Event planning is a demanding task, and often overwhelms even the best of event organisers. We’ve picked out 16 tips that will help you understand and master the key aspects of planning events effectively.
1. Think Of Your Plan As A Roadmap For Stakeholders
Organising any project activity requires a distinctly marked pathway to follow, that remains consistent throughout all stages of completion. The event planner is responsible for devising this roadmap for the participants. Every stakeholder who benefits from the event’s successful execution should be identified by name, and their interests should be stated and considered during early project planning. These ‘stakeholders may include the team, the customer or client who would receive deliverables, or the project manager himself.
It’s common for organisers to assume that they know these basic needs of all stakeholders by default, which could be harmful to the planning process. Before developing significant parts of your project design, communicate and really understand the interests, resources, and capabilities, of every stakeholder involved in the team.
2. Break The Project Into A List Of Deliverables
The project would typically be based around the goal of achieving some deliverables at the end. Create and maintain a list of these to help break large tasks into smaller components. This makes the execution more manageable, as the broken-down task pieces can be assigned to particular individuals with appropriate deadlines. Further discussion about task allocation and associating deadlines is included later on in this article.
3. Identify Risks
Every project activity has risks attached to it. An effective organiser takes these into account and strategizes ahead of time. Plan what your course of action would be if someone exceeds their particular deadline for a certain deliverable for any reason. Think through what could be done if, at any point, actual costs surpass expected amounts.
While going too deep into specifics may be a waste of time, it’s always safe to brainstorm ideas with your team as to what could possibly go wrong. Reduce those risk possibilities to an acceptable level to prevent a deer-in-headlights situation. Your budgeting, a core event planning area, could also get impacted through this, which brings us to our next point…
4. Create A Budget
While cost outstrips and rare deadline violations are normal parts of business activities, it’s worth maintaining a reserve for unanticipated circumstances. You’re planning an open-air event? Have you taken the weather into account? What if it rains? Think these aspects through in advance, and reserve budget backups to have a safety net to fall back on.
5. Add Milestones
Operational deliverables combine to reach milestones, and reaching preset milestones takes you closer to the end-goal of the project activity. Mark and add appropriate milestones using your deliverables’ list, and take into account the efficacy, availability, and skills of your team.
Managerial experts have come up with fitting criteria for planning milestones effectively. You should follow the ‘SMART’ frame work, which is an acronym for the following;
- Specific: Milestones should be easy to understand, written clearly and concisely.
- Measurable: Use concrete numerical figures to make expectations crystal clear. Using words like ‘a lot’ or ‘a few’ may leave room for subjective interpretation, causing potential inefficiencies.
- Acceptable: Make sure the assigned milestones are achievable and the stakeholders sincerely agree to them.
- Realistic: Assigning tasks that are impossible to achieve could have extremely harmful effects. It not only frustrates the assignees but also causes delays and morale issues in the group.
- Time-based: A milestone should be accompanied by a solid deadline. Make sure you communicate and get buy-in from the stakeholders about these, to make sure they’re able and determined to meet deadlines.
6. Set Progress Reporting Guidelines
Progress must be tracked and reported by subordinates periodically. A joint workspace could also be set up where all participants chip-in and monitor the group’s progress. Input regular updates as to the completion stages of deliverables and milestones in this collaborative space. Seeing consistent progress will also encourage the team members to keep up their efforts!
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7. Understand The Scope And Value Of Your Project Plan
Your plan sets out a clear procedure and approach that you’ll lead your team through, in order to manage a certain activity. Without a concrete strategy to follow, a project team would be handicapped, regardless of how skillful its individuals are. A plan keeps workgroups united, and conveys crucial information and instructions to all members. It’s not just a document on paper; it’s the lifeblood of the entire project which determines whether or not you succeed. In simpler words, a truly effective project plan gives answers to the following;
- What are the main deliverables, milestones, and goals?
- How can the team reach these within the required deadlines?
- Who are the participants in this project?
- What roles would each person play?
- When is the team expected to report the achievement of milestones?
- When will another part of the team provide feedback?
Focusing on these key questions in devising your strategy will ensure that your game plan is on target. This makes the plan a viable source of guidance for the whole team, throughout the entire procedure. Feel free to adapt and introduce updates to the plan as situations arise, but make sure these updates are communicated to each party.
8. Conduct Extensive Research
As established above, devising a plan for your project is the most important step that you take as a leader. Basically, everything depends on it, which means it deserves a fair share of research and thought before starting and finalizing it. You’ll have to sift through multiple documents, as boring as it sounds, and find out relevant details that may influence your decision making. These documents may include minutes of the meetings which help find out expectations of executives and to understand the general position of stakeholders. You must be thorough and pay attention to details. Make sure you take every possible step to be well-informed about factors relevant to the project.
You must have a detailed understanding of the expectations and requirements of your client. You should know what the project’s major goals are, and the priority rank of each one. As the project planner, you must also keep thorough knowledge about the basis on which your team’s work on the project event would be evaluated. What will your client look for? What would please the sponsors? Understanding the importance of these aspects would positively change the results you obtain through the project event.
