Event Management

by Rus Slater

In a nutshell

1. Organise your thoughts

There are many different possible aspects involved in managing an event, not all of which may apply to you. It is critical, even for a small event, that you organise your thoughts and tackle things in a logical sequence:

  • First, work out what sort of event this is and what is expected of you (and the event)
  • Research the practicalities, including venue, catering arrangements, transport and so on
  • Do a risk assessment
  • Find out who else is involved and communicate with them
  • Deliver and then evaluate the event


2. Before you start

There are some important matters to get straight before you start the process of planning and managing an event:

  • Is this actually an event – a one-time endeavour, with a finishing date, undertaken to create a unique outcome, which brings about a specified contribution to the organisation?
  • Does it have a robust justification, including a cost/benefit forecast?
  • Do you know where your responsibility starts and stops?


3. Some practicalities to be researched

Some aspects that may need some careful research and consideration when you are starting the planning process:

  • Is there a theme?
  • Is the venue appropriate and convenient?
  • The date – will it, for example, clash with other events?
  • Who will organise catering; will it meet legal requirements, and what about a drinks licence?
  • Are the facilities adequate?
  • Are there any problems with travel, transport and parking?
  • Is the entertainment appropriate and do we need a licence?
  • Have physical, data and financial security been considered?
  • Does the event require publicity?


4. Financial and legal considerations

At any major event, there are likely to be certain financial and legal considerations that must be addressed.

  • If you are relying on ticket sales, you need to balance affordability with perceived value. In any case, you must balance the objective of the event with financial prudence, risk assessment and market research.
  • If income will be generated at your event, you will need to plan how that income will be managed: who will look after the money, will floats be needed, what forms of payment will be acceptable and so on.
  • You will need to consider cash flow and payment terms for suppliers, and whether the project team is empowered to spend/commit without the authorisation of higher management.
  • You will almost certainly need insurance to cover public liability and staff/helper/volunteer liability.
  • You need to be aware of your legal liabilities with regard to such matters as guests or helpers who are minorsor who have disability issues.


5. Event objective

Do you have an appropriate objective?

  • This is not the same as the overall justification for the activity of which the event is a part.
  • The objective should be SMART.
  • There may be more than one objective, but there should be one main objective.
  • If an objective runs out of control, the event may suffer from ‘scope creep’.
  • Scope creep can be avoided by having a SMART objective up front, so that each request can be assessed against whether it falls within the parameters of the event.


6. The people involved

Inevitably, running a successful event involves communicating effectively and working with people at all sorts of levels.

  • The sponsor is normally higher in authority than the event manager and the event manager will therefore need to keep the sponsor regularly updated on progress and potential problems on the plan so that the sponsor is fully able to handle any questions or challenges immediately.
  • An event board may consist of senior representatives from the departments with the most input/commitment to the event as well as the departments who stand to gain most.
  • An event may be run with a partner – another organisation – with a joint risk and benefit, in which case it is important to set the expectations on both sides before you begin regarding funding, decision making and so on.
  • The event manager requires a range of skills, including multi-tasking, logical and lateral thinking, communication skills and imagination.
  • Team members need to deliver their own part of the project and they need to accept the leadership of the event manager, even if they are senior to that person.


7. Team performance

The Tuckman model of team performance says that teams go through a series of stages:

  • Forming is the stage where the people come together and are introduced
  • Storming is the stage where the egos jockey for position and people check out each other and their relative position in the pecking order
  • Norming is the stage where we accept our relative positions in the pecking order and the acceptable behaviours are recognised
  • Performing is the stage where we have got all the previous stuff out of the way and we can get on with the job in hand, clearly knowing where we stand.
  • It is strongly advised that any new event team should have a session to try to Form, Storm and Norm, and establish ground rules.


8. Event initiation document

An event initiation document is a very simple document, but a very valuable one, consisting of

  • The names of the sponsor or board
  • The name of the event manager
  • The names of the event team
  • Contact information for all the above
  • The justification or business case
  • The event’s objective, goal or mission in full.


9. Risk assessment and management

You need to brainstorm all the possible risks to the successful outcome of the event. Then you need to assess the risks individually.

  • To do this, you assess ‘Probability’ and ‘Impact’ and rate each on a scale, from 1 = very low to 10 = very high.
  • If it is a low probability and low impact risk, you may choose to ignore it.
  • If the probability or the impact is high, you should plan to ‘manage’ it in some way.
  • You need to ensure that your event doesn’t clash with any competing draws on people’s time, pockets and priorities while at the same time ensuring that your event is at least as attractive.


10. Task list

Any event plan starts with a list of tasks.

  • Some of these tasks may stand alone and have no relationship to any of the other tasks.
  • Some will have dependencies, and cannot be fulfilled unless, or until, another task has been completed.
  • For each task, you should have a checklist that produces a SMART objective for the task, which is critical to the motivation of the responsible person.
  • A box within the checklist should only be left empty if you have considered it and decided that it is not needed.


11. Scheduling the tasks

When you start to schedule tasks – we suggest you use a Gantt chart – you need to keep certain principles in mind:

  • Schedule for concurrent activity – so try to have as much being done at the same time as is possible, in order to speed progress
  • Schedule to account for dependencies, be they linear, or resource related – so look for bottlenecks; where multiple tasks are dependent upon one task, that one task becomes critical
  • Juggle the scheduling to achieve the end date, not the individual task time estimates (in other words, work smarter, not harder)
  • Look out for the decision tasks that require input from people outside the event team.


12. Changing the plan

‘Change control’ is absolutely critical to any event, if its planning will take more than a week or two.

  • When any change to the plan occurs, or is requested, you can look at the Gantt chart and see quite quickly what the most likely downstream impacts of that change will be.
  • You can also use some of the methods of cause and effect analysis in reverse to assess downstream impact where it is less obvious.
  • It is wise to generate a list of all the stakeholders in the project outcome, as well as the active participants in the planning and management of the project, to assess whether there is any pertinent impact on these stakeholders.
  • It is best to use a standardised form to document changes, as this ensures that all the angles are covered.


13. Delivering the event

There are some principles that will work for virtually every plan and event:

  • The team has to be motivated to complete the tasks they are responsible for to the standards that are laid down
  • Progress against plan must be validated regularly
  • The event manager needs to actively communicate with the team on the one hand and the appropriate stakeholders on the other; the timing of communication will probably not be the same for different groups.
  • At the completion of milestones, it is appropriate to show that you appreciate the appropriate people
  • After the event is over, it is necessary to evaluate it to measure the extent to which it met its initial objective
  • Finally, you will all want to celebrate your success
  • After the project is over, you want to educate yourself and others to ensure that you don’t let people re-invent the wheel.


14. Team building and strategy days

If you have been asked, or you have decided, to run a ‘teambuilding’ event, there are a number of specific considerations that are relevant.

  • Team bonding events, such as a beer and curry night, may not appeal to all team members or encourage the desired ethic.
  • If you are planning teambuilding or team bonding activities it is just as important to consider all the other aspects covered in this module, such as goal setting, timing, location, insurances and legal aspects.
  • If you are organising a strategy planning event, it is critical for the team concerned to have a strong and common understanding of the goal.