So you’re organising an event? It might be your first or it might be a type of event you’ve not done before. Whatever you’re organising you need take comfort that, as in life, with the right mindset you can accomplish anything.
When I started my company in the events industry in 1992 I had no industry training and no real idea how to go about organising an event. So when I finally convinced a London firm of surveyors that I could organise a client event on their behalf, I went through quite a bit of head scratching.
The event was a no-expense-spared extravaganza, with all sorts of boys’ toys including clay pigeon shooting stands, an array of different cars and buggies to drive, helicopter rides around the estate and a four-course lunch topped by a speech from celebrity peer Lord Brocket.
I arrived at my desk early Monday morning ready to get to grips with this somewhat daunting new challenge. I’d finally bagged a client; they’d signed my contract and even paid me a hefty deposit. As I was my only employee, it was up to me to deliver the goods… Oh dear, where to begin?
After a morning of deep breathes and sighs, copious amounts of tea-making, a few doodles on a pad and nothing else accomplished I decided that I had to stop being so wishy washy and just crack on!
Once I started to calm down I realise that if I had the confidence to win the client, after six months of failed pitches, it dawned on me that I’d have the confidence to see this through. I’d also had training in mechanical and electrical engineering which gave me the process to apply logic to overcoming a problem. So I had the confidence and had the logic, what else could I arm myself with?
At the time of starting this new venture I’d beefed up my resolve by reading a myriad of American self-help books. Although they were all individual in their terminology, a theme was beginning to shine through.
Start at the beginning with what you have. Know where you want to go. Join the dots between where you are now and where you want/need to be. The books also pointed to internalising your process, ie mentally rehearsing what your were going to do, before you actually did it and to build an image of where you wanted to end up.
So I applied these seemingly disparate skills to my first event management project, and in fact they worked so successfully that I have since taught the method to all of the newbies who joined my event company.
So here are my Five Fundamentals of organising any event.
1 Confidence – Be confident and self assured, even if you don’t feel it initially. I’m sure in your life you’ve overcome many obstacles that you thought were immovable, this is just one more stretch. The beauty of event management is that you can easily use skills from previous experiences to get this task done.
Unsure you’ve got the right credentials or training? For now push those doubts to the back of your mind. Event management on the whole is about setting out a plan of small logical steps and following through with care and attention. Yes you might need some specialist help but, on the whole, good suppliers will guide you through the tricky bits.
2 Chunking – You may have heard of this before. If you have it doesn’t do any harm to go over old ground. Chunking will help you with all your projects.
Chunking is simply breaking down a large project into smaller segments. You can then decide what to do with those segments, how to prioritise them, delegate them, decide which, if not all of them, you’re doing yourself and then simply diarise them in order of urgency and importance.
The main thing is to get some perspective. You’ve been given the job, you’ve accepted the challenge and now you are breaking it down into more manageable portions.
3 Plans – The best way to start organising your event is by getting the plans of the venue, grounds and areas that you will be using. Print them out, don’t do this online, at least not initially. Physically print them all out and lay them down on an empty desk or pin them up on a blank wall. This is your plan of attack.
Now the fun part, with a marker pen begin mapping out the different areas where you initially feel your event activities, presentations, dining etc will take place. I say initially as nothing at this stage should be set in stone, this is where you are just musing how things could or should happen.
Again, but with a different colour pen, start adding directions of delegate flows and actions. What I mean by this is which way your guests are going to be directed. The position of each portion of your event and the proximity of some areas to others is of the utmost importance. Get activity areas in the wrong place and your event will start to lose energy and, worse, you’ll lose guests.
What do I mean? Well here’s an example: you’re organising a Christmas party with 100 guests. Although that may seem a lot of people it actually isn’t a lot of bodies to keep the party buzzing especially if the food is served in one room, the music in another and the bar in yet another room. In fact what will likely happen on the night is that some guests will stay chatting in the dining areas, some will just chat at the bar and the rest will dance the night away on the dance floor. If the guests are separated into three different rooms or unconnected spaces the energy of that party will fizzle away. So here you’d keep everything in one room.
Different events require different planning, so try it out now on paper, rather than at the event.
4 The Event Mindset – OK here is where I’d like to invite you to take a mental leap of faith.
Some of you will have no problem doing this, some of you may feel this is not a valid way to oversee an important project, others will think they can’t do it.
Take my word for it, everyone can do this, everyone has an imagination. Some use it more than others but we can all benefit from going into our mind’s eye and mentally walking through the entire event from guests parking, to reception to seeing guests safely off at the end of the event.
How to do it? First things first, take your time. This is an essential part of your preparation. Alone or with one colleague (don’t involve the whole event committee or team), find a quiet area of the office, or put a Do Not Disturb sign on your office door. Now sit down quietly with a pen and paper to hand, close your eyes and mentally walk through your event as a guest – use your plan as an aide memoir. Where am I supposed to go? Where are the toilets? Where can I put my coat? Where is the exit? Where can I sit quietly to call the office? Where is the dining, who will I sit next to?
There are a hundred questions that will run through your head when you go somewhere new, so do your guests the favour of mentally rehearsing your entire event on their behalf, before either of you have to do it for real.
Write down all your pertinent questions you’d be asking as a guest and your answers after your mental rehearsal.
Now go through the whole event again but this time as the Event Manager. Who’s doing what and when, where are the emergency exits, where are the fire extinguishers, (and are they all in date?), where will I find the speaker? Etc, etc.
This can be one of the most tiring and difficult parts of the event management process, but it is essential to your success, so please don’t dismiss it. Now diarise time for this work, it is important and it will take longer than you think so you might consider chunking down the mental event rehearsals into manageable pieces.
This is the most useful time you’ll spend on planning your event, so don’t rush it.
The map is not the territory – A map of an area, in our example the physical event plan you printed out and spread on your desk or wall, is only a paper representation of your event process.
You now need to go back to the venue and walk through the entire event, footstep by footstep, as you did in your imagination and check that it works in the real world. It’s easy to mis-remember things or for physical plans not to be as accurate as they should be, so double check it.
Event management has many different facets and degrees of difficulty but it doesn’t have to be rocket science. That being said it does require care and attention to detail especially in the planning process.
Remember – in the events world – you only get one chance to get it right.