quality and on time. Delegates will learn the context and need for risk management, within internal and external events, and will understand how to identify risks that they can or cannot manage and how to mitigate these.

They will understand the role of contingency planning and how to create, produce and monitor a risk plan. Each delegate receives a 70-page manual, including WBS and Gantt chart exercises and checklists.

“Risk management at events is not ‘someone else’s problem’ – it is the legal duty of the event organiser,” states Teresa Jenkins, MD of Litha Communications. “This includes internally organised events that invite people outside of the organisation, such as clients, employees’ families or the public, where the CEO is held liable for employee’s mismanagement.

“In addition to the ‘Safety at Sports & Recreational Events Act’, there are other provincial and municipal bylaws and the common law precept of ‘Duty of Care’, which bind all event coordinators to safety management. “The addition of project management principles enables events organisers to overcome the lack of understanding of the value of work breakdown schedules, Gantt charts and other essential project management tools in the planning of events, which in turn mitigate risk,” concludes Jenkins.

Watkins has written the ‘Conference & Events Management Textbook’, for Edge Publishing, for third year tourism students taking events management as an elective in 2013 and 2014. This is a South African guide, based on her 30-year experience in the industry and her lecturing background on the subject at several tertiary institutions.

Amongst other associations, she is member of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI). She has run her own public relations, marketing and events management consultancy since 1988 in South Africa and, since 2011, Botswana.

The course will be held on 22-23 October 2014 at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand at a price of R7 100 +VAT.

For more information, email The course will be held in Cape Town on 20-21 November 2014.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

New training club offers benefits to delegates

Litha Communications has launched a training club that benefits the delegates as well as their companies. A series of training on events management takes executive assistants, PAs and department heads, who are asked to “just quickly organise an event,” through the processes. The courses are suitable also for those who regularly organise events on behalf of their company, such as the AGM, the staff party, the golf day, the stakeholders’ meetings etc.

“We want our delegates to feel as if they belong to a club, where they get rewards for participating,” explains Teresa Jenkins, MD of Litha Communications, a professional events management company of long standing. The company is now prepared to share its extensive knowledge with the market to further the skills of the conferences, events and exhibitions industries and promote South Africa as a professional meeting destination.

“If they book all three one-day courses in the series, they qualify as a LC Club Member, with ongoing support, individual prizes and the choice of a complimentary ½ day course  ‘Managing time, stress to achieve goals’ or ‘Organising formal meetings and report writing’. They are also treated to a champagne and Lindt chocolate indulgence accompanied by a luxury neck, foot and hand massage,” concludes Jenkins.

The first course, Create Memorable Events, takes place in Johannesburg on 22 October 2013. It covers the following points.

1.   First meeting   
2.   Establishing event needs           
3.   Selecting venues           
4.   Invitations & registration forms            
5.   Planning programmes
6.   Managing setup and breakdown            
7.   On the day        
8.   Checklists
9.   20 décor ideas
10. Great theme parties that work year round

The second and third in the series, ‘Organising in-house events’ and ‘Getting more from your events’,  will be held on 23 and 24 October. The entire series will be repeated later this year and begin again next year from late January.

With each Learn with Litha training course, delegates will receive a certificate and handbook. Participants who attend five courses will be given the ‘Conference & Events Management Textbook’, published earlier this year by the course facilitator, Gwen Watkins, a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP®).

Catch the Early Bird price of R3550 by booking and paying by 7 October 2013. Normal price is R3950.

As there is limited space, book now and call Kim Bateman on +27 (0)11 477 2082 / +27 (0 11 484 7663 or email

Monday, 2 September 2013

Annual reports need flow not structure

Creativity, storytelling and design in an annual report are essential requirements if one wants readers to be engaged in the organisation’s activities for the past year and not be put off by dense chunks of numbered text. This is particularly true of government departments that need to involve their stakeholders in the processes and potential of various projects and capture their imagination, buy in and support.

This requires much more than just design. The initial step is to take the data needed and convert it into prose. Too often, each department produces copy with extensive numbering that looks more like a lawyer’s contract than a story about the successes and setbacks of the year.

If one was describing the satisfaction gained from a successful delivery of services to a colleague or interested party, one would relate it as a tale – one would not use lists and numbers but rather speak of the difficulties surmounted, the excitement of well-executed projects and programmes and the look on people’s faces as they received benefits.

Even obstacles can be instructive, by providing valuable lessons learned for the forthcoming year and offering an opportunity to mitigate the circumstances by outlining new preventative measures.

Do more than outline the organisation’s mission, vision and values – show how committed staff members, executives and all who play a part in the department deliver them. An annual report is part of the organisation’s human talent recruitment programme – potential employees, directors or shareholders can be motivated and excited by this information and long to participate in its efforts.

Designing interest
Photographs are an essential in an annual report but are often simply large, static photos of executives, which again fail to capture the readers’ interest. One group photo of the executives/board should be sufficient. Let the rest intensely capture the mood of the report.

During this next year, start capturing photos of executives actively participating in events and recipients of the organisation’s projects and programmes. With a large library of such photos, the choice for annual reports can widen to incorporate vivid images of the board, executives and key staff members actively engaged in service delivery. Team these up with captivating captions, not “the Minister/CEO.”

If single or group images of the board/executives are required, ensure that a professional photographer comes in early in the year and shoots the photos with the correct lighting and background. If necessary, use a consultant to advise on the kind of makeup, styling and clothes that are used in television studios to produce attractive photographic effects. Low-level cellphone images do not translate well into high gloss printing and rushed photos detract from professionalism of the design.

