10 tips for improving your event management skills

When it comes to event management, very few rules are set in stone. Because every event is different, each one requires a unique approach. To be a great event manager, then, you need to be as flexible as you are organized. This flexibility is what lets you adapt, learn, and change to make each event better.

Don’t just manage an event. Instead, make all of your events legendary with these 10 tips for better event management:

1. Set clear objectives.

If you’re coordinating with an event planner, she might send a list of objectives your way. If not, work with your client to come up with concrete goals for the event. Make these goals as specific as possible. How many cars do you want the parking staff to move each hour? How many questions are you hoping to fit into one question and answer session? Use numbers wherever possible.

2. Start planning now.

The sooner you can confirm the details of an event, the better. Start making calls as much as a year in advance so that you can lock down your venue and take advantage of vendors’ early-bird specials. While it’s important to make flexible agreements in this early period (you don’t, after all, know how many participants to expect yet), reaching out to venues and vendors early on saves you time, money, and headache down the road.

3. Negotiate with vendors.

Every event is different. Vendors understand this, which is why many offer custom services with flexible pricing. Instead of asking vendors for a quote, figure out how much you’re willing to pay, and then offer the vendor between 5-10% less. This way, even if the vendor negotiates up, you’ll stay on budget and, in many cases, save money.

4. Mobilize your networks.

Event management is all about networking. Stay in close contact with the venues and vendors you love to work with. When you need them, they’ll be there for you. Keep former colleagues and volunteers close too. Build effective staff and volunteer teams quickly and painlessly by mobilizing your extensive social network.

5. Be an early adopter.

Don’t shy away from new event technology. To get ahead, embrace innovative changes that advance the event experience. There are plenty of ways to integrate new technology and event management:

  • Crowdsource the location of your annual conference with a pre-event survey.
  • Gather real-time feedback on live speakers with an online survey.
  • Get participants to the right place at the right time with an event app. About half of participants use these apps to navigate an event.
  • Make the memories last with an Instagram printer.

If you decide to incorporate unfamiliar technology into your event, make sure you have someone on staff who understands the new technology inside and out. Put this person in charge of troubleshooting issues during the event.

6. Do a run through.

Every event, from high-stakes performances to high school award ceremonies, deserves a run through. Schedule a rehearsal—with staff, volunteers, and (if possible) presenters on hand—a week before the event. This leaves you enough time to make significant changes to the event program, but gives staff and volunteers enough time to prepare beforehand. Test all technology during the rehearsal.

7. Listen to participants.

The key to managing a great event is understanding the participant’s experience. On the day of the event, focus on the participants as much as your duties allow. Read the room. Talk with people. Collect data with real-time feedback surveys.

8. Learn from every event.

Take time to debrief with your team after each event. Discuss what went well and what didn’t with a group made up of critical staff, all staff, or both staff and volunteers. These debriefing sessions are a great way to get people’s impressions and suggestions while the event is still fresh in their minds.

9. Follow up with everyone.

Don’t leave participants, staff, or volunteers hanging after they’ve packed up and gone home. Follow up with each group by email a week after the event. In the email, include a link to a final feedback survey capable of collecting actionable advice by asking questions specific to each group:

  • In the participant survey, ask each person to rate your vendors, your venue, and to comment on the event’s schedule and overall organization.
  • You’ve already debriefed with the staff in person. Go a little deeper by giving staff members the chance to give additional feedback anonymously in the staff satisfaction survey.
  • In the volunteer survey, ask each person to evaluate their team leader and their team organization.

Also, send thank you emails to the venue and vendors who made the event possible. Let each party know that you appreciate the hard work they put in and that you want to stay in contact.

10. Let every event change you.

Put what you’ve learned into action by making positive changes after each event. Review the feedback you receive from participants, staff, and volunteers to weed out inefficiencies in your event management style. Here are ways to eliminate a few common issues:

  • Compare participant satisfaction with the cost of each vendor. Then, weed out expensive vendors that don’t add significant value to the event.
  • Identify both redundant staff members or volunteers and understaffed teams. Plan to transfer redundant staff members to teams that need more help.
  • Identify the places where staff or volunteers fail to do their jobs effectively. Revise your staff and volunteer training to focus on these areas.
  • Every event is an opportunity to change the way you approach the next one. Be open to altering your event management style based on the feedback you get from participants, staff, and volunteers. After all, improving your event management style will allow your events to deliver a more meaningful experience for all involved.

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