Posted by Paige Buck | September 1, 2016
For an event planner, there’s nothing more fulfilling than a satisfied client, following a long-awaited event.
And happy, efficient, and effective onsite event communication requires preparation (what DOESN’T require preparation? Well, the word “planner” is right there in the job description, ain’t it?) Here are Kennedy Events’ secrets to preparing for clear communication during an event.
1. Make a Bullet-Proof Contact List
This might seem obvious, but putting the contact info for all event personnel is an easy task to overlook and one that will save your event planning team a ton of headaches onsite.
Create a contact list with everyone who will be onsite. Include all vendors, volunteers, presenters, and exhibitor contacts:
- Don’t forget your own team members, even if their phone numbers are saved in your phone.
- Do create sub-lists, if needed, such as “event staff”, “entertainers”, “offsite party” but keep them all in one document
- Do request cell phones or day-of contact info for each person, including your keynote’s press rep or executive assistant.
- Don’t rely on contacts you have in your email program or buried somewhere in your records. I guarantee your heart will start racing if a problem arises and you have to run back to the staff office, pull out your laptop and start digging for someone’s info.
Pull it all into one, easy to access document.
Print copies and provide them to all event staff and other event vendors who may need to reach someone.
2. Understand Each Other’s Roles
With large events, there are usually several teams responsible for the event’s success. For instance, at Gainsight’s customer success summit, Pulse, there were staff from Kennedy Events, Blueprint Studios, Four Moons Productions, a registration company, the hotel, Gainsight employees, and numerous other event vendors. Each of us were responsible for overlapping components of this large Oakland conference.
Be sure everyone on each team knows who is the ultimate decision maker for each aspect of the event. That way, when something goes awry, everyone will know who to go to. Also, you’ll know who can be freed up to focus on other details.
3. Have a Pre-Event Team Meeting
Whenever possible, gather all the event decision makers for a meeting at least 24 hours before the event. This is called a “pre-con”, for pre-convention meeting, when it takes place with a hotel or conference/convention venue, but you can call it whatever you like. Just do it.
Include a representative from each major vendor, decision maker, or department. It’s easy to forget to include all the players, or excuse the most important players who are busy pulling together last-minute details.
If you can’t get everyone together in person, hold a conference call. Use this meeting to review the most crucial parts of the event’s agenda, unanswered questions, and to discuss roles and what to do in the case of an emergency.
4. Make a Look Book
Gather images from social media or company websites so that junior staff who may not have met everyone will recognize key decision makers. Add the images next to the names of staff in your contact list.
This falls under “going the extra mile”. But it becomes a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have tool, if your client’s team has a big role in onsite decision making.
5. Share A Meal Together
Nothing brings people together like food! This is our favorite way to bring an event team together. When we can, we take our clients out to dinner the night before an event and talk about something more than just the event itself. Even if it means everyone goes back to their hotel rooms to burn the midnight oil, taking a break together builds camaraderie, individual connections, and appreciation for one another. I’m sure there are studies written somewhere about this, but this is just my anecdotal study: Sharing food and a drink together increases the likelihood that we will work effectively together as a team the next day (and makes it far more likely that we’ll all get along and not get on each other’s nerves!)
6. Have Each Other’s Backs
In a future post, we’ll discuss what effective and friendly onsite event communication looks like in practice.
Once you get onsite and the event is underway, strong interpersonal skills come into play. Everyone running the event may be some combination of excited, stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed. One of the best ways to ensure things stay cool and calm is to have each other’s backs in these ways:
- Never blame others for a problem. In fact, don’t discuss how a problem arose, just discuss how to resolve it.
- Whenever you run into a colleague during the event, ask them how they are doing and how you can help.
- If you have unexpected down time because your assignment is taken care of, offer to grab water or coffee, or to fill in for someone else.
- Report back to the team lead if you see someone exhausted or struggling. Do so without judgement.
It all comes down to event day, of course, and your preparation for the event will be for naught if things fall apart onsite. So as with every other aspect of event planning, take the time to prepare your contact list, communicate about roles, understand who is in charge of which decisions, and connect with your teammates socially before you set foot at the venue.