Change Management During the Course of Events

checkpointWe've previously focused on the types of changes that corporate event planners typically face and strategies for dealing with pre-event changes. Today we'll shift gears to focus on changes that take place during the course of events. As event implementation starts with set-up (usually occurs the day before an event), we'll include that period in our discussion.

I like to think of proactive change management during the course of events as a series of checkpoints with clients. The likelihood of 11th hour changes should be discussed with clients during planning. Once you accept change as an inevitable part of event planning, pre-scheduling a series of checkpoint meetings with the clients will help you to keep abreast of changes.

The 18- to 24-hour checkpoint

It is quite typical to receive notice around set-up time that some key individuals won't be attending. When we visited this issue we previously suggested scheduling your final briefing with event staff just before set-up. Prior to that briefing, it is important to have a brief meeting or conference call with the client. Checking in and re-confirming arrangements will uncover any last-minute changes to participant list, logistics or set-up.

Dinner checkpoint

It is not unusual to receive requests for change around supper time the day before an event, 99% of the time, teams and seating charts need to be re-configured. 

Changes can result in labor intensive re-work such as last minute photocopying, re-printing and collating when it is too late to outsource it. I have found 3 strategies to be helpful.

  1. Pre-book the services of a copy shop or printer for the night before an event. (Some printers will bring in staff and have them on stand-by just to deal with your event.)
  2. Ask the client to allocate one or more members of their team to handle any reproduction or re-printing that results from changes. 
  3. Obtain permission to hire one or two event team members just to handle last minute clerical work the night before and the morning of an event.

To avoid having to pull inaccurate information out of delegate packages, it is best to leave printing of team lists and seating chart until the last minute. Place them on participant tables. The bottom line is that the event planner should not be the one running around at the last-minute to make these changes.

Pre-Curtain Checkpoint

Think of this as just before the curtain goes up in theaters or you open the doors. Have technical and set-up crew on hand and, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours before the event begins, invite the client to do one final inspection. It is far better to be proactive than to end up frazzled because a last-minute adjustment has been requested and the event team is scurrying about  just before participants arrive.

Participant Checkpoints and Review

While it is customary to distribute feedback forms when an event is over, we have found that this is not very useful. It is much more fruitful to identify concerns when it is still possible to address them.

One practice that my team has implemented for years is mini-reviews at the half way point (for 1-day events) or at the end of the first day for longer events or team building retreats. Another helpful practice is to encourage participants to use the event hashtag to tweet content, positive feedback and ideas for improvement.

Collect this feedback and review it with the client. This opens the door for course correction so that, by the end of the event, participant expectations will be met or exceeded.

Breakfast Checkpoints

Scheduling breakfast with clients on the second day of an event can be extremely helpful. By then, they will have had an opportunity to mix, mingle and receive informal feedback from participants. It is much easier to keep your cool if you initiate this dialog over breakfast than get caught off guard when a client comes to you in a panic just before the event resumes.

Post Mortem

Change is here to stay. It is best to accept it as a given. We have previously discussed post mortems and how they can be helpful for tying up lose ends and dealing with event fallout or follow-up. The key to successful change management during events is to anticipate the points at which change is likely and build strategies to communicate with clients and resources to deal with change into your plan.

Photo Credits: cookieater2009

For more change management tips for event planners also consult Event Planning: Borrowing From the Project Manager's Toolbox.

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