Planning and staging a successful event can create a large and positive impact for your business. Managing it is not complicated – it simply takes attention to detail.
The first detail to get right is to create the right event. Start your planning with a very simple question:
‘When people are leaving my event, what do I want to hear them saying to each other?’
The exit conversation is a litmus test of a good conference or event. Every choice you make needs to be focused on creating the right conversations: conversations that pick up on the right themes, interpret them the way you intended, and carry your intended emotional and rational commentary.
Whether your event is a simple meeting, an exhibition, or a large conference, you must be rigorous in selecting the right content, and honing the timings and styles, to build up to your conversation test. This will mean being robust with the chief executive who wants to speak for an hour, but whose message merits 20 minutes. And it means being brutally frank about the dreadful Powerpoint that your Ops Director has produced and helping them to create slides that are memorable for the right reasons. It means making sure that exhibitors play by your rules and, of course, it means getting all of the front-of house details just right, from the welcome desk to the refreshments.
There are four phases to planning and managing an event that match the four stage project lifecycle we saw in an earlier blog.
Well in advance, start thinking about your exit conversation test, and design an event around that. Ask questions about why you are doing the event, what success will look and sound like, and what the commercial payback needs to be? From here, think about the right type of event, and the headline components that will carry the greatest burden of content or mood. This should allow you to sketch out approximate answers to:
- Type of event
- Timing (when and how long)
Budget and Benefits give you your business case, which you will use to gain approval to proceed.
Planning needs to answer the questions who, when, where, and how? By the end of the process, you need a minute by minute plan (with contingencies for over-runs – like 25 minute scheduled breaks that can vary from 10 to 30 minutes as needed) of the event itself and a step-by-step plan of the run-up to the event and the follow-up from it. Each task needs to be assigned to someone capable and available to do it. It is fine to build in time for informal, unscripted interactions, but plan for when and where they will happen, even if you don’t choose to anticipate what will take place. Build a team around you to make your event a success.
On the day, appoint one person to take care of all front-of-house, publicly visible arrangements. Their responsibility is for co-ordinating every aspect of participants’ experience. Another, back-of-house will be responsible for the resources for all of this, co-ordinating staff, equipment and preparations. These two need to be in constant contact. Also consider appointing a host, whose only role is to delight your guests, leaving the front-of-house manager to scamper around and sort things out if needed. Get the team there early (the night before is a good idea) and come prepared with a kit bag of every emergency item you can think of. My conference and event kit bag has:
- Gaffer tape, masking tape, pvc tape
- Common tools like screwdrivers, pliers, knives, scissors
- Spares of common battery sizes
- Spares of common electrical and electronic/computer/AV leads
- Loads of pens, paper, glue, sellotape, sticky notes, and other stationery
- Tissues and wipes, safety pins, hotel needle & thread mending kit and shoe shine
- Ropes, string, clips and karibinas
- Basic first aid (the venue will have a full set) for convenience: plasters, aspirins, throat lozenges.
Whatever follow-up you promised your attendees – do it well. Also follow up with the venue, speakers and exhibitors. And sit down with your team and review how you did, how each person performed, and what you can all learn for next time. Finally, clear all of your post-event admin: invoices, lost property, archiving, for example.