Overcoming The Seven Deadly Sins of Event Management
Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.
Every industry has its deadly sins – bad habits that a large portion of professionals are prone to. You may have taken an event management course and think you know it all. But humbling yourself and reflecting on your habits allows you to examine and fix any issues before they negatively affect your career. The first step in conquering these sins is to make yourself aware of them. When you’re reading through this list, ask yourself if you’ve ever committed any of these event planning no-no’s!
Let’s dive into them!
1. Mistreating Your Volunteers and Team
Even if they don’t know as much about event management as you do, your volunteers are the cornerstone of a successful event – and you need to remember that. Treat them with respect and dignity, and give them enough agency to make meaningful contributions on their own. If you regularly find yourself berating or yelling at volunteers, that’s a sure sign you need to rein in your attitude.
The same standard of respect should also be extended to paid staff or vendor employees at the event. The relationships you develop with these people, from the sound engineers to the cleanup crew, will set the tone for the event you’re coordinating and any events in the future.
Here are a few tips on how to work with them:
- When discussing performance, focus on strengths, rather than weaknesses.
- Make sure you’re approachable. Respond to emails and requests within a reasonable time-frame, and ensure they know you’re available to answer any questions your team might have
- For larger events, hire managers with the same mindset described above.
- Stay optimistic. No one wants to deal with someone who’s a dark cloud every hour of the day – especially not in the event industry.
2. Expecting Speakers to Work for Free
It’s still a little baffling how often this happens. Let’s say you’re angling to invite a particular keynote speaker to an event – and they’re clearly interested in attending. Everything’s going well until they bring up the topic of payment.
And that’s where things fall apart. It never occurred to you that this speaker might expect some form of financial compensation for their participation. After all, isn’t exposure enough?
Not really – you can’t pay bills or feed yourself on brand awareness alone, after all. Let’s put this a different way. Would you run an event for a client who expected you to do it pro-bono? No? Well then why expect a guest speaker to work at your event for free, then?
3. Overdoing It with Evaluation
Attendee surveys are important. They help you get an idea on what you (and your clients) did right with the event, what you did wrong, and what you could to better. But they can also be a figurative shot through the foot if you aren’t careful with them.
Do not, for example, hand them out right at the beginning of your event. Give your guests a chance to digest their experience. If you throw evaluations at them right out of the gate, people are likely going to try to get them over with right at the beginning, which will make your evaluations functionally useless.
Avoid overly liberal use of polling technology – and if you must use it, consider locking guests out of voting until after the keynote.
4. No Processes, No Plans
Another worrying (and somewhat surprising) trend in event management is the tendency for novice event planners to ‘play it by ear.’ It’s critical that you have a plan, even if statistically unforeseen circumstances will deter your plans. There are multiple reasons for this:
- You need to know what your event’s objective is – by what standards will you evaluate success?
- You need to be able to explain your event to prospective guests, speakers, and investors in a satisfactory way. If all you know is the general topic of their presentation and your budget, most speakers are going to walk away.
- You need crisis management processes. You don’t want to be caught off guard by an emergency during your event.
- Your managers need to know what their job is, and your volunteers need to know what they must do to make everything run smoothly.
Basically, you need a concrete plan that anticipates issues and a back-up contingency plan when all else fails. If you don’t have them, there’s a good chance your event will descend into chaos pretty fast.
5. Being a Control Freak
Nobody likes being micro-managed. Having every little thing you do be scrutinized and picked apart is one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. Not only that, in the event management world, being a micro-manager will likely leave you with a surplus of gray hairs.
Not only will micromanagement cause more stress for you, but it’ll also create a toxic work environment for your staff and volunteers. Remember, your job is to make things run as smoothly as possible. Ensuring your staff is in an environment where where they can thrive is a huge part of that.
6. Mishandling Event Marketing
Event marketing is another frequent stumbling point – and there are actually two ways to how you can bungle it. On the one hand, you might have a presence on literally every social network in existence. You could be prolific in your output, flooding your audience with YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Tweets, and leadership pieces on LinkedIn. On the other, you might still be figuring out exactly what Facebook is and does, and hence barely have an established presence.
Either way, you need to sort things out. Here’s how:
- Figure out where your attendees are and focus exclusively on those social networks.
- Ensure your brand message is consistent across all channels.
- Network with keynote speakers, managers, and other critical attendees in the months leading up to an event. Don’t leave it to the last minute.
- Offer a live stream option, so people can attend presentations online.
- Ensure you have the means to respond directly to attendees, whether via Twitter, email, or otherwise.
- Avoid flash-based websites, and keep your design simple and pleasing to the eye.
7. Simple Laziness
The last sin might well be the worst of all – settling for “good enough” where your events are concerned. Never do this. You should always strive to make things as perfect as you possibly can. You should always evaluate and re-evaluate every event you run. Always seek to be original and creative with your event ideas.
If you just settle and go with what everyone else is doing, how can you possibly stand out in your field?
Rise Above Your Sins
Every industry has its sins – including event management. Now that you’re aware of them, though? You’re equipped to avoid them and become significantly better at your job as a result!