Has this ever happened to you? You are assigned the planning of an internal event, you look at your committee list, realize you are the only event professional and wonder how that first kickoff meeting will go? In working with a diverse group of nonevent professionals, the initial kickoff meeting is the most important. It sets the tone, energy, expectations and confidence to pull off an incredible experience for event attendees. Here are the top 4 pitfalls to avoid when conducting an initial planning meeting.
Brush over Event Objectives
When kicking off your initial planning meeting, how much time do you spend digging into each objective to ensure all team members understand every aspect to each goal? As a recent example, at the beginning of a kickoff meeting I read each objective individually, paused, and asked if everyone understood the item. One of the objectives referred to “distributing information.” A team member inquired if the word “distribute” meant to announce information or to contain information. For example, was this the place where we first announce communication or will this link to something else where the content can be found? This altered the way this person approached our website communications.
Don’t Write Down Roles, Responsibilities & Resources
Most of my time prepping for the first meeting is spent here. At the first meeting, I have a room full of supportive colleagues who are not event professionals by trade but ready to contribute. Properly harnessing this energy and clearly writing out job descriptions for each individual is essential so they are held accountable for all the normal responsibilities a planner associates with “logistics chair.” This could mean the difference between your sponsorship being full one year but not the following year because your sponsor chair did not understand the responsibilities for sponsor fulfillment.
No Milestones & Timelines
Milestones and timelines are two very different but key items to running a successful committee. Milestones are definitive objectives. For example, “achieve 500 registrants by Jan. 3.” Timelines articulate the “how” you are going to achieve the 500 registrants by Jan. 3. For example, this would include detailed social media schedules for each week leading up to Jan. 3 and specific dates and content for email blasts, webinars, app notifications, etc. Create a milestone and timeline template to be shared and discussed at all meetings. With a well published timeline, it helps measure the success of the milestones and keeps people accountable.
Failure to Discuss Risks
Risks to the plan should be outlined in the event kickoff meeting and addressed each meeting thereafter. For internal planners, a common risk to the plan is available resources from the planning team. A team of volunteers usually doesn’t understand how much time is required for their individual responsibilities. It is important to chat with their managers and outline the roles and responsibilities and the time associated with the tasks.
I’ve learned these lessons from being the only event professional in the room, but they can be applied to teams of event professionals as well. These four pitfalls can be avoided through thoughtful, advanced planning that is intentional, well published to your team and easy to understand. Having these tools in your back pocket will help streamline communication among your team and create a better experience for the planning process and ultimately the event.