How To Standardize and Reuse Your Checklists

When I was growing up we made an annual trip to the beach as a family.  About three days prior to departure my mother would haul out a giant paperback book titled something to the tune of “100 Checklists for Sanity” and would flip to the “Packing for a Family Beach Trip” section.  Only a type A super-geek 11 year old like me would be excited about a book like that, but to me it was magic! Oh the things we were remembering because of that book!  Aloe for sunburns, check.  Dish soap and extra serving utensils, check!  Games to play after dinner, check!  Thank you giant list book.

If you are an event planner, full-time or occasional, you make lists.  What if you saved or standardized those lists so you could use them again and again. I copy off lists that I use often and put five or ten copies of each into a clear plastic sleeve in a binder of lists.     You can keep all your lists together, or you could keep them with the material you often use them with.  For example: you could put your “Questions to Ask the Caterer Checklist” together with your catering notes, contact information and menus, or, maybe with your “Six Months Out” planning stash.  Everyone has a different system of organizing, just make sure it is working for you.

I wanted to share a site with you that I stumbled onto a few months ago (lifeaftercollege.org) , with links to list templates in Excel. I’ve included a link here to their “Project Plan Template”.  She’s created the list so that when you type answer “Yes”, “No”, or “In Progress” under the Done? column it color codes your answers.  That way a brief look will tell you what still needs your attention.  Brilliant!  I used her idea to set up a checklist in Excel for all the blog posts I need to write each month.  I have a column for  “titles”, one for “date due”, “spell check complete?” and “posted”.  I print out a fresh sheet for each month and it has eliminated many lost sticky notes and “what am I writing on this week?” scrambling.

You don’t need to “brainstorm” the same lists over and over.  Save and reuse them!   Standardize, make copies and store them somewhere simple to locate.  You’ll be able to refine your planning process, save time and experience the joy of lists!

Saving Time and Confusion with a Flow Chart

Yes, I did say flow chart.  No, this is not 10th grade math class.  Are your attendees coming to you, and your employees with a similar question over and over? One that involves you asking quite a few “yes” or “no” questions? Is the information you have to provide something that could be concentrated and turned into a visual chart? You might save lots of time, and provide great information for them with a flow chart!

Here’s a fun example of a flow chart from www.slate.com on what type of apple to buy.

Don’t you know that employees at apple orchards wish they had this hanging up?  I wonder how many times they answer the “what type of apple should I buy?” question every season.

So, maybe you’ve got a great idea for a flow chart that you’d like to create.  It’s creative, helpful, fantastic!!!  So, how do you do it? Gulp. Microsoft Word? (That sounds like long hours of work and frustration).

Flow charts fall into a larger category of communication called infographics.  An infographic is “a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data.”

Here is a great list of more than 20 tools you can use to create the infographic your next event has been languishing without! Some of the services here are free, others are paid; often you can try a trial or use minimal features for free.  You could also consider hiring a graphic designer to create a flowchart of infographic for you, their fees usually start at $50 per hour.

Have you ever used an infographic or flow chart at an event? For organizing or to clarify things for your guests?  Share, we’d love to see what you’ve used with success.

Event Incident Communication

I’ve been talking with several people recently about their communications policy.  A part of every communications policy should include crisis or incident handling.  You hope you’re event is going to run smoothly, but what happens if an incident occurs?  You have to be ready to react at a moments notice.

The purpose of an events communications policy is to spell out guidelines for all things communication.  These types of manuals can include everything from logos to social media usage to fonts.  Adding incident response works as a preparedness drill.

There are a few things to include in your incident response manual.  Let’s run through them:

  1. Communication to your attendees.  This one can be tricky.  Depending on the crisis, you don’t want to induce panic.  I would clearly state the incident, and clearly direct your attendees on how they should react.  This can be done from the stage, text apps or via social media.  Again, the instructions need to be clear and concise.
  2. Communication to media.  Obviously you hope to never have to interact with the media outside any PR notice announcing your event.  But in the event you have to work with them, know what your going to say.  Have statements ready to go and who they need to be attributed already decided.  It could be a statement of all is good from the event planner, but it might need to me more in depth and attributed to the CEO of an organization.
  3. Communication to workers and volunteers.  Your workers and volunteers can be a huge help in time of crsis.  Communicating directions to them is important.  Their attitudes can go along way to maintaining calm with your attendees.  Depending on the crisis, you might have one thing you tell your attendees but something else you tell your workers and volunteers.

