Tips for improving your event management skills

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.

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