There is a lot that event planners can learn from project managers and we want to help you integrate project management best practices into your event planning. As we'll see, there are plenty of areas where thinking like a project manager will boost your work as an event manager. But don't over-engineer following project management processes by shoehorning them into your event management. Your event management might well be a series of projects, but we don't want to discourage the creativity and fluidity of event managers in delivering a major event that has more and more moving parts the closer it gets to event day.
Take what you can from project management without throwing out the experience and ingenuity that you have gained from delivering events. Here are five best practices for you to consider.
- Define projects and establish goals. Information flow is vital at this point, in defining projects and assigning responsibilities. Decisions made at early stages shape the whole planning and delivery of the event. Set out both a Statement of Work and a Feasibility Study, to get everyone on the same page and working towards defined goals, and take time to make sure budgets and workloads are in place. Build a strong foundation.
- Develop a Work Breakdown Structure. Set out the big areas - marketing, ticketing, finance, etc. In a major event, these may become Functional Areas, and in a smaller event, these may just be big projects. Then, divide the work into manageable packages, in a hierarchical structure of projects, task groups, tasks and (probably later) sub-tasks, with important project and event milestones listed out. These pieces of work can then be assigned to a person, timeline and budget. Make sure these fit with your initial Statement of Work and Feasibility Study, and you'll have a top-down view of your project plans, ensuring coherent planning with clear accountability.
- Make friends with the Gantt chart. The Gantt chart is your visual timeline tool, providing an overview of your projects and tasks, and letting you see workloads, dependencies and milestones. It enables you to manage schedules and can highlight the critical path, identifying tasks that must be completed on time to ensure that the whole project does not slip behind. Make the best of it by tracking milestones and dependencies to oversee a collaborative and coherent project plan that works for you - more on that here.
- Use a risk register. We've written a big piece outlining best practices for your risk management, which we strongly recommend reading. No matter how well you plan, there will be uncertainties - good and bad - and how you respond to them will define the success of your event. List out all risks that threaten to jeopardise your event, build out mitigation and contingency plans to tackle them pre-emptively, and track their probability and impact. Be confident that if a risk turns into a live issue, you've done the preparation to deal with it.
- Close out processes properly. Complete your event programme management well by learning lessons - a practice which should begin at the very start of your event planning. Throughout the event management process, document everything, so that you can refer back through all notes taken and reports created. In the events world you'll be delivering the same event again soon enough! Share knowledge with your team in a collaborative process and integrate learned experience into future operations.
As an event manager you are rightly conditioned to trust your instincts and be versatile. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some more dogmatic practices that can be taken from project management to improve your event planning. Implement some of these best practices to keep your event operations coherent and take everything you can to keep improving your methods.
Want to learn about WeTrack's software supporting project management for event planners? Learn more here.