Most PR pros know how to plan a basic event, with one or two collaborators, where the tasks can be handled within a collaborative project management tool. But what if you’re asked to manage a large-scale happening (like a multi-day conference or cross-organization meeting)?
Can a public relations consultant really oversee a sweeping, large budget event or conference? Of course! The key is good organization. When your event requires coordination among multiple vendors, decision makers, and/or committees, you may want to consider moving away from deadline-based task management and use a comprehensive event planning tracker that separates tasks by category.
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While there are plenty of fancy tools out there for project management and scheduling, I’ve found a good old-fashioned spreadsheet works best with most clients (the last thing you want when you’re in hard core event mode is to have to spend time giving one of your key contacts tech support because they can’t figure out the tool). Two successful, real-world examples of this approach follow:
1. In this example, which was used by an all-volunteer organization to successfully execute a city-wide Serve-a-Thon, the group identified the committees responsible for each task, rather than an individual person (committee chairs reported on progress):
2. The following document was used to plan an annual multi-million dollar conference and tradeshow, co-hosted by a technology industry association and a trade publication's conference team.
Use different spreadsheet tabs (aka worksheets) to put everything that has any association with the event in the same document. The “if it’s not on the tracker, it isn’t being done” approach is a CYA maneuver that’s key in some situations, and proven to work.
Note that for reasonably sized, trusted teams, an online spreadsheet such as Google can be a nice way to quickly share information and updates. But for large, distributed organizations with multiple constituencies participating, you may want to elect for the version control offered by Excel (or similar), housed on your computer. Regularly scheduled conference calls with the committee heads or team leaders to review the tracker is key to staying on the same page.
When building your own tracker, know that — because no two events are exactly the same — there is no universally applicable approach or to do list. However, the following headings or “buckets” are among those commonly used for organizing tasks:
-On-Site Logistics (e.g., booth audio/visual, registration, staffing, etc.)
-Event Content (e.g., conference session planning)
An event activity tracker can be as simple or complex as you need it to be – we're using a basic version as we finalize the details for the Solo PR Summit. Some clients may prefer to review a list of tasks categorized in this way (versus a strictly chronological to-do list) for even small events.
If you have any tools or methods for event oversight you've used with success (or if you have any lessons learned to share), please let us know in the comments!
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This is great information and personally timely for me. One of my clients has a series of events this year and I’m developing the marketing plan and overseeing the details. Thank you for being so generous in sharing helpful resources.