Last month I delivered my first major event project, Retail Recharged, a half day conference and networking event for the retail and retail technology communities on the 20th October.

A fantastic experience, the event was hugely successful with great feedback from all the attendees as well as the major stakeholders, however, there were a few valuable lessons that I’ve learnt as the event and project manager that I wanted to share with you.

Time Management

This is always a tricky one to manage, more so I think when you are working on a project basis, whether that’s as a freelancer or an agency, and getting used to the culture of the organisation and client you are working with. Despite every best effort, including having a detailed event timeline and marketing plan in place, regular progress and communication meetings and employment of the latest project management tools, deadlines were still missed or pushed further and further back, resulting in a frantic rush in the final weeks to get everything finished and ready on time.

What was the big lesson here, as the project manager don’t be afraid to assign roles to the team or client that you are working with, making specific team members responsible for the delivery of certain aspects of the event, and also make those specific team members responsible for reporting back on where they are up to and the progress that has been made. Just because you are managing the project doesn’t necessarily mean that you hold responsibility for every element, nor is it possible to do everything on your own.

Which leads me on quite nicely to delegation.

Delegation

A sign of a truly successful manager is the ability to pass responsibility and autonomy to members of their team, displaying trust in their knowledge, capabilities and experience.

One of the biggest mistakes I made during this event was trying to manage and retain responsibility for everything! As my first major event project, I was keen to impress and show off my capabilities. Whilst I certainly achieved this and delivered a very successful event for my new client, I also put myself under an enormous amount of pressure and as a result, the event itself.

I’m a perfectionist, quite determined in character and also eager to please, which can make it quite challenging when it comes time to letting go or indeed not taking on additional tasks when you are already at the limit! I’ll definitely be letting go of a few tasks at the next event, more so for my sanity than anything else!

Supplier Management

This is always going to be a tricky one, but I think the biggest and most crucial lesson here is; taking the time to sit down and set clear and achievable timelines and expectations with your event suppliers.

Making sure your set achievable timelines well in advance helps ensure there are no nasty surprises along the way that can throw you off track, and suddenly mean your focus and attention gets pulled off in another direction, which will always be at the jeopardy of something else that you need to focus on.

Don’t get me wrong, all the suppliers I worked with for this event were fantastic and did an amazing job, both for me and my client on the day. Particular mention needs to be made to Crystal Interactive who provided our event app and interactive tool, Storm Events for the production, Tweetwall Pro for our social media wall, BaxterStorey for the food and catering and operations on the day, Ideas Box for our Pick and Mix Tricycle (yes you did hear right, and it went down a treat!), and Brunel Print for all the printed event collateral.

Albeit, we had one supplier who didn’t deliver on their promise on the day and we were massively let down. One big lesson I’ve learnt from this and wanted to share is; if you’re using a new supplier, whether that’s one through choice or you’re limited to the preferred supplier of the venue you’ve selected, do your research and were possible look at peer reviews or ask for testimonials from previous customers. This will prepare you for the relationship you are about to embark on, and also any nasty surprises along the way. Finally, trust your gut, if something tells you that something isn’t right, check, check and double check again!

There are some great tools out there for peer reviews, which are becoming increasingly popular, one of which, and those who follow this blog will know I’m a huge advocate, is Eventopedia UK. Through their tool you can search for venues and suppliers that are reviewed by your event industry peers.

So there you have it. My first major event project delivered, and the key takeaways and lessons I have learnt which are:

• Assign roles and responsibilities.

• Have trust in your team and learn to let go.

• Set clear and achievable timelines and expectations, not just with your suppliers, but also with your clients and stakeholders.

Let me know your thoughts, until next time #Eventprofs…