Share this:

by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

Yesterday the SoolNua crew participated at Site Ireland’s annual summer event and came away inspired, energized and truly motivated. And it wasn’t just the unabated sunshine – temperatures were 25 degree +. Upon reflection this morning I realized the event involved the rather rare perfect alignment of 3 key factors in successful event delivery – venue, organization and participants.

The venue

Kildare VillageThe venue, its location, design, architecture, flow etc is crucial for event success. Yesterday’s event took place at Kildare Village one of 10 global sites owned by Value Retail, a company setting out to re-define outlet shopping. It set up in Ireland 8 years ago and offers shoppers discounted access to 62 luxury global brands including Anya Hindmarch, 7 For All Mankind, Brooks Brothers, Cath Kidston, Church’s etc

Located less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, Kildare Village takes its inspiration architecturally from the proud equestrian legacy of the county using lots of painted woods in stylized imitation of traditional stables. It’s pleasantly set amidst green meadows adjacent to an ancient abbey and connected to Kildare town by a magnificent deck walkway.

The Village is pristine with colourfully planted borders and broad thoroughfares with attractive street furniture offering ample rest spots. There’s a large Italian-inspired restaurant, L’Officina, operated by Dunne & Crescensi and a Starbucks. For the summer season there’s also a series of pop-up food stalls. There’s also an ass-kicking tourism team comprising Alison Johnston, Lee-Ann McCarthy and Gisele Mansfield.

We used Kildare Village yesterday like a theatrical set to provide a stimulating backdrop for our team-building activities. When our activities concluded we had free time to browse and shop before a wonderful wine tasting experience at L’Officina.


A perfect afternoon’s activity in a perfect venue with all activity points within easy range of each other. Customisation, convenience and comfort.

The organization

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.23.15Great events need professional expertise and yesterday’s event had professional expertise in abundance thanks to the involvement of Richard Phelan and his team from Dynamic Events. The SoolNua team has known Richard since he started Outdoor Dynamics back in the 1990s so it was wonderful to experience the amazing evolution of his business, particularly his embracing of technology as a key tool in team-building.

We were provided with smartphones, a booklet of questions and additional material was sent to us while we did our mad dash around Kildare Village in fulfilment of our tasks. Needless to say it was great fun as the 5 of us took implausible pictures in potentially compromising positions and sought answers to questions by fair means (and foul!).

Following our immersion in the Village, Richard organized a highly engaging and fiercely competitive “CupCake Decorating Contest” adjudicated by one of Ireland’s only Master Bakers. Significantly he arranged for the finished products to be delivered to a nearby Nursing Home.

Throughout the afternoon, and again over dinner, Richard organized for local musicians to provide live entertainment. He also caught us all delightfully by surprise when, under blistering sunshine, the 3 piece suddenly intoned Happy by Pharrell Williams only for a flash mob to materialize right before us. Needless to say it wasn’t long before the Grey Beard himself was right in the midst of it.

We completed our cake decorating task at one of the units-in-transition at Kildare Village and had ample space to do so. Drinks and snacks were provided and most of us licked our rubber-gloved fingers too.


A seamless activity during which old men with grey beards amiably collaborated with young women in heels. A veritable cornucopia of home baked delights was created. Patients at a local nursing home had colourful confectionary for their 8 o’clock tea.

The people

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.22.48Undoubtedly the most important element for the success of a live event is the people who attend it. This applies to large-scale public events such as festivals and football matches and smaller, private events like company meetings or association conferences. For public events the event itself will attract its own demographic – thus the much lamented Garth Brooks concerts in Dublin involved, by definition, fans of the country singer. And, in fairness, they’re a great group of fun loving revelers of all ages.

For private events of the type organized by professional meeting planners it’s not so easy to guarantee a like -minded crowd. Many corporate meetings are filled with disengaged attendees, disenfranchised associates, disinterested participants. That’s why what’s done BEFORE the live event plays such an important role in its success. By engaging with participants in advance through briefings, social media etc you maximize the chances of getting not only the right people, but the right people in the right head space!

Yesterday’s event at Kildare Village was comprised of members and friends of Site Ireland who work, mainly, in sales and marketing for hotels, venues and DMCs. They were a high octane bunch of cheerful extroverts who threw themselves unhesitatingly into the activities on offer.


A wonderfully warm atmosphere. Friendships made. Trust established. Sales achieved!

Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a boutique marketing agency specialising in MICE tourism. Thanks to Jason Clarke Photography for the great pictures





7 thoughts on “The 3 Ingredients for a Great Event

  1. Joan Eisenstodt says:

    Loved reading and seeing photos of this. Thanks for letting us share, vicariously, in your great adventure.

    I’m always envious of what others do b/c I have such limited mobility that it all looks daunting and I’ve found so few (US) activities are geared to those of us who are limited. In conversations with European, African and Asian colleagues, I find that it is less a concern to accommodate people in other places where the laws are not as stringent. Of course our US laws may be stringent; it doesn’t mean anyone knows what to do or will.

    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks for the lovely comment Joan – it’s always consoling to know that someone is actually reading!

  2. Joan Eisenstodt says:

    Welcome. Exchanging ideas with & learning from (& with) you is one if life’s joys. Really.

    1. padraicino says:

      I’ll be shortly reaching out again on our favourite topic of Ethics. I’ve been asked to address this most endearing of topics at a Site event in Canada in Fall 2014 and will be relying on your wisdom once again!

  3. Jackie De Burca says:

    Hi Padraic,

    This is an excellent post, and with such great ingredients I am not surprised it went off so well.

    A seamless activity during which old men with grey beards amiably collaborated with young women in heels.

    What a great description, it totally gets the point across.

    I am curious about one thing, in choosing an environment how are you guided?

    Sending over some Spanish sunshine


    1. padraicino says:

      Choosing the environment in some destinations is a simple matter of availability as many destinations are limited in terms of events infrastructure. That’s why Value Retail sites (you’ve got one in Spain too!)are such a welcome addition to the venue mix.

      In other destinations – Barcelona, I guess? – there’s an embarrassment of choice so you’re selection of venue will be down to client demographics – relative ages, mix of ages, industry and so on.

      Thanks a million Jackie for the opportunity to chat. Hope you’re doing well down there in Spain. Which reminds me of the Counting Crows, of course!

  4. Jackie De Burca says:

    Hi Padraic

    Thanks for your quick reply. Yes I guess when I asked the question I was immersed in our environment here. I am currently exploring these locations because of a route that was brought to my attention. It may not be relevant to your clients, but just in case, I will pop it here, feel free to edit out the url – no worries at all.

    I can sincerely say that being here has definitely made me feel more creative. Yet when I go back to visit Ireland, I also get something different from being there.

    Have a lovely evening, great to chat


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.