Experienced event planners understand the importance of CEO buy-in for corporate events. There can be a number of negative consequences if care isn't taken to ensure that CEOs are briefed and in 100% agreement with plans for events. For example, last-minute changes in content, logistics and even venues can result and de-rail the most well-planned event.
Getting buy-in from CEOs is not always easy. For one thing, responsibility for working with the event designer or planner is often delegated several levels below the CEO. At times, gatekeepers may feel threatened as if they are somehow not fulfilling their responsibility if the need to confer with a senior executive is raised, We have previously discussed some of the reasons for this resistance in Event Planning: Why Is There Resistance to CEO Involvement. Some of the steps needed to ensure CEO buy-in will be unfamiliar to your key organizational contacts so it is important to take them through how you intend to work, the benefits of this approach. Include specific examples of positive outcomes when there is senior management buy-in and some of the problems that arise when it is absent.
Another obstacle is that CEOs are usually busy with a number of priorities competing for their time and energy. By the time they are able to give quality attention to event details, many plans may have already been finalized.
There are a number of tools and processes to help event planners receive input from CEOs and other senior executives at critical checkpoints.
Initial Project Meetings
We have previously discussed how to identify key stakeholders and set up initial project meetings in Event Planning: Proving Your Value to Senior Management. Senior executives are extremely busy, so initial project meetings with key stakeholders are likely to be brief. It is important to prepare for initial project meetings and ensure that your questions are targeted focused and on target. It is a good practice to submit questions in advance so that executives have time to prepare. By the end of the meeting, you will want to uncover the following information:
- What is the specific business issue, opportunity or challenge that is precipitating the need for the event or meeting?
- What will a successful meeting, event or conference look like?
- What specific indicators and measure will you use to measure success?
- What specific content will you want to present during the meeting and how much time will you need? (Earmark at least double the amount of time the CEO requested as agenda content does have a way of expanding.)
- What pitfalls should we be careful to avoid?
Event Design Blueprints
An event design blueprint is similar to a designer's blueprint in construction. It captures key elements of the event including content, timing, checkpoints, venue suggestions, basic logistics, budget, scope changes and associated costs and questions about areas from which you require senior management input. It is extremely important to prepare a 1 - 2 page event blueprint before investing a lot of time in event planning and heading off in a direction that key stakeholders support. This document should be clear and easy to understand as it is unlikely that you will have an opportunity to present it directly. It is extremely important to get sign-off from the most senior stakeholder before proceeding. Required changes should be made in writing.
The executive briefing should be for all members of the senior management team about 2 weeks prior to the event. The reason for scheduling it at this time is give senior management an opportunity for final input and to head last minute changes off at the pass. It is better to know about changes 2 weeks before an event than to be scrambling to adjust at the last minute.
For more content about the importance of CEO buy-in, also consult Meeting and Event Design: Integrity vs Flexibility.
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