Event planning is a project, and some of the same tools, strategies and best practices that apply to other kinds of projects can greatly increase effectiveness, and reduce frustration and misunderstandings.
For example, if you've ever worked with IT professionals who are designing and launching new software or installing computer systems, you'll remember that they carefully articulate project goals, expectations, phases, milestones and key deliverables. Tools like mind maps are used to brainstorm and identify what's involved in the project - and what could go wrong.
Then, a critical path is developed, clearly outlining all of the steps that need to be taken to ensure successful project execution. Gantt Charts are particularly helpful due to their visual depiction of the timeline.
Another approach that project managers use to break a project down into manageable chunks is to pinpoint the specific tasks required for project completion. Target dates are set for completing each task and phase of the project. Time is taken to identify the members of the implementation team and identify who is responsible for each task.
Reduce Unexpected Changes with Sign-offs
At every phase of the project, the client signs off in agreement before the next phase begins. This ensures that there is agreement and that any required course correction takes place throughout the project. Why would event planners approach things any differently? Given the budgets and allocated to some events, it is important to have checkpoint reviews and ensure that all parties are on the same page before proceeding.
For IT projects, once there has been sign off, if a client wants to re-visit earlier decisions, this can still take place but it is considered to be "out of scope" or beyond the scope of a project. The first time I received a request for scope change, it made me pause and reflect on whether or not the change was really required. Once I reviewed the costs and benefits with the IT consultant, it was clear that the changes really weren't mission critical. Scope changes are a helpful way of setting boundaries and giving clients an opportunity to reflect on what's really important.
It's hard to hit a moving target. By approaching events like projects and managing them effectively, some of the stress associated with event planning can be minimized.
To learn more about event planning management, read 6 Tips to Help Event Teams Play Nice in the Sandbox and Managing Your Army of Conference Volunteers.
Photo Credit: xxgigi