Event Management

by Rus Slater

Scheduling the tasks

Once you have listed and considered all the individual tasks, you can schedule them into an overall plan.

Tip

For a small, simple event you may just use a list of things-to-do and tick them off as you do them, meeting regularly and frequently to assess the four Ps: Progress and Problems, Past and Presumed.

For any event where the planning is going to require more than one person, or lasts for more than a week, or where the event has a business-critical justification, something a little more sophisticated is required.

When you start to schedule tasks you need to keep certain principles in mind:

  1. Schedule for concurrent activity – so try to have as much being done at the same time as is possible, in order to speed progress
  2. Schedule to account for dependencies, be they linear, or resource related – so look for bottlenecks; where multiple tasks are dependent upon one task, that one task becomes critical
  3. Juggle the scheduling to achieve the end date, not the individual task time estimates (in other words, work smarter, not harder)
  4. Look out for the decision tasks that require input from people outside the event team.

The last point is crucial: many a plan has gone awry because the MD/sponsor has the right to approve the work-to-date before the team can carry on. The MD/sponsor may delay their decision without realising that their delay has a critical effect on the next phase of the planning.

Gantt charts

There are various methods of scheduling, but we will look at the use of a Gantt Chart as this is a tried, tested and easily-used tool, included in most project management software packages and do-able in many common office software applications.

Gantt charts show a timeline along the horizontal axis and the task list on the vertical axis. Each activity is shown as a block from the left (start date) to the right (end date).

Decision tasks are normally shown as diamonds on the date required. Often these decisions are allotted the title of ‘milestones’ in that they are the ‘proofs’ of the progress of the plan.

Dependencies are often shown by an arrow linking the end of one task to the beginning of the other.

Sample Gantt chart

Below is a sample Gantt chart for organising a fund-raising ball (grossly simplified!). Tasks are shown here as simple bars. You can colour-code the bars to represent different team members or subgroups; the decisions can similarly be colour-coded to show the person/group responsible.

Data display

One of the great advantages of Gantt charts is their visual impact. You can stick a long roll of brown paper at eye level on the wall of the office, write on the task list and dates in marker pen, and use string to show the progress/plan (this allows for changes without having to rub things out or start afresh). This way, the progress/plan is immediately visible all the time, clearly reminding you where you are today and what should be happening tomorrow, and telling everyone else what you are doing to earn your daily bread!

There are also several software products, such as MS Project and some shareware/freeware, that produce Gantt charts. Simple ones can be produced in Word or Excel as well, though they have no ‘intelligence’ like the dedicated project management packages do. The Gantt chart shown above was produced in Word. While the software versions are easy to produce and change, they have the disadvantage of scale and printability if you want to display them on a wall as suggested above.