In this extract from The Executive Secretary Guide to Conference and Event Management, “Good management, not good luck” should be your motto says Eth Lloyd
What is an event?
An event can be anything from the office social party through to a major international conference with fee-paying attendees and high profile speakers.
One person might readily manage small events essentially on their own, for example yourself with support from the event sponsor. However, larger events will mostly require a team of two or more, e.g. you and your team. Alternatively, they might be handled by a specialist event manager or Professional Conference Organiser (PCO). However, even if you have taken on a PCO or Event Manager (sometimes also called the Convener), the ultimate responsibility still lies with you, therefore you must be involved with and keep up with everything that is happening.
Is an event a project?
Yes, an event is a project; it has a specified start and end time. The same life cycle that is found in any project applies to running an event even though some of the words used might be a little different.
Tools to use in event management
These tools are similar to those used in general project management:
- ‘To Do’ List (usually with a smaller event, e.g. a staff member farewell)
- Notes in a diary or calendar (usually with a smaller event, e.g. a cocktail party)
- Electronic project management tool e.g.
- specifically developed spreadsheet
- project management software
- specialised event management tool such as used by event management companies
- In-house project management tools
- Documentation including reports – financial, variance, meeting minutes
- Files and folders
Roles in Event Management
Event Sponsor – who initiates or starts the whole process by asking you to arrange an event.
Event Manager (you) – who needs to monitor progress (planning, expenses against budget, reporting) and ensure the event is held (implementation). The event manager should also always hold a debrief meeting and produce a report, after the event has finished.
Event Team – These are the people you will work with in managing this event. On some occasions, you and the Event Sponsor may be the team. However, you will work with others on specific parts, for example the venue Event Manager, catering specialists, and developing a budget with someone from finance. These all contribute to your team. On other occasions, you will have a defined team of people who you have selected or delegated to work with to work with you. This may include a professional conference organiser (PCO).
Professional Conference Organiser (PCO)
A PCO is an excellent option if your event is large and where there are no others available to form a team with you, or your organisation cannot commit people to the task. A PCO can also be the right choice if the event requires something special in theming, social events, decorations or other specialist items.
What I have learned over the years is that “good management” (planning, documentation, oversight (monitoring and control), debriefing) and not “good luck” are what lead to a successful event.