This piece in the manual is definitely nothing you want to encounter.  “Plan for the best, prepare for the worse” is the motto of this post.

How have you prepared for an incident?  Do you have something in writing?

How To Help Attendees Process Information

You have some amazing information for your guests.  At previous events you’ve see the speaker present the information, but then, it doesn’t seem to stick.  Is there anything you can do?  Yes!  Here are a few things you can try.

Prime the pump.  Before giving the information, show the need.  When and why will the guests need this specific skill or data?  How can they better serve their customers, their families or themselves by using what they are about to hear?

Provide fill in the blank notes.  This can help people stay focused, follow along and have something to take home.  The speaker or presenter can often help you with the material you’ll need for this.

Repeat it again and again. Catch phrases can be hokey- but we remember them.  Can you boil down your training to a single sentence, or an acronym?

Provide time for discussion.  After we learn something new, we need time and practice to weave it into our personal space and experience.  Breaking people into small groups of two or three and giving them just ten minutes with the question: “How can you use this information?” can help people apply it to their own lives.

Look at it from different angles.  Using several different approaches to any subject will give learners a better overall view of the topic and a deeper understanding.  Don’t come at it from one side, but several.  This is especially important if your audience represents a mix of ages, genders and occupations.  An example that might be applicable to a middle aged doctor might fall flat for a twenty two year old mother.

Utilizing one or several of these strategies can allow your guests to better process the information you are giving them.  Have you used any of these strategies before? What works best?

How To Write An Event Blog And Manage Everything Else

A blog can add personality, fantastic information and draw interest to your event website.  You may have decided you want to add a blog to your event page, but don’t know where to start.

Blog Social Media

  1. Write out your blog “vision statement”.  What do you want this blog to do? Whom will it serve? How many times a week will you post?  (One to two times is a good goal)
  2. Brainstorm topics.  Start a list of things you want to post on.  The event location? Incredible speakers? A packing list?  Fun things to do in the area? A poll of event attendees?
  3. Start writing.  Posts should be 250-500 words.  Experts recommend you spend 1/3 of your time coming up with a strong title.  Titles are what make people stop and read a post, and what show up when you share things on Facebook, Twitter etc. If you need some ideas check out “Headline Hacks” by Jon Morrow at: http://boostblogtraffic.com/  Many bloggers I know write posts in batches.  Grab your favorite coffee or tea beverage, sit down with your computer and write three or four posts in a sitting.
  4. Schedule posts.  Posting can get away from you- “It’s THURSDAY?! I think I was supposed to put up some posts on Monday, and I can’t remember if I put any up last week either…”  A blog needs fresh content on a regular basis.  So make note on your calendar when you will post and follow through.
  5. Reply to comments.  One wonderful thing about  a blog is that it allows you to interact with your audience.  You say something in a post, and your audience is allowed to respond.  Make it as easy as possible for people to comment on your posts, and then reply quickly when they do.  It increases the feel of community when posts are more like a conversation than a list of individual opinions.
  6. Share your posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn …  “If you build it, they will come”, is not necessarily true in the blog world.  It’s more like “If you build it and tell people about it, they will come.  Crickets will sing over your posts if you don’t let your audience know about the information and where they can find it.

Once you’ve followed these steps a few times: brainstorming, writing, posting and sharing will become a new routine.  And you don’t need to write every post yourself, who could you tap to guest post for you?  A speaker might be excited to share about their upcoming book, or a previous attendee could compile a “Top Ten” list from last year.  Doing a little email and telephone legwork could find you multiple sources for fresh topics and perspectives.

Happy blogging!

