8 bad habits event planners should stop to save time

Time.  It’s the event planner’s most precious commodity and yet it is also one of the main challenges of organizing any type of event.  Most of us feel that we simply don’t have enough of it.  Yet somehow, we keep calm and carry on.  It’s no wonder event planning is ranked as the fifth most stressful job in the world! Working in events is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  Determination, experience, good communications and creativity are all essential skills for success in the job. But good time-management is even more important.

Many of us today use all sorts of technology tools that help save time in planning and managing events. From event management systems like Eventsforce to event apps, engagement tools, marketing automation, analytics and so on. No one can dispute the countless benefits these systems bring in terms of time management.  They help us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources – a lot faster than what was once imaginable.

But let’s not forget about the human factor. Effective time management is a personal thing too. And most of us don’t get it right all the time. Whether it’s procrastination, personal distractions or tasks that take up a lot more time than they should, there are many things that waste our time every day.  And wasted time means rushed deadlines, a work-life imbalance and more stress and anxiety.

Have a look at the eight things you need to stop doing now to make better use of your time:

1. Stop Complaining about Time

We’re all a little bit guilty here.  We talk to colleagues, partners and suppliers about how much work we need to do in so little time. If you’re in the habit of complaining about time, it may be time to break the habit. And the easiest way of breaking any bad habit is by replacing it with a new positive one. Instead of focusing on your lack of time, be more vocal about what you do have time for.  If you value your time, others will do the same and you’ll see that it will not only have a positive impact on your productivity but everyone else’s too.

2. Stop Quick Internet Breaks

How often do you get the itch to quickly check the news or have a look at your phone to check Twitter or Facebook in the middle of a task? According to Forbes.com, research has shown that it takes 15 consecutive minutes of focus before you can fully engage in a task.  After that, you fall into a euphoric state of increased productivity – which apparently makes you five times more productive that you otherwise would be. Taking a mini-break to surf the Internet pulls you out of this state, which means you’ll need another 15 minutes to get back into it.  You do this enough times, and you’ll go through a whole day without experiencing the focus you need to get the job done. If these mini surfing breaks are essential, give yourself set times to do them in.  You can also use a tool like Pocket, which can save your ‘finds’ to access and read later on at a time that won’t impact your work.

3. Stop Multi-Tasking!

This may sound like the last thing an event planner should do but multi-tasking is a real productivity killer. According to research at Stanford University, multitasking has been proven to be less productive than doing a single thing at a time.  Why?  Because our brains lack the capacity to perform more than one task at a time successfully.  We may think we’re multi-taskers, but what we’re actually doing is shifting back and forth from one task to another, such as writing an email, then doing a conference call, then back to email and so on.   The research also found that people who multi-tasked a lot and believed it boosted their performance, were actually worse at multi-tasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. It seems they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information – they were also slower at switching from one task to another!

4. Stop Responding to Emails as They Arrive

Emails can be the source of constant interruption and this will affect how well you work with the time you’ve got.  Put aside specific times for checking your email, such as first thing in the day, right before or after lunch or right at the end of the day.  Unless it’s urgent, avoid checking emails outside these set times as it will definitely distract you from your high-priority work, especially when things are busy. You can also use features in your email software that allow you to prioritize messages by sender – so you can set alerts for your important suppliers and vendors and save the rest for your allocated email time.  You can even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when you’ll be checking emails again.


Learn how to save time, cut out admin work and do more with your event data with this FREE eBook from Event Industry News and Eventsforce: The Event Planner’s Guide to Data Integration.


5. Stop Putting Off Harder Tasks

You have to remember that our mental energy has limits.  When this energy is exhausted, time-management, productivity and the ability to make good decisions decline rapidly. When you put off tasks till late in the day (because they’re difficult, boring or intimidating), you are saving them for a time when you’re at your worst. Take on these tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh and you’ll spend less time getting it done.

6. Stop The Unrealistic To-Do Lists

Ticking things off your to-do list can feel good because it gives you a sense of accomplishment.  But is it really the most productive way of doing things?  Apparently not. We regularly underestimate how long something will take us and we forget to factor this in.  Setting unrealistic expectations with never-ending to-do lists can lead to frustration, exhaustion and a feeling that you’re not accomplishing anything. Prioritize your tasks from most important to least important and for each task on your list, figure out exactly how much time you need to get it done. If you set a deadline for yourself, then this will help you avoid procrastination and ultimately work more effectively in the time that you have.

