In 2009, I was recruited by The Ineluctable Cassidy to be an event planner for the local ASIS&T group she was leading. We had a pretty punishing schedule of four events per academic year, and planning involved mailing lists, searching out event locales, creating a flyer, sending out emails, arranging refreshments, etc. These were a lot of separate tasks that needed to be planned, managed, and tracked.
I had read at some point a post on Mark Forster's forum that made a big impression on me. When talking of productivity, the writer said to think about what needed to be done in terms of tasks, routines, and habits. Tasks require a lot of attention and energy, routines less so, and habits are automatic. The trick to being more productive at the office (or anywhere) was to routinize as many tasks as possible, and if appropriate, make them habits that required little conscious attention at all.
Example 1: Working out in the morning? Establish a routine for setting out the weight bench the night before and put your sneakers and shorts right on the floor so your feet hit them when you get up the next morning.
Example 2: I have a monthly report I produce that requires multiple steps across multiple files. After creating about 7 or 8 of these reports, I finally created a 3-page procedure that walks me through every step. Until I wrote out those steps, I didn't realize how many little decisions I had to make along the way and why I kept putting off this relatively straightforward chore. This task will never be habitual, but it is now more of a routine.
So I wondered about event planning, and how I could be more systematic about the planning and tracking so that I didn't have to remember anything.
I researched various event checklists on the web and developed my own events template, with separate sections for things like contact information (all the people I had to contact for an event), copies of all the emails I sent, a screenshot of the flyer we sent out, a lessons learned section, which I filled in as part of a debrief meeting after the event, and many other informational bits and pieces.
ASIS&T required its member groups to file an annual report of its activities. So, I included blanks in the form for the data they wanted to see. My goal with the event planning document was that it would be a package of every word we sent, every person we contacted, every problem we faced. That way, we could review them if we chose to return to a particular venue or to see what attendance was like for a specific event. These documents also encapsulated a lot of experience so that when new members of the board came in, they could look at our historical record and see how we planned and executed events.
When I took on the National Night Out planning responsibilities again this year, I pulled out the event template and used it to capture everything related to this year's event. I can now pull out the document when it's time to plan next year's event, and most of the hard thinkwork will have already been done. I'll just need to plug in new dates and new names.
Feel free to download the template document below. I've also included a generic event planning document that I compiled from various sources around the web; it provides a week by week countdown of everything that you may need to have in place for a successful event. These are in Microsoft Word 97/2003 compatible format. Feel free to edit at will and use for your own events!
eventtemplate (Word 97/2003 compatible doc file)
eventplanningchecklist (Word 97/2003 compatible doc file)