What makes an event a special project management challenge? Everything has to be ready in the first minute! In automotive, there is a “Job One” date when the first car rolls off a new assembly line. After Job One, production ramps up as problems are solved. In event management, there is no such luxury. When the gates open, it is go time.
I recently completed a two-and-a-half year adventure in the planning and organization of Formula Ford’s 50th anniversary celebration at Road America. The FF50th was a very complex five day event with a full slate of racing and off track activities The FF50th was not perfect but it was pretty good.
Keys to Success
Here are some keys to successful event management:
First, write a business plan that paints a picture of the event. Thoroughly think through the who, what, where, when, and why. I outlined the FF50th business plan. Outlines are easy to edit and can be read quickly by busy people. Eleven headings fully scoped the FF50th: Objectives, Where and When, Sanctioning Body, Leadership Team, Car Eligibility, Driver Eligibility, Race Groups, On-Track Schedule, Surprise & Delights, Communication Channels, and Budget.
Next, start thinking about the how. That’s where the “traditional” project management tools come into play, first a Gantt chart followed later by a punch list. The timing plan should pull decisions as far forward as possible to provide more slack time for all the little details. Remember: an event has a hard deadline…get ready for it!
The Gantt chart defines blocks of work and timing at a “big picture” level. The punch list gets into the nitty gritty of who and when at the task level. It is also a good place to capture decisions and other project data. The Gantt chart is updated infrequently. The last revision to the FF50th’s Gantt chart was made eight months out. One the other hand, the punch list changes about every time something happens. In practical terms, that means daily (more on this below).
With the picture painted and a work plan taking shape, the next step is to recruit people to work on the event. No doubt the right people are the single most important key to successful event management (and anything else I can think of, for that matter). Find people who will start with your picture and then surprise you daily with something better.
The last key to successful event management is a new project management trick that I learned while doing the FF50th. About six weeks out, the world was spinning just a little too fast for my punch list…all the little details! To slow things down, I drew up a short list of twelve deliverables that had to be done right and on time. Then frequently during the day, I reviewed the list asking a simple question: Is there something that I need to do NOW to make this deliverable happen? If the answer was yes, then that e-mail was written or that phone call was made right then and there.
The short list eventually grew to nineteen deliverables. Even so, the world slowed down and the “must haves” all fell into place.
So there you have it, an event management road map. Now go out there and deliver an epic event! Click HERE to let me know how you are doing.