Have you ever taken your car to the shop, knowing that the mechanic needs to order a part before the problem can be fixed?
Consider two scenarios.
Scenario one: You leave your car at the shop on Monday. You don’t get a phone call that day or early the next. Finally, at noon on Tuesday you call the mechanic and find out the part was delayed. It arrived shortly before you called, and it will be another day before the work is done.
Scenario two: You leave your car at the shop on Monday. Your mechanic calls a couple of hours later and explains the part is delayed. It will arrive on Tuesday, and the car will be ready on Wednesday.
The outcomes are identical in both scenarios: you get your car back on Wednesday. Which one would you prefer? Which one treats you with more respect?
It can feel awkward to communicate when there’s no action or forward movement on a project. After all, no news is good news, right?
At Reach Partners, we establish frequent touchpoints with our partners. These real-time conversations happen no matter what happens or doesn’t happen with a project.
Progress made? We communicate.
Problem uncovered? We communicate.
Nothing happened? We communicate.
Most of us pick up the phone or send an email when progress and problems happen. Doing the same when there’s nothing to report is just as critical.
We don’t want our partners to waste energy wondering about the status of a project. We communicate with clarity and integrity, even when the news to share is a big, fat zilch.
This keeps clients from assuming the best or the worst. It assures our clients that their project is important to us. It also makes it easier to connect when we have bad news to share, such as delays or blocks that might affect a project timeline.
After all, nobody wants to get a call only when something isn’t going right.
Think about it in these terms. If you’re selling your house, a weekly conversation with your Realtor makes you feel good. Even if there are weeks that nobody has looked at your home, you feel like things are moving in the right direction. You are confident that your house will sell.
Communicating nonaction will do that.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Adapted from a blog that originally ran in April 2017.
Once the last event attendee has left and the vendors have packed up, go ahead and put your feet up.
Only for a minute or two, though.
The event may be done, but that doesn’t mean the work of an event planner is complete. Every event should include an evaluation or survey that helps you determine whether the event accomplished what you set out to do.
Consider evaluations your reality check. They confirm whether you’ve done what you wanted to do and help improve your next event or program.
After all, we don’t plan events or programs for ourselves or because we’ve always done it. Events fall flat if the participants didn’t learn anything or didn’t enjoy the day. If you’ve done your homework and established a great strategy, you’ll want to know what participants thought.
This can be easier said than done. After all, we want to know everything: What lessons did we learn? Where can we improve? Did we meet participants’ expectations?
The more I research why and how to evaluate, the more I realize how overwhelming it can be. It’s equal parts science and art. To start, as planners we want to evaluate measurable outcomes.
Easy Ways to Ask
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to evaluate an event or program is by using a Net Promotor Score (NPS). Many software and product companies use this method for feedback, but it’s relevant for gathering input from event participants, too.
NPS is a simple one-question, 10-point scale survey with an option for participants to add comments. Essentially, you ask participants how likely they are to recommend your event to friends and colleagues on a scale of 0 to 10. There’s a formula for calculating your overall score, but the higher the number, the more likely your event was a success.
An NPS score won’t be helpful in all situations. If you have specific goals, be sure to ask questions related directly to those. For example, if your goal was to attract women between the ages of 30 and 45, gather demographic information in your survey. If you promised your sponsors that participants would become more involved in your community after attending the program, ask participants whether that is happening.
Some common survey questions:
When and How to Gather
It’s best to get feedback while the activity is fresh for the participant. (Of course, you need to have your survey ready to go before the event takes place. This isn’t the time to procrastinate.) Consider asking attendees to fill out a short survey at intermission or between topic changes during an in-depth seminar. Send a survey by email the morning or evening after a day-long conference.
Evaluations can happen in person, in writing or by email. Interview parents while kids are occupied with an activity. When the event is done, collect a written survey placed in the program. Send a survey a day or two later by email.
Be sure to ask participants, planners, and committee members to respond to your evaluation. Keep in mind that the separate surveys may need to be sent to each of these distinct groups. After all, you may want to gather different information from each of these groups. They all view the event from a different perspective and deserve to be heard.
No, your event isn’t done until your post-event evaluation is. Embrace the feedback and make your next event even better.
Every event I’ve planned and worked relies on an important group of people to get the job done smoothly: volunteers.
They work the registration table, as greeters, as traffic controllers, and more. And keeping them informed and feeling appreciated is one more thing you can do to make sure your event runs smoothly.
I use the term “volunteer” broadly. Even if it’s a corporate event and you’re relying on paid staff to cover your needs, many of them may be serving in unfamiliar roles. For example, your staff graphic designer may be asked to help sponsors set up booths. Your payroll specialist may find herself greeting attendees.
Whether you’re using employees, contracted folks, friends, family, or supporters, you need to clearly communicate your expectations and how their work fits into the day’s goal.
