Let’s be honest: we event people LOVE to use terms interchangeably. One of the most common ones? The “event schedule.” It all depends on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.
For example, you might say “event schedule” when referring to the agenda for attendees. Or you meant the load in and set up for vendors. Or maybe you said it when you were thinking of the workday responsibilities of your production crew. Confusing, right? Each one of these is a unique, perfectly acceptable version of “event schedule.” But they couldn’t be more different. The danger is in lumping them together. When that happens, mistakes pile up and communication falters.
Event planners know that the experience of the attendees can make or break an event. Hence, we tend to put a lot of thought and effort into crafting perfect schedules for the attendees. But schedules for other parties, or even ourselves often get the short end of the stick. Why? They’re no less important. In fact, you could argue that the clearer the schedule for the crew, the better the experience will be for the attendees. Good event planning lays the foundation for good execution.
How do you do it? How do you ensure all of your event schedules get some TLC without it becoming a time-consuming headache? Start by asking these 7 questions first.
1. How do you communicate with your contacts?
Basic stuff: what are the methods and mediums you use to get information out to anyone? Text, email, phone, etc. List out what applies to the current event. Inform your contacts what they can expect to receive from you and how. This creates a simple, repeatable process that builds familiarity and consistency. And it puts you in the right frame of mind when talking to a specific person or group. Even if you use the same term over and over.
2. Who is the recipient?
The most basic question to answer when building an attendee’s schedule is where he or she needs to be and when. The same holds true for vendors, crew, volunteers, and anyone else engaged with the event. Group your contacts together so you can easily create recipient lists. Using Propared, you’d do this by sorting by tags. The schedule is likely to change a dozen times or more. By taking this step at the beginning, you’ll eliminate the possibility of someone missing a key change further down the line.
3. What are the most important pieces of information they need to know?
Schedules should be built to focus only on the key details relevant to each of your contact’s engagement. Sort event details in the same way as contact groups. Again, if you’re using an advanced tagging system, you’d be able to create cloneable documents down to the individual task.
4. What do they not need to know?
How often have you received an encyclopedia’s worth of information in a production schedule? Even though you’re only working a day or two? Talk about not showing the crew some love. Strip out anything that is irrelevant to the recipient group. Attendees don’t need to know when lighting gear is being delivered to the loading dock. And the lighting folks don’t need to know when the attendees’ Education Session #2 starts.
5. What other contextual information can you give them that will be of benefit?
Sometimes, departments actually do want or need to know what is happening in others. Or maybe they just need more context about a part of the schedule. Event managers must be able to step back and look at the big picture. How do all of the pieces fit and which are co-dependent? Take the previous example. The lighting crew might not need to know about the attendees’ sessions. But wouldn’t they gain from knowing the arrival time of catering? Especially if both departments are sharing the loading dock. If you have a lot of individual crew bookings, each crew member could benefit from knowing the basics of the overall work call. Do your homework. Great scheduling is a process of trying to find the right balance between too much information and not enough. Speaking of TMI…
6. Is there anything you’ve included that overcomplicates things?
Schedules are by their very nature, complex. An event manager needs to be keenly aware of friction points in order to anticipate and sometimes mitigate conflicts. Once you’ve separated your contacts into groups and tagged relevant tasks and responsibilities, take one more pass at your customized schedules. Is there anything that gets in the way of the who, where, and what? Strip it out.
7. What frame of reference or perspective does your reader have?
This is the big wildcard. While not likely to change the technical details of your schedules, shifts in perspective could influence how you communicate details. Is your team on site yet? What are they seeing that would alter their view of the schedule? Be thoughtful about the questions that might arise and provide the answers in the schedules you send.
Great schedules are the lifeblood of any event. By thinking carefully about your recipients and the information they need, you can build templates that save you masses of time as you push towards show day. While you still might over use some key terms, you’ll be better equipped to handle miscommunication in the moment.
Event managers, what advice can you give about building event schedules? Please share with us in the comments below.