A membership base as diverse as that of the Gallipoli Barracks Officers’ Mess (the GBOM; the Mess) presents many challenges, but at least as many opportunities too. The high concentration of minor units and dislocated subunits residing on Gallipoli Barracks is unique in Army. These organisations, which contain fewer officers and SNCOs than their major counterparts, often lack the scale for dedicated officer- and SNCO-oriented PME to be economical. It is therefore a barracks in which the Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes can play a crucial role.
Meanwhile, like other messes, the GBOM is rediscovering its purpose in the post- Hamilton era and grappling with how to be vibrant, contemporary and engaging. One of the opportunities the GBOM has seized to satisfy all three has been screenings of Cove Talks – the PME webinars presented by The Cove. The viability of these screenings has been significantly enhanced by three factors: advertising, registration and presentation. While none of these concepts is revolutionary, they form an example of how a Cove Talk can be hosted successfully and simply, and these are offered as ideas for others messes to consider within their own circumstances.
Advertising. The two noteworthy aspects of the way in which the Mess promotes Cove Talks are in the content (what) and delivery (how). Firstly, the committee’s PME member is an officer from our local Regional Education Detachment, which uses a web-based application called Piktochart for its graphic design. This can be used to create quick, easy and attractive flyers; however, MS PowerPoint is also effective, albeit less intuitive. It has been found that landscape 3:2 dimensions work particularly well in email and on Twitter, which are the delivery methods recommended.
To exploit the functionality of MS Outlook, the Secretary created a contact group based on the Mess’s most recent billing. Next, a group mailbox was requested – ensuring that external mail and sending on the mailbox’s behalf were both enabled. Group mailboxes assist in the short-term sharing and retention of correspondence between committee members and provide a single point of contact that endures the flux of postings. Twitter is still an emerging platform within Army but is preferred by the Mess because of its accessibility for mess members and the international PME network to which it connects the Mess. Like posts from most social media platforms, tweets also provide a convenient means for broadcasting an elevator pitch with a flyer and a registration hyperlink.
Registration. The single most helpful lesson learnt from hosting a Cove Talk has been the utility of online event management services. GBOM uses Eventbrite, although other options also exist. The benefits of these systems are numerous:
- If admission is free, their service is free.
- information provided by Cove Talks can be combined with venue details to create a single webpage per event for maximum convenience to your members
- they provide an automated contact list from registered attendees, so if details change there’s no need to spam the entire membership
- the Mess group mailbox can be listed as the contact address, meaning that all event management administration can be stored in a centralised location automatically
- if critical mass hasn’t been reached by a certain date, the event can be cancelled with minimal fuss
- the maximum seating for your mess’s rooms can be set so ticket allocation can’t exceed availability.
Careful room selection also pays dividends. The GBOM is spoilt for choice in that it features a spacious alfresco area and anteroom; however, for large PME sessions, our preferred option is to configure the dining room à la the National Press Club. This enables us to seat well over 100 people comfortably, with tables for note taking that are oriented towards the speaker – or in the case of CoveTalks, the projector screen.
Presentation. Finally, the critical capability is portable ICT. The minimum requirements consist of:
- a projector – minimum of 3600 lumens for a partially lit space
- a screen – minimum of 2m wide for a large dining room
- a laptop – must feature the necessary outputs for your projector and loudspeaker, and be capable of hosting the Cove Talks webinar software
- an internet source – your mess wifi might suffice, but the GBOM uses a 4G dongle because of local technical limitations;
- a loudspeaker – must feature the necessary inputs for your laptop, e.g. 3.5mm or RCA jacks
- all necessary cables – e.g. power, audio and video.
Now that our Cove Talks concept has been successfully proven, work has commenced to replace our dependence on portable ICT with a fixed solution. This will include a retractable screen, a ceiling-mounted projector and a fitted sound system. It is expected that this combination of resources will also offer significant advantages in scenarios such as formal dinners where an ambient slide show or video messages might be desirable.
Despite its atypical composition, Gallipoli Barracks is not unique in its structural complexity and the challenges this presents for its Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes. It is hoped that this example of how a Cove Talk can be easily promoted, managed and conducted will help justify the expenditure of effort by messes elsewhere, especially for the sake of personnel posted to minor units and dislocated or independent sub-units.