Digital Content For Your Event Attendees

When I attend events, I always have my iPad with me to take notes in Evernote, or another note taking app.  It always seem like I miss one important note or two.  Handouts are nice, but in this digital world, I don’t want to leave with paper.  I get stuck wondering where I’m going to store or file the paper.  For the tech savvy in the world, their are easy alternatives that can help deliver this content digitally.

  1. Put notes in Dropbox.  Sharing from Dropbox is very easy, even if you don’t have a Dropbox account.  Send attendees a link to a presentation that is stored in Dropbox for them to download.
  2.  Put presentation slides online.  Some speakers might not want to allow attendees to download their content.  Posting slides to a slide sharing website like SlideShare.net would be a great way for attendees to gain access to what they’ve seen at the event.  Sites like this are great ways for speakers to build their platform.
  3.  Send notes via email.  I attended a conference, and the presenter send his notes to us via email.  This is not only a great way to do that, but to also collect email addresses to market to.  These people have given you permission to talk to them.
  4.  Include in event app.  We’ve talked before about how your event needs an app.  Including these notes from various presenters is a great idea.  (Mini sidebar here: if you’re event includes sermons, the YouVersion Bible App allows you to upload notes directly to the app.  These notes can be found in the live tab of the app.  This is a fantastic way for attendees to follow along, add their own notes and email to themselves.)

Have you used any methods to deliver content digitally?  What has worked for your attendees?

Creating a Landing Page For Your Event

Ready to simplify and improve the online experience for your guests while increasing the number of email addresses or registrations you receive?  Create a landing site for your next event.

Color web bookmarks

A landing page is a very popular tool today in the online marketing world.  It is a simple site, usually a single page, that is linked to social media, an ad, or a link in an email marketing campaign.

The popularity of these sites are based on two main factors.  One, they are very effective in generating leads and two, they are easy to measure.  A company might wonder, how many responses did we get from that email campaign? A look at the landing site, tied ONLY to that campaign can provide very specific information.

There are two main types of landing pages.  Reference landing pages, that provide information, and transactional landing pages where you are providing the tools necessary to complete a sale, grab an email addresses, etc.

You can use a landing site to increase registration and streamline information delivery for your next event.  Imagine sending out an email, or creating a Facebook ad for your upcoming Men’s Training Event.

You carefully decide exactly what information men will want and need regarding the event.  Keep it simple, and make it compelling.  Hiring a copy writer who can craft sentences that will engage visitors and ignite interest would be well worth the cost.  Decide what you want out of this brief online visit, an email address or phone number, an address where you can send a registration packet?  Create a simple, visually clean landing page.

Now, when your online prospect clicks on your ad, or link, they will get exactly the information they need, without needing to search or sift through anything else.  And you will greatly increase your odds of getting what you hope for, information on interested attendees.

Why should I go to all this trouble? I already have a website, I’ll just send people there.  Caught you!  You were thinking this, right?  Well, you could just use your existing site, but statistics show that you will get a higher number of email addresses or registrations with a carefully planned landing site.

There are many different companies that can help you create landing pages very quickly, including Optimizely and Instapage.  Try it out and enjoy the benefits more attendees can bring you and your clients. Have you used a landing page for a previous event?  How did it go?

An Apple A Day? Event Planner Health Before, During & After the Big Day

You’re moving, adjusting to changes, answering questions; the caterer has hit a snafu, you need to oversee sign-ins and the main speaker needs five minutes of your time.  You need to be healthy to deal with the demanding requirements of each event day.  We all understand that our cars must be maintained to run correctly but we often overlook the fact that we need to care for ourselves to ensure excellent focus, stamina and creativity.rayal gala apple on whiteSo what can you do?

Before the event: Lay the foundation, exercise! Not only is it good for you, it will build endurance and siphon off stress.  Find something you enjoy doing. Exercise shouldn’t be something you dread.  Swim laps, take a dance class, walk with a friend.  You also need to make sure you are feeding your body what it needs to run well.  That means protein, fruits and veggies.  Not sure how to tweak your regular diet to make it better? Try writing down everything you eat for three days, then take stock and decide what might need to be added in and what should be trimmed back a bit.  Eating the right foods and exercising will create a foundation for a healthier, more highly functioning you.