Train Your Volunteers
It sounds counter-intuitive, but too often people expect too little of volunteers. We want them to show up for a period of time and then go on with their lives.
Yet, asking them to invest a bit of time in training is one way you can ensure that everyone working at your event has enough information to do their job well. And, they’ll feel good about the time they spend doing it.
Onsite training is usually easiest. If possible, ask your volunteers to meet a half hour before the event starts. This will give you enough time to communicate expectations, roles, and responsibilities.
If onsite training isn’t possible (and, yes, that’s often the case), connect prior to the event in person or in writing. It’s much easier to tell the entire group important information than to share information in one-on-one settings.
Training doesn’t mean hours of PowerPoint presentations and role-playing. The important thing is you tell people what you want them to do. Do not assume that people know what to do.
Provide an overview or schedule of the event and key messages.
Write a short job description for each role and hand these out. Even a sentence or two of description plus a contact who can be reached in case of an emergency or questions will make your volunteers and staff feel more comfortable and empowered.
Assign Appropriate Roles
Sometimes you need to a body to fill a role.
But when possible, work to find the right person for the role. Even if volunteers aren’t paid, they need to be recruited with skills and strengths in mind.
Not everyone is gifted at being a greeter or a host. You want someone who is friendly, warm, and flashes a willing smile to all attendees. However, someone who knows a lot of the attendees might get pulled into a long conversation with a single person and miss delivering a warm welcome to large groups of people.
If you find a volunteer who can see what needs to be done (without being told) and the confidence to address those needs, hang on to that person. These are exceptional people who deserve recognition and special kudos.
Don’t assume that asking someone to volunteer is a burden. Volunteering with your event is a great way to get someone more interested and involved in your organization or company. And, when done properly, volunteering can make someone feel valued and part of something exciting.
Go ahead and invite people to be an integral part of your success. They can be past volunteers or, in the case of a corporate event, people from a different department.
And, of course, be sure to show them how much you appreciate their time, skills, and effort. Can you offer a free ticket to the event? Or encourage them to take a break and eat?
At the very least, take time to send a thank you. My favorite post-event activity is sending a handwritten note. If that’s not your thing, be sure to send a personalized email, text, or shout-out on social media.
When people feel appreciated, they are more likely to help the next time you call.
Every milestone deserves a good celebration.
For its 20th anniversary, Aldevron wanted to host a party for employees and their families after its annual all-staff meeting.
But the Fargo company’s staff were stretched to meet the daily demands of a quickly growing firm in the biotech field. To throw the fun celebration they imagined without adding pressure on full-time employees, they needed additional support.
Ellen Shafer, senior director of marketing and communications, contacted Reach Partners about two months before the event.
“She needed someone she could trust to handle the details,” says Rachel Asleson, co-owner of Reach Partners.
Staff had already identified the framework for the celebration – an open-house picnic with family-friendly activities. Reach Partners managed the details of the day.
We established the best way to layout the elements and served as a liaison between the event vendors – audio-visual professionals, caterers, entertainers, etc. – and Aldevron staff. We identified vendors, managed the contracts, and confirmed everything was set up as planned. If a contractor had questions or needs on the day of the event, we served as the point of contact.
We also established a process for tracking RSVPs.
While we hovered in the background, the work we did ensured that the day’s activities rolled smoothly. More than 275 people attended.
“Thank you for jumping in on such short notice, working with me and the team, and helping with all details to make a great event,” Ellen wrote to us afterwards. “Your management of the day gave me the peace of mind to take care of what I needed to take care of.”
A year later we received the best compliment of all – a request to help again with the all-employee picnic. This time the celebration coincided with a ground-breaking event for Aldevron’s newest facility in Fargo.
We are always grateful when we can help our partners focus on the daily demands of their work while we take care of the details that make one-time or occasional events run smoothly.
What We Delivered:
Planning an event or activity takes time and coordination. From the moment the brainstorming starts until the last attendee leaves, you need to know what’s going on and keep track of the details.
We believe in – and practice – documentation. Lots of it. We track everything leading up to the event welcome and detail the day of the activity until the last swag bag is grabbed.
Why? If you don’t write it down, you forget. And it becomes even more challenging to make sure a group of staff, volunteers, stakeholders, and others are on the same page.
It’s true. Every event is different. But these documents can help your gathering run smoothly.
By no means, do we consider this list exhaustive. Nor do you need to incorporate each of these tools into every event. Give them a try!
This won’t be a big surprise to many of you, but we love conferences and big events.
Yes, it’s true that we enjoy organizing them. We also enjoy attending them.
After all, you can gather information by watching online videos or reading about the latest industry trends via article or book. However, nothing replaces the face-to-face interactions that happen when people gather for a specific purpose.
When you attend a shared event or conference, you have opportunities to connect with others. You may gather new insight or hear a different perspective. When done right, conferences are energizing. You will walk away with at least a few tips that can make your personal or professional life stronger.