7. Stop Unproductive Meetings

Meetings take up a big part of your time.  Sometimes you may even have meetings about meetings. Well, according to Forbes, ultra-productive people avoid meetings as much as humanly possible.  They know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so whenever they have one, they inform everyone from the start that they’ll be sticking to the intended schedule.  This sets a clear limit that encourages everyone to be more focused and efficient with their time.  When you are running meetings with your colleagues or suppliers, take five minutes beforehand to decide what it is you want to achieve.  This will help you stay focused on your goals.   Take another five minutes afterwards to check the results.  You can also make better use of time by creating boundaries for these meetings, such as keeping laptops closed (unless needed), not checking phones and making sure everyone participates and provides an opinion at the end of the discussion.

8. Stop Saying Yes to Everything

Yes, it is mostly your responsibility and the work does need to be done.  But saying yes to everything will load up your plate to a point where it becomes unmanageable because there simply isn’t enough time.   Try to take on additional tasks when you know you have free time or that the task at hand will help you meet your goals.  Figure out what the task involves before you say ‘yes’ and you’ll avoid neglecting other tasks that may be more important.  If you feel it isn’t a priority, don’t be worried about saying ‘no’ – people tend to instinctively respect those who can say no.  And if you don’t like the confrontation, you could try saying something along these lines – ‘I’ll be able to work on it once I finish doing XXX’ or ‘It would be great if I could do this another time, as I would like to focus my energy on what I’m doing now to get the best results’.

Conclusion

Some of these bad habits may not be such a big deal, but they do add up.  As an exercise, track the time you spend doing different tasks using an app like Toggl.   Look at the time you and your team spend meeting venues and suppliers, dealing with emails, setting up event websites, managing registrations and attendee enquiries, copying data, reporting and so on. You don’t need to do it all the time – use a set timeframe for your exercise.  Knowing how much time you spend working on different tasks will put you in a better position to figure out what you’re doing right and where there’s ways to improve.

Are there any other bad habits you can add to this list?  Please share and let us know – we’d love to hear your comments.

Sources:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2017/01/31/eight-bad-habits-you-must-break-to-be-more-productive/2/#326994935a80
https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2017/02/06/want-to-be-more-productive-stop-multi-tasking/#5360b75a55a6
https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbooth/2014/08/28/30-time-management-tips/#676a6bfb75e5
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What your wedding guests really care about

So, you’re throwing a wedding and you have a budget. While you have grand ideas about how every detail matters because it must match your vision, you need to know that you can kill yourself over things that no one will notice or you can focus on the areas that your Guests will remember. Here they are:

The Venue

What is more exciting than going to a unique location for a party? Exposed brick, a garden, festoon lighting and curated grounds are all characteristics that make for a beautiful space and photos to swoon over. Your Guests will want to take more pictures – and post them with your hashtag. What a way to make your memories last forever!

The Food

They just sat through the ceremony; now reward them with great food. Don’t default to “Package 2” – customize your menu to make it look like you. While a standard pasta dish is appreciated, a tuna roll station or do-it-yourself smores bar is a fun addition. I recently had a bride who loves Taco Bell. She is a well-respected, refined lawyer who loves to eat Taco Bell after fun nights out with her friends. I had the chef prepare four cheese quesadillas and portion them into bite-sized pieces and we placed a Taco Bell sauce packet in each portion. When these hit the crowd around 11:00 pm, it was a huge hit. People appreciate you feeding them. Don’t skimp on it.

Cake

People normally only eat cake when they are at weddings. Make it worth their wait. Along those lines, don’t make the cake such a unique flavor that it won’t appeal to the masses. If you want orange marmalade-strawberry cream cheese, have one layer of it and then have the other layers be more traditional.

If you keep in mind that all your Guests want is to celebrate with you, you’ll take pressure off of yourself and be able to enjoy your day.

 

Getting to know you…

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Like the medical profession, familiarity is a crime that many event organisers are guilty of.  Not in the sense of being over-friendly, but forgetting that the visitor does not experience an event every day, nor do they spend many waking hours planning, discussing or thinking about every minute detail of how the spectacle is created and produced.

Often our only communication with the visitor is via their credit card or post event survey. In the latter we are frequently more interested in creating statistics that look good on the sales brochure than actually finding out how the experience matched up to their expectations or what they would suggest to make things better.  After months of preparation, it’s all to easy to hide away in the organiser’s office during the live period, safely out of reach.

Events are unique in that there are very few jobs where staff come face to face with every single one of their customers. And, because of our tendency to hide ourselves away, it means that more often or not it is the ones with grumbles who force their way through. Sometimes it can feel like a constant barrage of complaints, and more often than not it is a junior member of the team with little or no customer relations training or experience left to deal with it.