During the event: Stock up. Wake up with enough time to include prayer in your day.  Prayer helps me get things into the correct perspective. Big problems shrink in front of my powerful God and calm covers me as I rest in His plan and sovereignty.   Also, pack healthy snacks and meals if you’re going to be away from good eating options.  How many times have you forgotten to eat at all on a big event day or munched on candy, pastries, coffee and then a Coke to get you through the afternoon? It might work- but just barely.  Don’t allow the urgent to get in the way of the necessary; healthy food and ample water are imperative for you to be at your best.

After the event: Schedule rest.  Add extra sleep into your schedule and plan some down time at the end of a big event.  Could you take a morning or afternoon off?  If not, plan a more restful morning with no meetings and put on some soothing music in your office.   We often think we should be able to run at 150% all the time but that’s just not healthy.  Imagine your work in a more rhythmic cycle, with heavy times needing to be balanced by times of rest.

Event planners often forget to take the time to care for themselves, especially during busy events.  You can create a healthier you by making time for regular exercise, eating well during each event and scheduling down time once it is over.  Invest in yourself and you’ll see amazing dividends in how you feel and what you are able to do for your clients and guests! How do you  manage to incorporate healthy habits into your busy schedule?

WIFI At Events

True confession time again: I’m a WIFI snob. When I show up at an event, hotel, church or business, I immediately look to see if they have WIFI. In this modern day and age, having WIFI is a must in my book, and I love that retail outlets have started offering this service in their stores. Target and JC Penny are two stores that have recently made it available.

WIFI at your event is a must! I would consider WIFI number one on my list of event must have’s.

There is a small chance the event location doesn’t have WIFI available. If that’s the case, work with the location on supplying that. You might have to bring in WIFI on your own.

Speed is a big concern as well. Most people have VERY slow internet connections at their homes, and then there are the few of us that have REALLY fast connections.  Look to find a moderate speed with 5 – 10 Megabytes Per Second download speed.  As I write this, I’m sitting in Panera, and their internet download is almost 30 MBPS!  That’s crazy fast and even surprised me!

The number of people who can access an internet connection can be limited as well. Work to make sure all the systems in place will accommodate the load your attendees are going to put on the system. Let’s say your having 100 attendees at your event. Well plan on all of those 100 people having smartphones that can and will access the WIFI, and that number doesn’t include your team members and other devices the attendees bring with them.

WIFI isn’t just for people to surf the net. It’s also so people will have access to email and, more importantly, social media networks. WIFI is also available so people can use various note taking apps like Evernote.

Sched For Your Event

I’m serving on the steering committee for a music event being hosted by LifeWay and sponsored by the Gospel Music Association.  It’s been fun to be on the other side of the table as I’ve helped coordinate the business track.  We’re using a cool tool that I wanted to pass along to you.  It’s a program called Sched that allows you create a schedule app for smartphones.  Sign up for a free trial at http://sched.org/.

Creating an app for your event can sometimes be very cost prohibitive.  This is the first platform I’ve come across that finally brings that pricing down to earth.

Creating your event is as easy as clicking on a button.  From there you start adding your events schedule.  There is a small fee as you get into the program, but it’s pennies compared to creating your own app.

There are a few of reasons I like this idea:

  1. It’s an app that works for Android and iOS platforms.  Building apps from scratch can be a nice way to customize your app, but then you have to pay for creation across two different platforms.  Sched does it all for you.
  2. The majority of your audience is walking in the door with some sort of smart device.  Sched puts your schedule on that device by taking up precious real estate on those devices.
  3. Sched integrates with your website.  Sched can become your home base for all things scheduling.  By updating on platform, you update two places: website and app.

Sched, according to their website, also allows you get analytics on who has downloaded your app.  This information can go along way to helping you to learn more about your customer.

Have you used Sched, or a similar program to create an app for your event?  What others ways have you used to take up real estate on a smart device?