That said, every successful conference requires you to put forth some effort.
Here’s how you can make the most out of your time at a large event or gathering.
Before the Conference or Event
Enjoy your next conference or event!
I’ve been a planner of events – both personal and professional – for most of my life. I’ve planned meetings, small dinners with friends, family gatherings, and corporate events. When done well, these get-togethers tug at something deep and soulful inside of me. After all, there’s something magical about being with others.
I’d like to think Priya Parker would agree. She wrote “The Art of Gathering,” a beautiful book that both inspired me and allowed me to articulate what makes an event worthwhile.
To start with, Parker asserts that events are not about a bunch of checked-off details. They shouldn’t be about creating a setting or making a place beautiful.
The reason for creating the moment, she says, is about the people or, more specifically, getting “the right people in a room (to) help them collectively think, dream, argue, envision, trust and connect for a larger purpose.”
In other words, much less Martha Stewart and the right kind of tableware, and more human engagement.
Her premise makes sense. In my experience, logistics are the easy part. Logistics are utilitarian and certainly require consideration and negotiation skills, (think accessibility, restrooms, parking, affordability) but it’s really the purpose of the event that matters.
I marvel when the preparation, invitation, structure, and rules for an event inspire meaningful connections between participants and spark momentum and action afterwards.
“When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicating old, staid formats of gathering,” Parker writes. “And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.”
Here are 12 takeaways I gathered from her book:
After reading this book, I was inspired to attend an event Parker curated in Minneapolis last fall. I wanted to experience an event planned with her creativity and precision. I also was hoping to meet the author in person. I wasn’t disappointed on either account.
After all, gathering is an art, not a science. Parker proves that well.
My family and I recently spent a week together on vacation.
We hiked, toasted marshmallows for s’mores, and explored one of Minnesota’s lakes by boat. That said, it wouldn’t have mattered what we did.
We were together; we were present. Mostly.
You see, for me, family vacations aren’t about what we do but how we spend time together. With two kids, ages 9 and 17, and two busy parents that is often easier said than done. The allure of email, work-related phone calls, social media sites, and Netflix is real. Disconnecting from devices is hard but an important step for us to connect as a family.
Let’s be honest: we didn’t totally disconnect. After all, I have a Timehop streak to continue and our teen has a social life to maintain. Still, we intentionally talked and did things together without the distractions of devices, housework, work projects, and more.
We learned things about each other. My kids played together – with eight years between them, that doesn’t happen much at home. We took things a little slower.
It reminded me of a vacation we took when my youngest was 3 and we watched a big, black beetle meander across the sidewalk. My son’s questions rarely stopped: “Where is he going? What is he doing? Why? Why? Why?” As I observed his focus on the bug, I focused on being with my son in the moment.
By the time the bug made its way down the sidewalk and to the nearby road, my husband and then 11-year-old had had enough beetle watching. I stayed until the youngest decided it was time to leave. For days following, he asked and wondered about that simple insect.
I wondered too – whether I would remember our bug and be reminded to be present when I was no longer in vacation mode.
This year we didn’t have a beetle, but my family experienced small moments that are seared into our hearts and memories because we slowed down and took time to be with each other.
May you find time to watch beetles this summer. After all, if you don’t have time to watch a beetle cross the road during vacation, when do you?
Let’s face it: we spend a lot of time in meetings.
On average, employees attend 62 hours of meetings in a month, according to Forbes magazine. Related research from Bain & Company found that executives spent up to 15% of an organization’s collective time in meetings, a percentage that has been increasing in the last decade.
Sure, we could schedule fewer meetings but we could also make better use of the time we have together.
Earlier this year, I shared some tips with our our local chamber about how to make meetings more efficient, more productive, more fun. To prepare for the presentation, I analyzed observations and inhaled information from respected speakers and authors exploring similar topics. Below are some of the resources I found most helpful plus links to other Reach Partners posts related to #BetterMeetings.
Whether you have 15 minutes or five days, you’ll find these resources engaging. Enjoy!
Meetings, Meetings, Meetings!
Here are some good resources to help you make the most of your time together:
Culture at Work
Productive, meaningful meetings can only take place when you have a supportive and encouraging team and work environment. Here are some tools to help you define and build a work environment for positive innovation:
Reach Partners Articles
At Reach Partners, we’ve done a lot of research and thinking about how to make meetings better. After all, we’ve attended and led our fair share of them. Here are a few of our favorite blog posts on the topic:
Here’s your challenge for the month: Take on the difficult project that nobody else wants to do.
Or volunteer to handle the assignment that has been kicked back-and-forth between team members and do it with gusto.
Whoa … what?!
That’s right. Next time someone makes a request that nobody else wants to take on, make eye contact with the person and say, “yes.” Become the go-to person who solves problems and has an enthusiastic attitude.
Here’s how you can be the hero when facing a tough project: