Event Planning and Management

We originally built this set of online tools and found them extremely useful when managing large conferences in the '90s. Today, we implement these things a little differently but the advantages are the same.

The over-reaching benefit is the greater ability of a dispersed event production team to work together effectively and for both progress and issues to be easily and continuously communicated. To achieve this the tools are web-based.

Specific implementations vary according to client requirements. Here are some of the main headings:

Meeting masterfile

Each meeting or conference has a master record containing important things such as date, venue and an overview of the programme. This acts as an anchor to which more detailed information can be attached. A built-in assumption is that multiple meetings will be in planning and registration simultaneously.

Event Microsites

Typically, a website will be needed for each event. For a small meeting one page should be sufficient whereas a major conference may be quite elaborate, running to dozens of pages. It is useful to be able to automatically generate microsites for small meetings. However, it must also be easy to integrate with a larger, custom-built site where applicable. You can start the planning process using standard templates and gradually customise to the level required.

Planning tools

The key tool is an "online spreadsheet" that lists all the things to be done, their deadlines, responsibilities, status and issues. A line item could be anything from reaching a final agreement with the catering supplier to signing up the last plenary speaker. The sheet automatically highlights anything overdue. More sophisticated versions of this can include dependencies, critical-path analysis etc. We originally used spreadsheets for this. However, the problems of achieving a single real-time view caused us to move on to this web-enabled approach.

Assembling the programme

This is another "online spreadsheet" in which the conference programme is built up. Line items are sessions and status indicators refer to speakers, materials, room allocation etc.

There can be public and private views of this sheet, allowing programme changes to be immediately visible to (prospective) attendees. The private version can flag up gaps, problems and issues to be managed - things that you may not want to publish to attendees. All updates affect both views instantly.

Managing attendance

An online registration system is very useful even if some attendees prefer to register by post or fax. It can be invaluable in streamlining administration and also for sizing up rooms for sessions and management of hotel room blocks. This type of registration system can, if required, incorporate secure online payments by credit card.

Online registration will be welcomed by regular attendees as it can store their details and they need not re-enter these. It is invaluable when there are multiple elective sessions. In this case attendees can be informed as they register if their chosen session is full or nearly full. The event team can dynamically match room allocation to expected attendance.

Receipting

Receipts can be produced and sent out conveniently. These will generally be printed on specific stationary.

Tracking

It's a good idea to monitor registration process carefully. Compare it to previous comparable events helps you predict the outcome - in time to do something about it.

Preconference

Administrative load peaks on the way to the venue. The system can generate all the outputs necessary to simplify this including attendee lists, badges etc.

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