Success comes with knowledge, and experience tells me that the best way to get this is by making yourself available. Interacting with visitors and exhibitors throughout the opening hours, making small talk and asking them what their motivation for attending is. It also gives you the opportunity to explain areas where they believe there are shortcomings. Nine times out of ten there are clear explanations for perceived issues which the visitor has not considered and is happy to accept.

But perhaps one of the key benefits of this approach is that you get to speak to happy people, those who are thoroughly enjoying every moment, who feel like they are getting value for money and an experience they will savour.

Hellen @missioncontrol

 

The best events are non-events. An event professional’s perspective.

flash_or_graphic2064“I just got back from a fantastic event. Brilliant!”

“Where was it?”

“The Whitsundays. Had a ball!”

“What was the event about?”

“Sales. Usual stuff.”

The ‘usual stuff’. If that’s what your last event was like, chances are your event manager didn’t have a clue.

Anyone can find you a great venue, stunning catering, fun activities and a memorable MC.

However, the best event managers will find out from you what you need your event to do. Or, if you don’t know, they’ll help you define the need.

The best event managers will get to understand your business, your goals, your challenges and your people.

Only then will they work with you to make absolutely sure your event does what it MUST do: motivate, inspire, foster change and reinvigorate teamwork.

You know the business imperatives that should drive your next event: sales growth, reward and recognition, education, launching new ideas and products, seizing opportunities or making your existing resources sing like the sweetest choir.

After 25 years as an event professional I continue to hear the conversation I quoted at the top of this blog. Every week I see or hear about event companies delivering the most fantastic ‘usual stuff’.

flash_or_graphic2069An event is just a day off or a holiday if it’s memorable only because it’s an event.

The event business should be about one thing: business. Event managers must be more than social organisers. They need to be payoff strategists who understand results and deliver the right outcomes.

Drawing from their experience, event managers who are true professionals will not be afraid to tell you what can work, and what won’t. They’ll talk more about targets than canapés. And they’ll ask you what you want your event to achieve long after it’s over. You see, an event shouldn’t just be an event – it should be an immersive campaign that resonates, and even amplifies, over time.

Most events aren’t cheap. That’s why I believe clients must focus on their events as an investment, not simply a cost. Event managers and their clients need to agree upfront on the risk/reward factor. The best event managers will be able to eliminate risks and maximise rewards.

Events need to engage audiences intellectually, emotionally and behaviourally. Delegates need to walk away from an event understanding and buying in to your messages and underlying strategies. Results must be measurable.

I believe that for most corporate or organisational events a new perspective is needed; a fresh perspective that demands a new approach to event design. That’s why clients need event professionals who are, in fact, professional in their approach and experience, and empathetic to clients’ ambitions for their event.

Working with your event manager you have to apply the ‘outcome blowtorch’ to every element of your event. You should ask this question of every decision you make: how will this impact on the desired results? If the answer is ‘nothing’ or ‘very little’, you obviously need to take a different tack.

There are four other fundamental questions which should form the basic strategic blueprint for an outcomes-focused event:

  • What does the audience already know?
  • What is the desired strategic shift?
  • How do we want the audience to feel?
  • What are the behavioural changes and results that we can measure after the event?

The answers to these questions will help you deliver a powerful event that guarantees a lasting effect on your people and transfers back to your business.

Rob Frank is the managing director of Verve Creative Events, one of Australia’s most awarded event companies.

Eventex: My Five Takeaways From Sofia

As always some fantastic thoughts from Michael Heipel taken from his own attendance at Eventex.

It is very easy as event organisers ourselves to be hyper-critical of the events which we go to, or to get stuck in a rut with what we are providing to our potential audiences. Michael describes a great meeting design seminar which looks like it will have provided some real food for thought and hopefully some action plans on how to rearrange our meeting environments to make them as good as they can be for our delegates.

Michael also touches on a topic which we covered a short while ago about technology – he comments “There is a thin line, though, between offering tools for enhanced audience engagement and networking – and asking too much both of the speakers and the delegates.”  Great technology really does enhance an event experience, but only where there is a defined need or identifiable improvement in service provision.

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They say, when you attend an event, and you take away at least five things that you learned – or five people that you met who will potentially play a role in your personal or professional life – then it was a good event for you.

Well, according to that yardstick, Eventex in Sofia was a fabulous event!

Not only have I met lots of great people (speakers, tech providers, attendees, all of them Eventprofs). There are at least five takeaways that will definitely influence the way I go about event management, and they will also have an impact on the way I do consulting and training for event organizers .

What were the most sticky learnings from my personal perspective?

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Is our love affair with technology destroying the visitor experience?

IMG_2921As event organisers, the advent of computer technology has transformed every area of our business.

