Project Management Tactics Event Planners Should Never Use

Traditional project management is a great way to stay organized but there are several tenets of PM work that should never find their way into event planning. Are you currently using any of these organizational tactics? If you are, you may be sacrificing your own efficiency and wasting valuable time.

Sure, event planners are more artists than project managers but a lot of companies are foisting project management principles and techniques on them. And that’s not all bad. There are several things event planners can learn from project management.

But many event professionals acquiesce without understanding the ramifications of their process. The client’s always right, after all. But there are several basics of project management you should never agree to. They’ll likely detract from your event and cost you time and energy you don’t have to spare.

Project Management Tactics Event Planners Should Never Use

3 Basics of Project Management Event Planners Should Never Use

Many business consultants suggest using practices from other industries to help solve problems. But when it comes to event planning, using these tactics from project management will only cause you frustration and lost time.

1. Weekly Status Meetings

There’s a funny meme circulating the Interwebs: “Here’s to hoping you won’t spend your day in a meeting that could’ve been an email.” Project managers love their weekly status meetings. Everyone checks in and their voice can be heard. The only problem with this concept is that most people don’t have the time to spare to attend a meeting. There is a cost associated with them too because the time someone is attending a meeting is time they’re not billing or making money (unless you were smart enough to negotiate a rate for meeting attendance).

The other problem over the weekly status meeting is that there is often no reason for discussion. So the meeting turns into members seated around a table feeling pressure to talk about something so their position and role appear to be valuable. Again, this could all be accomplished in an email or a wiki doc where participants could update a living document in real time as soon as issues or information is present.

Solution: ask yourself is there another format this communication can take such as an email or a living document? If so, cancel the meeting. Another solution many companies are using is to calculate how much holding a meeting costs. Then they post that number in the meeting room with a sign asking if what you’re discussing is worth that cost. This puts things in perspective very quickly. Finally, try putting together an agenda. If you’re grasping for content, you probably don’t need a meeting.

2. Sign-offs of Sign-offs

Have you ever attended a meeting to plan a meeting or sat on a task force to plan a task force? Then you probably also have signed off on allowing a document to be signed off on. Project managers love to create safeguards so as to minimize risk but sometimes those attempts backfire. Levels of bureaucratic red tape are created that are so dense and sticky, no one even knows who has final sign-off power because of the sign-offs that occur before the sign-offs.

Solution: If you employ a team you trust, give them a certain degree of authority or one direct point of contact for easy approval. When major, costly decisions must be made, run them through the gauntlet of approvals but for everyday decisions, allow the people who are closest to the issue to solve it. If you don’t trust your team enough to do this, you have an issue larger than oversight.

3. Every Project Can Be Managed

Okay, this isn’t exactly a fallacy. Everything can be managed but it is very difficult to manage every event in exactly the same way. A corporate event is going to have different key performance indicators and goals than a charity fundraiser will. While there are event planning best practices, those are often designed around the type of the event and the budget.

There’s more of an air of creativity and a need to factor in the whims and preferences of the audience than there is in completing a work project. Organization is important at an event but so is personalization. Event organization, unlike business, is not so much a cookie-cutter undertaking as it is an “if this, then that” experience of knowing your audience and delivering on what they need and want.

Solution: Create best practices or checklists for the different type of meetings or events you plan but make sure you consider these fluid documents that will be altered based on the audience and their needs. You never want your audience to feel like your events are formulaic.

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Things Event Planners Can Learn from Project Managers

Finally, for all these fallacies we presented, there are some things an event planner can learn from a project manager. They include:

  • Always have a goal. As part of that goal, you should have minor milestones that lead up to it. That way you can ascertain whether you’re on track to meet it or not while it’s still early enough to do something about it.
  • Check in with team members and stakeholders. Keeping communication open is an invaluable practice. Sometimes they’ll have feedback and suggestions, while others they may enjoy simply hearing about the strides you’re making. Understand that this communication does not have to be in the form of a weekly meeting. Never meet for meeting’s sake. Meet because there’s a necessary interactive component and exchange that must occur.
  • Agendas are crucial to a meeting. If you find you must meet, an agenda is crucial and should be delivered in time for everyone to prepare for the meeting. Attendees should ideally peruse the agenda and decide what pieces they will contribute to and what questions they may have for other attendees. Never leave the agenda to be solely table decor. It should be distributed well in advance of the meeting.

In Conclusion

Event planners can learn a lot from project managers but it’s best to be choosy in doing so. Some things from project management simply don’t translate well into event planning. If your client suggests using tactics of project management that will eat up your most valuable resource—time—use your professional experience to explain a better way to accomplish their vision.

Additional Resources on Project Management

Design-driven Project Management for Event Planners
Project Management for Event Planners
The Core of Project Management
How to Get Big Projects Done
Project Management Tools for Event Profs

About The Author
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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