There are some things in this life which are incredibly complex: astrophysics, the rules of baseball, the US tax code, successfully negotiating revolving doors… There are lots of things out there which are ridiculously tricky, but effective event management isn’t among them.
With the right attitude, up-to-date knowledge and a bit of perseverance, the majority of planners can get much better at event management pretty quickly. Good event management isn’t rocket science. But it does require persistence.
The aim of this post is to set you on the path to efficient, effective, and ideally, more exceptional event management. We’re going to focus on four simple, yet crucial tips which you can absorb in five minutes which, if taken on board, should set out a strong foundation for future event management excellence and boost your attendees' experience from good to great. Ready, steady, learn!
1.Give Your Attendees A Voice
Events don't exist without attendees. Let their voices be the primary voices that drive the event experience you create. Through post-event surveys, community posts in your event app, two-way social conversations on your event Facebook page, interactive polling in the general session, or chatting them up in the hallway. There have never been so many ways to hear and talk with your attendees. Take advantage of what they're saying.
Remembering that attendees are at the center of the event is essential for any event manager. Take the time to really read what they're saying to you, engage with them in conversations, build personal relationships if you can. This allows your attendees to express themselves about their delights and their dismays, creates ways to build event culture and community, while also creating conduits that get that know before you go logistical information more exposure. Giving and listening to your attendee's voice not only helps your attendees recognize they are connected and valued, but you’re going to see a boost in your event engagement and connectivity visibility if you’re legitimately trying to create the best event experience and excel at event management.
2. Show Your Work
This one can seem counter-intuitive but the sad fact is that many people, likely the leadership or management team you report to, think that events happen by magic. We know that's not true. You know that's not true.
Great events happen through deliberate strategy, project management, execution, sometimes sleepless nights, and a team that can't stop, won't stop. And if attendees are at the center of the event experience, the event manager is the (wo)man behind the main stage curtain calling the shots to make it all happen. Document what you do to help those who come after you. Take the time to get your CMP. Publish your experiences (the good, the bad, and the ones we can all learn from) on an industry blog. Show what it takes to be the rock star event manager that you are. Plus, in showing your work, you also unearth the areas of event management you excel at but also those you still can improve and should seek out additional professional development or mentoring for.
3. Be Realistic about Disruption and Innovation
Disruption and innovation are good ways to keep your attendees interested and excited about the event, but it’s easy to over-egg the pudding. Be realistic about what is a step too far, as disruption and innovation need breathing and adoption space by your attendees. Too much can actually have an adverse effect on your event attendance and experience.
This isn’t a case of less is more, rather a case of quality over quantity. Produce as much disruption and innovation as you can to keep your event fresh and pushing the envelope, but ensure every decision you make concerning the event is centered on the attendee's voice and your organization's strategic goals for the event. In other words, know exactly WHY you're disrupting and innovating, ensuring that your event plan is well-researched, well-supported, and not in action because your board president wanted to "change things up a bit".
Excellent event managers know that you don’t overstretch your attendees to produce a lacking "innovative" conference just for innovation's sake. Instead, you work to a high standard with what you have, even if it means taking a year off of revolutionizing to help everyone get on board with where you're headed.
4. Build and Maintain Your Network
It’s age-old advice, but building and maintaining your professional network is absolutely essential to exceptional event management. Why? Because what event managers do is highly specialized. It's also really stressful. You need other people who speak your language. Who else can relate when you need advice about the unusual attrition clause you're negotiating, when you need to complain about the cost of coffee, when you want to compare event apps and need a peer recommendation, or when you ponder for the 1 millionth time why hotel carpet always has the funny patterns.
Your network is vital. In it are mentors, colleagues, friends, supplier partners, and other event managers who get what you do day in and day out. Whose goal is also your goal: t0 create the best darn attendee experience possible.
Great event management doesn't happen over night. Be persistent and be okay with failing a little bit. The best is just around the corner as you strive to continue to improve.
Looking for other great resources to improve your event management skills? We recommend the following resources:
News and Industry Highlights via PCMA
The Future of Meetings via MPI
Association's Now Meetings Section