9. Ask The Tough Questions
Through research, you would be able to come to know most of your client team’s needs and expectations. After this, you should make time to revisit the reasons why the project event is being conducted in the first place. Review your main client contract and ask their team some to-the-point questions. Before creating a project plan, you could inquire about the general risks involved, the process itself, or any organizational politics that may exist. It indirectly communicates to them how much you care about nailing this project activity, proving the professionalism and farsightedness of your team.
10. Create Your Project Plan Outline
Now that you’ve got all the information and leads that you needed, it’s time to start working on the plan itself. It all begins with an outline. Take time to ponder over the client’s responses and weigh them against the project goals in your mind. Reflect and think of plausible approaches that could work in this context. If you’re clueless as to where you should start, you can always revisit the core questions mentioned above (Point 7) that highlight the whats, whos, and hows of the project. You could also recall any previous project management endeavors you’ve had that may be similar to this to obtain help. Many planners rely heavily on their experience to ensure effective practices in creating project plans. Keeping the questions discussed in point no. 7 in mind, you should also make sure that the outline set out;
- Deliverables and the different possible ways of achieving them.
- The client’s criteria and approval policies.
- Estimated time of completion of the milestones and deliverables.
- The means and resources needed to perform the required tasks, leading to the achievement of assigned deliverables.
- A record of all the assumptions that you’ve made in devising the plan, and how reasonable they are in the particular organizational context.
- A record of concrete information, containing absolutes such as the maximum budget and final deadlines.
The outline itself should be made based on this information. It doesn’t have to include every single detail, at least not yet. It’s a gruesome task to get a solid outline ready, but once prepared, it becomes the foundation of a successful, viable project plan.
11. Assign Tasks With Deadlines Based On The Outline
Now that you know what deliverables need to be ready by when, and every qualitative factor has been taken into account, the work itself begins. Break the event down into divisions according to the outline you’ve prepared (e.g. separating transport, catering, guest lists, registration, seating arrangements, etc.). Assign these divisions to different members of your team matching with their areas of expertise and skill. Transfer responsibility and authority to them for their particular section of the event, and instruct them to be clued to details. They must report the readiness of their section to you according to the deadlines you set.
12. Talk With Your Team
Project managers would always need to be available and in touch with their team members, constantly and consistently. Without clear communication, the question of effective leadership flies out the window. A project hugely relies on the conveyance of ideas, instructions, updates, feedback, questions, and answers. The manager must guide individuals where to start, show them the path, and identify the end-goal being pursued. It’s necessary to brief the entire team in such a thorough way to be able to get meaningful buy-in from them. You can’t really come up with a great project plan alone, it’s going to be a team effort. Each member of the team possesses some experience and skill with respect to the task at hand, and their ideas could help you out a ton. Two-way communication must be promoted to encourage brainstorming of ideas and making use of the smart people in the team.
13. Write Your Full Project Plan
You’ve now created a complete outline, assigned tasks, and conducted effective communication with your team about project details. By now, there should be a comfortable vibe that inspires confidence in the project leader. This is the time to write out the entire foolproof plan, in its final form. Your outline is going to help you out a lot, but you may need to conduct informal group discussions to really absorb the ideas of the members of your team. Hopefully, after taking all the aforementioned steps effectively, you’ll know what to include in the plan. All that’s left is to actually write it down, which is a challenge in itself.
Your team will have to return to this document repeatedly throughout the course of the project, so it’s important to focus on its readability. Project plans, quite understandably, can be quite boring to read. You don’t want the participants to skim over what you’ve written, so some formatting skills would come in handy. Make sure the roles, deliverables, timeframes, and instructions are clear. Keep it simple; the easier it is for people to understand it, the better. It’s recommended to use a suitable online project planning tool to help you arrange your plan in a more readable and visually appealing format.
14. Publish Your Plan
The hard part is done by now, you’ve already constructed a rock-solid plan for the project at hand. You had to do tons of research, sketch outlines, arrange group discussions and whatnot. Now, you’re almost there. All that’s left to do is to get it reviewed by a senior team member before you send it over to the client. Sometimes, while the planner focuses on major issues, minor mistakes like getting the date wrong can commonly occur, and getting the plan reviewed will mitigate such risks.
15. Share Your Plan With The Team And Make Sure They Read It!
Once it gets approved by executives, your plan is ready to be shared with the whole team. After all, they are the ones you created it for. This vital document must be reviewed and read thoroughly by everyone, regardless of their role. Encourage members to absorb the whole plan and not just the parts relevant to them, as learning about the big picture will tell them how important their particular section is.
16. Execute Your Plan
While creating a killer project plan may be the most challenging task a planner has, it’s definitely not the only one. Your managerial duties begin as soon as the first task is assigned, and every principle of effective management becomes applicable once more. Mainly, you need to constantly track your actual progress against the project plan. Make sure each person is performing their tasks diligently, and the deliverables are being achieved according to the timeframes set out in the plan. Wherever deviances occur, investigate the reasons and take steps to get things back on track. All the best!
Planning a successful project event or activities will be easy if you keenly follow these simple but very important tips from stat to finish. Make your planning easy for next vent by applying these tips and see how good the result it.