The organising of an event can quickly become a complex challenge involving many different parties. As overall organiser, you must possess the necessary project management skills to coordinate the activities of all these different people.
You need to be able to separate the important matters from the unimportant ones and above all you need to keep a clear view of the overall picture in your mind. On this basis, you must set the correct priorities and delegate responsibilities to the right people, when you are not able to do something yourself. In short, you have to adopt a well-considered and structured approach to your task.
In view of the fact that an event is subject to the constraints of time and resources, and also results in a very specific end product, it is not unreasonable to regard its organisation as a project to which classic project management techniques can therefore be applied. To make this feasible, it is important that your project should be as well structured as possible. The best way to do this is to divide up the project into different phases. With this aim in mind, you may wish to use the phase model suggested by Jan Verhaar in his book 'Project management a professional approach to events'. The following is a summary of the different phases advocated by Verhaar, together with an indication of the relevant key decision documents for each phase (in brackets):
- Initiation phase (project proposal) In this phase you explore the broad parameters and set the fundamental conditions/starting points for the project. You define objectives, develop a basic concept, decide on a line of approach and draw up a global plan with a first budget estimate.
- Preparation phase (project plan) You flesh out the plan more fully and agree the programme for the event. The project planning is now set down in detail on paper.
- Development phase (production programme) During this phase, you translate the preparatory work of the previous phases into concrete, practical tasks for your team members. Agreements are concluded with suppliers and an action plan is compiled.
- Implementation phase (the event itself) This phase can be further subdivided into construction, performance and clearance (i.e. before, during and after the event). The production of the event is carried out in accordance with the specifications of the action plan.
- Completion phase (evaluation report) In this phase you round off and follow up the project as necessary, before completing your evaluation of its success or failure in terms of your stated objectives.
The decisions which need to be made by the project initiator (your customer or your boss!) can be taken on the basis of the decision documents which you should draw up at the end of each preparatory phase.
In order to effectively manage all the different aspects of the event and its preparation, you can divide up the project and its individual phases into further trajectories, which may or may not run parallel to each other. This might include, for example, a communications trajectory (covering publicity and public relations) or a content trajectory (which focuses on the speakers and/or other entertainment elements).
It is particularly important that you should agree a clear set of critical success factors for the project, together with deadlines for their completion. These are the elements that must be dealt with effectively, if your project is to become a success. High on the list of such elements are matters such as choosing the right venue, booking the right artists, getting the budget approved, attracting sufficient advance interest, etc. After each success factor has been dealt with, plan a ‘go/no go’ moment in which you evaluate your intermediary targets and agree with all relevant parties whether or not the project should still proceed. If one of the critical success factors cannot be realised, it may be necessary (in a worst case scenario) to cancel the event.
For each of these ‘milestones’, you must draw up a list of related tasks, making clear who in your team is responsible for what and by what date.