In my previous post, we talked about some major pitfalls I have personally experienced in my years planning technical events for the developer community. Thankfully, there are at least seven tips that my colleagues and I have found to be helpful. Some may seem obvious, and others hopefully will help you have an ah-ha moment to improve your next planning.
1: Build your Event Strategy
Create a concise outline of the story you’re about to tell with your event. Identifying the who, what, where, when, why, and how components gives the planning stage structure.
The end result of this process should result in the vision of the event. It will be the drawing board that your team will come to refer to, the plan that will keep the project in motion, on track, and acts as level of transparency to your team so everyone is aware of what is going on.
2: Get the timing right (or as close to it as possible)
Timing is everything when it comes to events. Do your homework and find out what else is happening within your industry between your event time frame. If events are happening within this time frame, will they act as conflict or augment your own event by drawing more people into the area? Are there partnership opportunities for you to capitalize on? Stay aware of your environment and use this to determine the best possible timing for your event.
3: All hands on deck
You need to ensure that every single person on the team is involved in the project. But as the old adage goes “too many cooks, spoil the broth,” so how do you avoid this becoming a disaster?
- Size of your team matters: You should have enough hands on deck to complete the tasks, but not too many such that there is planning and communication confusion. Ideally, depending on the size of your event, a good team size is between 3-5 people who leads projects and they can have a few people who report to them.
- Accountability: Each team member has to be accountable for their tasks and its successful completion. Distributing work also ensures that each member is performing to the best of their ability. Having a weekly stand up meeting for everyone to share their progress would help everyone to feel motivated to get their work done.
4: Let constraints keep you focused
Budget constraints and tight deadlines can work in your favor by keeping your event lean and focused. Use the techniques of positive thinking to imagine planning the best event ever with no constraints, then figure out how to make it happen within your limitations. It is also beneficial to consider what not to include in the execution of your project.
5: Work with external parties
You don’t have it do it all on your own! You can engage vendors and contractors who can help you carry out the event so you can focus on aspects of the event that plays to your strengths. Build relationships with them early on; things will go wrong and these contacts will be your lifeline.
6: Practice, practice, practice
You should have a practice plan to review with your team in at least 3 ways- via email, via conference call, and onsite. The more aware each person is of their tasks, the more prepared they will be on the day of the event.
Onsite rehearsal is important to test the sound, lights, and progress of events. If you have an emcee for the event, have run-throughs with them so that they can test out the sound system and adjust their scripts. Establish an open channel of communication to allow for questions and clarifications to happen before the event day.
7: Do a debrief
It’s so tempting to breath a big sigh of relief the moment an event wraps and to go out, celebrate its’ success. Do it, but come back within 24 hours to review everything that went right and everything that can be done better going forward. Take advantage of the adrenaline rush that comes with accomplishment. A debrief session with your team is a bonding moment to relieve the hard work and planning that made the success possible, and to get everyone excited about doing it again.
In my next piece, let’s look at tools available (old and new) to help execute all the tips outlined above. What tips and lessons have worked for you and your team to pull off a winning event?
This is a guest post by Sandra Persing, Senior Events Manager at Mozilla for all things developer relations. She also serves as Evangelist for the Women Who Code: Seattle, and has successfully created the first sold out women in tech careers conference in Seattle in 2015. Follow her on Twitter @SandraPersing.