Design A TestTown Event
Welcome and Getting to Know Each Other
Booking in a welcome at the start of the event allows everyone involved the chance to get to know one another before activities begin. It also allows the hosts and town representatives to officially welcome the participants (and provides a good local press/ broadcast opportunity to promote the event.) You can also develop this by setting up an online discussion group for the participants pre the event using Facebook or Basecamp (see Section 3: What Do You Need case studies.)
Training and preparation
In 2013, 2014 and in Glasgow Saltmarket 2016, Carnegie UK Trust led a one-day business masterclass session for participants at the start of each event. Speakers were invited from our partners, and the participants undertook breakout, classroom and project activities. An example of the structure of our masterclass session can be found in Section 8: TestTown Templates. The 2015 TestTown hosts all designed their own training and masterclass sessions based on the event they were running and the requirements of their participants.
Town Centre Challenge
In 2016, the TestTown team with local hosts in Glasgow piloted a ‘Regeneration Challenge’ where the participants were asked to go out in teams into the Saltmarket and find out about the place – what people thought, the challenges they faced and
what they wanted for the future. They were then asked to collate the feedback received and present to the hosts the next morning with their own ideas of what they thought could make a difference. This turned out to be one of the most valuable days of the event. The retailers and wider public were incredibly generous with their time and appreciated being given the space to talk. We have been left with a wealth of feedback, criticisms and ideas which the hosts will now take forward in their work in the area.
If the pre-work in the spaces used has all been completed, set-up for the participants should be straightforward and not too time consuming. Health and Safety checks of the spaces will need be carried out once the participants have set these up.
Launch and official opening of trading
It is always worth marking this point in the event and making a fuss. It is a simple as involving local celebrities or dignitaries to ‘cut a ribbon’ to officially ‘open’ the TestTown trading. It also is a good time to gather the participants together to give them some words of encouragement before they face the public.
The focal point of the whole event and the days the participants enjoy the most. Our advice would be to run them over a long weekend to give the participants the best shot at getting visitors through the door. The dedicated TestTown co-ordinator is integral at this point and needs to be onsite at all times to centrally manage ad-hoc queries and
issues. They should have back-up from other members of the team who are willing to be hands on and run errands between the trading spaces. The co-ordinator (at least) should have a mobile that receives signal across the town centre and may well need to carry their phone charger with them. Make sure that you have emergency contact
numbers for any of the key partners who might be needed, particularly if the activity is taking place over the weekend e.g. the local authority contacts or property landlord if applicable.
A half or full day in the event programme should be devoted to clear up. We found that it was important to fully brief teams explaining that their trading space must be left in the same condition as they were presented. It is likely that this will require some detailed planning – for example, have suitable waste bags been provided? Has a collection point been established between the local authority and host town? At the end of the clear up, a team member should then inspect all spaces used to make sure teams have not left anything behind. While inspecting units, a representative from the letting agency/ landlord should be in attendance if possible. Any additional works should be identified and agreed with letting agency representative/landlord.
At the end of each TestTown event organised by Carnegie UK Trust we held a judging event in a town centre venue. This was designed as a celebration for participants and stakeholders. Judges, who have seen the teams in action during their trading days, invited the teams to give short presentations on their TestTown experience and business idea, and what they have learned from the experience. The presentations were considered alongside the judges own scoring and public feedback data, to announce prize winners and runners up. Local business leaders and supporters were often invited to these events to informally connect with the teams, and they have often been good PR opportunities. We would highly recommend some form of final event to give the TestTown project focus for the participants.
Although we have always sought to create an atmosphere of celebration at these occasions with decorations, speeches and food and drink such as a meal or canapés served, the events can sometimes end with a sense of anti-climax. There is unavoidably disappointment amongst those who have not won, and participants are usually exhausted after all of their hard work. For this reason you may wish to consider:
• How you structure the event in order to end on a high note where everyone feels involved and congratulated (try to avoid the programme ‘tailing off’)
• How participants might be occupied whilst the judges make their decisions (if this takes place during the event) – e.g. could there be some entertainment provided? Will there be enough refreshments for people if the judges take some time?
• Additional recognition or prizes for runners-up or people/teams that have excelled in a particular category
• Giving some level of positive feedback to all participants (e.g. could you make a video of positive customer feedback that reflects on all teams)
• Emphasise any ongoing support/mentoring that you’re able to offer
Words of Advice
My best bit would be the engagement with the competitors during the online surgeries. A few lines of communication made all the difference in their applications and enthusiasm.
TestTown 2013 Host
You will never learn what we have learned this week in a college room or in a lecture hall, from a book or off the internet – it’s a real life experience and it has been invaluable.
TestTown 2015 Participant
The time management is definitely one of the harder challenges as you need to set up within the space of two/three days. Whilst doing so you also need to try and make sure that the public know that you’re popping up shortly. Nevertheless, it’s a skill which needs to be developed and I can genuinely say that during the final it was one of the most productive weeks ever.
TestTown 2014 Participant