Every day there is a new checklist for events and meetings found in a magazine, on a website, in a blog post, in our Twitter and LinkedIn feed. We are all guilty of reading them, always seeking new ways to do our jobs better and faster. Many of us write them, and there are surely people who use these exhaustive lists we produce. Each of these promises to ensure you deliver your best event ever – but when did a series of checklists last create a successful meeting or event?
I am not suggesting we never use a critical path, work plan or checklist for the logistical planning of our events, but this is simply the logistics.
Success begins with having a plan which employs strategic thinking about your organization, your participants (actual, potential and ideal), and clearly defining your end game. No checklist in the world will help until you clearly articulate your answer(s) to this question: What is it you want people to walk away with in terms of learning, increased motivation and loyalty, new connections and strengthened relationships or actionable takeaways?
Next up is that elusive element – creativity. Why is this elusive? Or, why do I think this is elusive? First, creativity is hard to value. Everyone wants it. We see it in every RFP. Please provide “creative, out-of-the-box ideas” – usually within 24 hours and often buried under heaps of logistical data or requests but without defined objectives or a clear sense of the audience. We have all seen endless groups of 150 to 700 people who are “in their mid-40s to mid-60s, interested in mild to moderate adventure levels and seeking opportunities to network.” In a word, UGH.
Tell me how many people are across each age category; tell me their zodiac signs or anything interesting about them! Tell me what they loved and hated in the past, and tell me the one thing the CEO must have that will make you shine! Share with me how many and what other destinations are being considered and a realistic budget range so that I can actually provide you with unique, out-of-the-box ideas and let us intrigue you enough that we can continue our conversation. Then instead of choosing your creative partner based on the one or two ideas they have literally guessed at in most cases, choose them based on a checklist that looks more like this:
- Their experience in delivering beyond expectations – you can suss this out by talking to others who have used them, looking at team bios, and seeing what they share on social media including their own website or blog.
- Your intuition.
- A shared ability to communicate.
- Their willingness to listen to your real needs – and by the way if they call to talk to you about your RFP – talk!
If you do this you will find that creativity begins to ooze out of everything you receive, and not only do you begin to have a program that delivers to your objectives, you will get the elusive “best ever” and “can this be repeated?” feedback which keeps you as the planner forever employed.
So, should you use one checklist or seven? A project management tool or two? A group of tools which make your job planning complex events more efficient? Yes – and only you can decide which is right for your team and your type of projects, and there are also daily posts and sessions and lessons on the ever evolving suites of tools. Just don’t lose sight of your overarching strategy and end goals as you move through your planning process. Communicate often with your clients and your team, document well, and bring your own special perspective to creating memorable and relevant experiences they won’t stop talking about!