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How to sharpen your project management for meetings and events!

Project management with heart creates great meetings and events

I’ve often been told when I’ve project managed meetings and events, regardless of their size, that they were memorable events for the participants. I have met speakers who have given talks at events all over the world, and I have received feedback that they have never before been at an event as well organized as “mine”.

I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but I want to share some thoughts on how I work and what I believe has contributed to events that people remember. Not only tomorrow, but also in a few years’ time. So come along!

What is your role as a project manager?

Project management means having many balls in the air. Not only do you have to manage the project itself, but you also have to get several different people to work together in a team. Employees who are in their regular job roles and have this project as a “hobby”. Because when it comes to working as a project manager for meetings and events at companies, where even your own regular job role is not to do events all day long, you need to allocate your time well in order to successfully deliver the event. At the same time, it is an asset to be part of the company, to know its tone, values and how the target group to be invited works. If you work in an agency, you need to have a good project manager/contact person inside the company you will be working with in order for both you and the client to get the most out of the collaboration.

I have had roles on all sides, inside the company without help from an external event agency, inside the company and help/collaboration from an external agency, and now as a project manager at an event agency working with clients who need our help. The constellation and cooperation of the project team is crucial to the outcome of the event, and it is you as the project manager who needs to lead the way through clarity.

Clarity in the form of what the intention and objectives are, who will be involved and when (it will be exciting (not) when the whole office wants to be involved and brainstorm ideas), in which stages everything will be done and by whom/whom, reconciliation meetings with management, documentation that summarizes and provides a good overview of where you are in the process and what remains to be done (if you get sick, for example),

No matter what role I had or have, I have always led all meetings and events with my heart. If you want to create memorable experiences, you need to know what your company or customer’s intention is for the event. You need to ensure that there is a common thread from start to finish, and when all the big pieces are in place – the details will play their part. The details that make a difference. A difference that is not always obvious to the participant, but that you know can be the difference between the event being remembered or forgotten.

What do participants want and what do you want?

I have always emphasized how I think the participants want to feel during the event, what states do we want to put them in and how do we do it. What is the value for them to be there and what should they take away from the event? And what do THEY want from the event? It’s like working as a PT. The client you have in front of you has a preference for what they want by hiring you, you can also see through tests (and with your profession) what they need. So you need to find a good combination of what they want (what they expect when they sign up) and what they need (what you want to contribute/what they should bring).

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For me it is very important to see all the external staff who contribute to making the event possible. I appreciate them, I see them and acknowledge them. It’s easy to forget about waiters, stage managers, etc. fl. when you are trying to put the pieces together. I live by the truth that you get what you give, and it should be genuine.

Ex. Two years ago, I project managed a large two-day event for about 500 people where the whole weekend ended with a big banquet. A few hours before the banquet started, I gathered all the kitchen staff and thanked them for being there (although they are paid, the salary is not everything), wished them good luck and was clear that if any guests were unpleasant during the evening, they could take it up with me directly.

What do I think is important in the role of a project manager?

I always go through the flow of the actual event day a number of times along the journey, trying to see pitfalls and spaces for that little extra. Conduct a risk analysis and discuss it with other members of the project team. Things can happen when it is “show time”, if you are prepared and aware of where in the flow unforeseen things can happen, then you are also one step ahead when it comes to solving the “problem” if it arises with plan B, C or D. A good quality is to have a little bit of “ice in the stomach”, it rarely works well to lose your grip if problems arise. Your colleagues expect you to solve it or tell them what to do/help with. So a poker face is not bad either ;). Even if there’s a storm on the inside, try to stay calm on the outside and walk away if you need to vent.

For me, being a project manager is a combination of being clear and flexible. You have a mandate to determine which frameworks are negotiable and which are not. Those involved in the project group may have hidden intentions that they would like to sneak into the arrangement, in which case it is important that you keep the red thread and stick to the rules. Then there is often more or less room to be flexible on the content. Be humble and don’t think that you are the only one who can come up with good ideas. So step back sometimes and see if you are making decisions based on your personal values instead of the company’s best interests. This also applies if you work in an agency. Just because you KNOW that the approach you have presented is crazy good, it is not a matter of course for the customer to buy it. But maybe it can be modified so that you get through what you believe in, and the customer is satisfied at the same time – which is a prerequisite for good cooperation and opportunities for more assignments in the future.

Creativity is another not unlikely attribute you can use in your role. For me, the space for creativity also needs structure, structure that keeps the common thread alive. And helps to keep a check that the balance between what you want to convey and what the participant expects is intact.

When choosing or discussing the theme of the event, take into account that others (colleagues, client, agency) may have their own truths, values and experiences about the ideas presented. So be clear about what the idea is and check with those involved.

Another great idea that comes to mind is our five senses. Appeal to participants through all five senses and preferably with a common thread through them as well. Our five senses are sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

But no matter what, put heart into the event – make it personal – let participants feel that they are seen and that it is their event.

There is so much more to write and say, but these are at least some of the parts that I have worked and work wholeheartedly with when it comes to meetings and events.

Which events you have been to do you remember best? Why do you think?

 

/Rebecca

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