Mess, Stress and Two Standing Speakers
We have covered many topics on our blog till now, but we have never talked much about event management. And we deal with event management pretty often and, we would dare to say, pretty well. That is why we decided it is high time we share with you some useful advices on the subject.
Apart from assisting, or completely taking over, the event management of some of the conferences we stream live, since 2007, we are responsible for the organization of all events held by the World Jewish Congress, an international organization acting as a diplomatic arm for all Jewish communities around the world. In 2011 we were in charge of the Congress’ Governing Board Meeting, which hosted about 400 people — representatives of Jewish communities in over 100 countries and 5 continents — and was opened by President Shimon Peres himself. Just last week, we completed successfully another event of considerable importance for the World Jewish Congress, which lasted five days and took place in two different countries — Greece and Israel. In May, we are to complete our most ambitious undertaking in this sphere till now — the organization of the Plenary Assembly of the Congress, which is held only once in three years and gathers an audience almost twice bigger than the one we received two years ago.
Advices from Real-life
We do not expect that many of you are involved in event management on a daily basis. We hope that those of you who are not, will be able to extract some general wisdom from the few advices below and will be able to apply it in other situations on their job.
1.) Pick-up the right team.
There is something very important, which our colleague Balázs Szabolcska said, when describing the work atmosphere at the events we organize: “You are never alone.” This is exactly where you should be aiming at when forming the group of people with whom you are going to make this endeavor happen. There are a few factors, which if weight up right, could take you closer to that point: 1.) involve people who you see you can count on; 2.) these people should have a sense of responsibility not only for their own duties, but for the success of the project in general. 3.) It’s a popular view that working with friends is not the best idea, but in some cases it functions well (like ours) and then it adds a lot for a pleasant work environment and the handling of stress when things get frantic.
2.) Organize communication.
Communication takes time. Striving for efficiency here, can increase considerably the productivity of your team. A scheme like the one below could help you immensely with achieving this. What you need to do is define (as early as possible) the areas of responsibility of each member of the crew, then narrow down the number of people everybody needs to contact in case they need help. Decide on a day of the week when to convene the entire crew and keep everybody updated with current developments. Save the rest of your team’s time for actual work. Finally, empower everybody to make decisions on their own: its better to accept the risk that somebody could make a mistake, then to lose tons of time, while passing each question back and forth on the communication chain.
3.) Invest time in building a rich information resource.
Normally, the organization of an event of the kind we work on begins about 3–4 months before the fixed date of its happening. While you might think that a lot of the stuff that takes place during this time is not important enough to make a record of it, with the approaching of the day of action you come to see you will need more and more details from earlier in time. So, use notebooks, envelopes, your laptop to store all kind of information and make sure you organize it in a way that you can access each piece of it quickly. For the last event we did we went so far to create a special online database with all the available information we had since day one. This has provided us with an enormous benefit.
4.) Dress smart and behave correspondingly.
In event management you need to rely excessively on people outside your team — providers of Audio-visual equipment and support, catering and transportation firms, hotel personnel and etc. Organizing an event in a country other then yours could make the last look even more unpleasant; because of the often different culture of work, mainly. What helps a lot here is asking for references for the people you consider working with. References could not insure you at 100 percent against unexpected surprises, though. What we have learned from our experience is that there are two things which work faultlessly when communicating with people by whom you need to get a job done: an attitude of a cold professional and a really smart dress-up. Due dates, set well in advance, are something you should certainly make use of. Ultimately, triple- checking the result of every job which wasn’t completed by your own team is a must.
5.) During the actual days of the event, concentrate on work, but do so even more on breaks.
Close to the end of the entire thing, your work days might get to 18 hours. When you are organizing a one- or two-day event, you handle it anyhow. When you need to live on such a schedule for a week or more, however, as we did last week — then you need a regime; an energizing one. What we usually do is jog, eat lavishly three times a day and take walks in the city. We use every free minute to distract our mind with something pleasant and take a break from the surrounding stress.
6.) Be prepared for a total mess
Here is a clever insight on what a successfully managed event really is: No matter how professionally you have dealt with the organization, on the day of action it will all be a mess. However, as long as you can handle it in a way that your audience doesn’t notice it is, you have done well. Your only trump here is to make sure that everything which is under your control — you can deal with it instantly.