Figures, while essential for the financial aspects of the report, should be used sparingly in other parts of the report. Graphs, pie charts and flow charts are visually more appealing and easier to read and comprehend. However, if one is supplying these as locked images to the editorial and design team, ensure that they have been spellchecked, as locked images cannot be corrected.

Bullet points serve to break up long lists and highlight certain sections – however, they are not used with punctuation but appear as single lines. If there is more than one sentence per point, rewrite it to achieve one idea per point.

Headings and crossheads create interest on a page and, used with white space, create a pleasing aspect to the reader, albeit subliminal. Extensive use of capital letters, unless referring to a legal entity should be avoided, as they break the reader’s concentration and flow.

Editing – more than proofreading
Though clients ask for proofreading services, what is usually required is editing, which is ‘the making revisions to and suggestions about the content of a document, focusing on improving the accuracy of language, flow and overall readability, as well as checking for grammar and spelling’.

With multiple authors, there are often inconsistencies in the document between US English and South African English in the use of such words as organization vs organisation or program vs programme. There can also be changes in style, where one department uses the third person and another favours first person.

Here is where the use of a highly experienced editor is so essential; the editor reads the entire document, gets the flavour of the house style, the underlying tone of the document and the visual effects of the messages and ensures this continuity throughout the report.

Perfection requires time
With all of the above however, sufficient preparation time is an essential. Even before the financial year-end is reached, selected writers should be selected within the company to begin collating data. Despite the late inclusion of the final financial figures and auditor’s reports, it is possible to create the bulk of the report within weeks of the year-end, based on quarterly reports, media interchanges, progress reports and events. However, convert Excel spreadsheets containing key performance indicators into more readable prose, as readers find table a strain on the eyes and tend to overlook or skim through them, which means vital messages may be lost.

Once collected and assembled, the external editor can assemble this into a readable chronicle of the year’s high and lows, ready for the first draft, usually produced as a Word document for ease of reading and proofing. The designer, in the meantime, can create the design shell into which the text will be inserted. Once the text is adjusted, rewritten and signed off, it is proof read and then inserted into the design for the first PDF proof, which creates the look and feel of the final report. The client can then view the first text-correct design, suggest any possible changes and the final copy can be produced for printing.

Annual reports are not only legal documents but can be powerful marketing and fundraising tools.

Litha Communications offers design, editing, proofing and printing services for annual reports, newsletters, brochures and any marketing communication.Annual reports need flow not structure

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Greening an event

For event organisers it is sometimes difficult to green an event, as so many of the factors are outside your control, such as guest’s carbon footprint in getting to the venue, the venue’s use of electricity and water and a lack of alternative transport modes in South Africa.

One way to offset the probable carbon footprint, is to team up with such organisations as Trees for Africa, Wildlands Conservation Trust, Earth Patrol, Climate Africa etc.

Here are some more steps you can take that will add to the overall ‘greening’ of an event and include the three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Accommodation and activities
Consult your local authority about accommodation and activities that promote green practices. Most cities can offer new ideas for guests that promote the environment and add to leisure pleasure.

·        Give preference to venues with a sound environmental policy

·        Work with the venue to ensure lights and air conditioning are switched off when not in use

·        Consider venues that use as much natural light and natural ventilation as possible

·        Ask for jugs of water with slices of lemon for delegates – South African tap water is perfectly drinkable and bottled water is a waste of natural resources, energy and a pollutant

·        Use local, in season food to support the economy and reduce transport

·        Select fish from sustainable fish supplies

·        Avoid unnecessary packaging and plastic bags

·        Where possible use bulk dispensers for sugar, salt, condiments and sauces.

·        Avoid individually wrapped sweets

·        Try to reduce the food wastage – is a three-course meal necessary at lunchtime?

·        If plastic and paper waste are generated, ensure the venue supplies separate bins for delegates to be active recyclers

·        Try using ‘living’ décor such as moss, stones and succulent plants. Send your decorations home with your guests at the end of the event or reuse them for another event

Printed material and information
·        Use new media and electronic technology to reduce paper use – SMS seating and registration details

·        Use electronic registration and market electronically via website and email

·        Collect and reuse name badges

·        Produce all relevant information, presentations, papers and web links via electronic media

·        If you do have to print – use recycled paper and print on both sides of the paper

·        Consider requesting guests to bring their own pens and notepads (most have notepads leftover from other events)

Finally, include the greening message at some stage in the proceedings to remind your guests how fragile the ecosystem is and how all can assist in greening the planet.

Our commitment
Litha Communications is a member of the Event Greening Forum and our CEO, Andile Ncontsa, is a board member of the forum.

We seek to offset the carbon footprint of our operations and take care to conduct our business in an environmentally responsible way. We offer our clients an opportunity to do the same by contributing a tree for every delegate that attends our events.

For this purpose, our NGO partner of choice is the Wildlands Conservation Trust. The Trust is working to conserve our region’s biodiversity through the development and facilitation of innovative solutions, which take into account the unique biodiversity assets of South Africa while sustainably meeting the socio-economic needs of current and future generations. Most importantly, they offer marginalised youth and women, new skills in new green industries that protect and preserve our heritage and the planet for future generations to come. For more information, go to

We also contribute our time, talent and materials to Waste2Wow, a job creation design and manufacturing studio that recycles advertising banners and billboards, turning trash into creative and desirable eco-friendly “wow” items - 

We believe that enriching society and preserving our planet for future generations is not an option or a nice thing to do - it is a matter of necessity

For more greening ideas, go to