It’s difficult to explain to anyone with less than ten years’ experience just how laborious the job of registering and managing visitors and delegates used to be. Telephones would ring off the hook as we tried to manage enquiries, bookings, cancellations and name changes.  Registrations came via post and fax and had to be entered into a database if you were lucky (though I do remember some organisations that used to keep carefully typed files) and managed on a day to day basis.  It was unusual if, by the end of your event, you couldn’t name at least 75% of your audience individually.

Websites, automated registration processes, apps, onsite wifi and linked communications make all of these processes obsolete.  And frankly good riddance. (Not least because any spelling mistakes on entry badges are the registrant’s own!) It is so much quicker to find and amend individual records, to send appropriate messaging and to link suppliers to relevant delegates. Exemplary customer service is so much easier when every bit of information is at your fingertips.

Like spectacles for the myopic, technology provides a clear and uninterrupted view.  So now we are on the lookout for other areas to fix. The only problem is that we aren’t researching first if this is what our audiences really want.

Sure, we need to ensure that we give potential visitors, particularly in the B2B exhibition and conference arenas, reasons to attend.  But broad brush, generalised emails and e-newsletters aren’t necessarily the best way to do this. Simply broadcasting constant bland content is unlikely to push visitor numbers up.  Clever use of database information and pre-defined customer journeys will generate far more response. Less is definitely more providing what you are serving is of the highest quality.

At the event itself, there is little point in creating online directories and apps if the visitor cannot find them on your website while standing in the foyer to the exhibit hall.  Or, for that matter, if it requires a registration to the venue wifi or the download of a piece of software incompatible with mobile devices.  By doing this you are already making key information inaccessible  to a proportion of your audience – and that is inexcusable.  Or, you could have the experience I had last week where I couldn’t download the exhibitor list for an event, so I was consulting one of only two you are here boards to try and find the exhibitors I wanted, but I was still thwarted because the stand numbers were printed so small and so high up that I couldn’t actually see them.  This lack of attention to detail is just plain shoddy.

Interruption by technology can be very positive, but why, when we have actually got the visitor in the room do we feel the need to nag them constantly. Some events are worse than going shopping with a toddler.  Every five minutes or less a text or email or notification pops through on a smart phone.  Each one taking the focus away from what you want your delegate to remember from the day. There was a reason why event organisers stopped excessive use of the tannoy system at events… and the same needs to be applied to delegate ‘engagement’ via electronic means… because after a while no one listens any more.

Technology has been revolutionary in event production, management, marketing and operational terms, but that doesn’t mean that it should be used any and everywhere it can be deployed.

 

Women in events

MPI_EMEC_women-20150203110242427Last week, Conference and Incentive Travel magazine published a piece by Jack Carter entitled Women must ‘brag’ more to succeed in events.  This was based on a presentation from the MPI European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC) 2015.

Why are we still having these conversations?  And why, as women do we continue to allow ourselves be manipulated into these silo discussions by statistics created by organisations seeking out headlines?

Jane Baker, vice president of client services at Freeman XP, commenting on the statistic that it generally takes a woman 24 years to become a CEO while it takes a man 15 years seemed to think that women didn’t get to the top because they stayed at the same company slowly climbing the greasy pole.  People who are driven to become CEOs within 15 years generally don’t work their way up, they move position regularly, and it has very little to do with loving a company or enjoying its culture and working environment.

Baker also suggested that big businesses are generally beset by bureaucracy and politics, something that turns women off. Well I know plenty of women who are brilliant at navigating both of these things, slicing through them like a hot knife on butter, and I would also struggle to name more than a handful of events companies with cultures like this.  She states that many women who are successful leaders have stepped away to create their own agencies – isn’t this a symbol that the events industry is very empowering for women rather than the opposite?  Surely success isn’t only measured by your position on the board of a FTSE100 company?

Apparently, according to Karin Krogh, owner of Nyt Potentiale, ‘Men are very good at bragging.  We all have to make sure that we brag as well.  If we do everything right then nobody notices…’  Really? Nobody notices when an event has gone off without a hitch; when the budget is met; when the VIPs write to say thank you; when your audience is giving you five star ratings?  Events are only as good as the personnel who put them together, and if no one notices then you have got nothing to brag about. Just shouting louder only creates a cacophony, not the best environment in which to work.

There are some phenomenally creative, experienced and talented women in the events and meetings industry; many of whom are creating environments which challenge the boardroom status quo, with flat management structures and the opportunities for everyone in the organisation to shine.  This is what we should be celebrating, not trying to emulate the business structures which have been a stricture on not just women’s, but also men who don’t conform to the boardroom norm’s, progress.

Hellen @missioncontrol