Event Management

by Rus Slater

Delivering the event

Once you have done all the planning, you need to start managing the plan; the timeline starts running and you make this plan work. For some events, you will have a phase where you are making the plan work and then a phase where you are making the event work: a charity ball, for example, may be three months in the planning and one night in the eventing. In this type of case, it is important to manage the timeline of the event as carefully as you run the timeline of the plan.

Basic principles

There are some principles that will work on virtually every plan and event:

  • The team has to be motivated to complete the tasks they are responsible for to the standards that are laid down
  • Progress against plan must be validated regularly
  • You need to actively communicate between the event manager and team on the one hand and the appropriate stakeholders on the other; the timing of communication will probably not be the same for different groups
  • At the completion of milestones it is appropriate to show that you appreciate the appropriate people
  • After the event is over it is necessary to evaluate it to measure the extent to which it met its initial objective
  • Finally you will all want to celebrate your success
  • After the project is over you want to educate yourself and others to ensure that you don’t let people re-invent the wheel.

We could call these the ‘ate’ functions of the project manager since they are:

  • Motivate
  • Validate
  • Communicate
  • Appreciate
  • Evaluate
  • Celebrate
  • Educate.

Below is a very brief section on each of these functions – brief since the aim is only to deal with those elements that relate to event management, rather than management in general.

Motivate those involved

Note

The team has to be motivated to complete the tasks for which they are responsible to the standards that are laid down. This includes motivation of individuals and the team as a whole.

Critical to the motivation of people in managing events is their clear understanding of the objective for their particular task and the part it plays in the overall project. Hence is it vital to ensure that the people who will fulfil the task are involved as much as possible in the development of the task objectives.

As an event manager, it is essential that you are both aware and considerate of the other responsibilities your team members have, and which may deflect them from the completion of the tasks you set them.

  • If your team are unpaid volunteers, you need to be wary of overstretching their goodwill.
  • If your team members have ‘day jobs’ elsewhere in the organisation, you need to be wary of the demands of this event in relation to the departmental management.

You have to ensure that your team members have the appropriate resources to do the jobs you ask of them; being expected to do something with nothing is generally a pretty de-motivating scenario.

You will need to ensure adequate, but not excessive, communication between you and the team members to keep people up to date and in touch with each other, and to keep yourself informed. This is a fine balancing act.

Keeping check - validate

Note

Progress against plan must be validated regularly.

Elsewhere we have looked at Data display, and mentioned how valuable it is in keeping the plan to mind. As the event manager, you need to be constantly validating progress against plan. How regularly you actually do this will depend on the stage of the plan you are at, how long the plan is in total and what other jobs you have on at the time. Suffice it to say that you probably ought to be thoroughly checking progress at least weekly.

Communicate

Note

Communications must be actively managed to between event manager and the team on the one hand, and the former and the appropriate stakeholders on the other. The subjects that need to be communicated will include Progress and Problems, Past and Presumed.

Big project management methods demand a formal communications plan, but for most event management it is probably appropriate to simply decide and agree a straightforward schedule of communications, such as that which appears below.

Stakeholder→ Event sponsor Team Donor group End users
Frequency↓
Daily No Yes, e-mail(proforma) No No
Weekly Yes, e-mail (proforma) Yes, meeting No No
Monthly Yes, meeting Yes, meeting Yes, e-mail Yes, e-mail
Special at All milestones –  email

Completion – newsletter and party

All milestones – meeting

Completion – newsletter and party

Major milestones – meeting

Completion – newsletter, personal letters

Major milestones – email 

Completion – newsletter

Remember

Communication is a two-way business: this isn’t all the event manager ‘telling’ – a lot of it is the other parties passing information into the event manager as the conduit!

The red sections are an example that may be used, where the message follows an agreed format that could be as simple as

  • Tasks completed
  • Tasks in hand
  • Progress to plan (Y/N)
  • Support needed.

The trick is to get an appropriate balance between information overload and keeping people in the dark.

Appreciate

Note

As the plan unfolds and at the completion of milestones, it is appropriate to show that you appreciate the appropriate people.

One of the most motivating things for most of us is to be appreciated. A pat-on-the-back, a word of thanks or a compliment on a job well done is often more motivating than a big award ceremony or even a bonus!

Get to know your team and show your appreciation in a way that is appropriate to each individual; some people will like to be mentioned in front of their colleagues and thus will really value being singled out for praise at a meeting. Others have a low embarrassment threshold and would prefer it if you just caught them alone and told them in private what a good job they have done.

Most people value appreciation that comes from their boss – the person they know, rather than the organisation. So a quiet coffee and doughnut/pint and a packet of crisps bought by you is often more motivating than an Employee of the Month Award with a gift voucher and a plaque from the company.

If a job has been done by a sub-team, make sure that you give your appreciation to the whole of that team and not only to the leader to pass on.

Similarly, if you get praise from your event sponsor or any other person/organisation, ensure that you pass that on both ways: tell the sponsor/client that you couldn’t have done it without the team and tell the team that the sponsor/client noticed a job-well-done.

Evaluate

Note

When the event has taken place, it is necessary to evaluate the end result to ensure that it has fulfilled the objective laid down.

Sometimes an evaluation will be very easy: if the Christmas Draw was to raise £5,000 and you have raised over £5,000 after deductions of cost, this validates the event.

Key point

You can usually only evaluate an event effectively if you were very clear before you started what you wanted to achieve!

Sometimes there will be a more complicated process to address:

  • If the event was to roll out a new policy you need to actually test whether people now know what the new policy is, rather than just that you ran an event and told them
  • If the event was to take a top team offsite to develop new strategies and you got most, but not all, of the hoped-for areas covered, you have to judge how much of a success the event was.

It is important to carry out this evaluation as soon as possible after the event has been completed.

Celebrate

Note

Once the event is over, you will want to celebrate your success.

Once the event is over and you have validated the level of success, you need to formally disband your team, close the file and celebrate your success. Why?

In order for people to recognise that the work is done, that the team will no longer meet in this context and that their efforts are appreciated. It allows people to achieve closure, recognise their own job-well-done and be motivated to want to work with you again!

A celebration doesn’t have to be a big affair – a few words of thanks from the event sponsor or a beneficiary, and a token of appreciation – be it cake and coffee or a party in the local pub – will go a long way.

Educate – lessons for the future

Note

After the event is over, you want to educate yourself and others to ensure that in future you don’t re-invent the wheel.

With longer-term events, you should do this at each milestone and keep a ‘Learning Log’ as you go, but with shorter projects it can be done at the end. Remember to look at the things that went right as much as, if not more than, at the things that went wrong.

Draw generic learning points from the experience; they may be as large scale as ‘That went well because we planned in detail, so, in future it is a good idea to plan in detail’ or as small scale as ‘That went wrong because the person responsible didn’t know what their budget was as it wasn’t re-written on the task sheet after we changed it, so in future we must ensure that all changed data is passed on and written down.’