Are you familiar with the idea of “too many cooks in the kitchen”?

The idiom is meant to describe what happens when you have too many people making decisions and “adding things to the pot”. You can imagine what kind of terrible meal you’d be served if five different chefs with their own styles, preferences, and methods were all contributing to a dish without establishing a clear objective, sharing a recipe, or even communicating. Nothing good is going to come of it!

If you’ve ever been on an event planning committee, or made an attempt to plan an event with a group of co-workers, you might have experienced a similar fiasco!

Even if you love group projects and planning with a committee, you have to admit they can quickly spiral into recipes for disaster, becoming an organiser’s worst nightmare in the blink of an eye. To save you from such an unappetizing fate, the Auaha squad has come up with some tips (and advice on what not to do) to make your next joint planning venture a true success.

So if you’re ready to jump in (or your committee is about to take off, with or without you!), here’s some of our best advice.

First and foremost: start with the end in mind

Don’t get so distracted by event flyers, color schemes, or guest lists that you lose sight of the event’s actual purpose; if you’ve ever walked away from a conference feeling like it was “nice” but pretty much purposeless, you’ve experienced this mistake first hand! By rushing to make decisions in the beginning, you cut off the possibility of better ideas and lose focus on the bigger purpose for having the event in the first place.

TIP 1 – Kick off committee-based event planning by having each team member share their vision for the event. You want to gather all the ideas; write them down using sticky notes, white boards, or anything else on hand. It is vital that every single team member attends this meeting, because this group has to be on the same page to prevent breakdowns and confusion in the future.

(And keep in mind: this is the chance to DREAM BIG! Whether you’re considering a new venue, a creative menu, or entertainment that will amaze, this is the time to look at every angle, explore new ideas, and get a little crazy. Encourage enthusiasm and creativity!)

Don’t shut down the vision session before all the ideas are on the table, and don’t focus too quickly on exact details or specifics while you’re in the brainstorm session. This is your first chance to get people really excited about the event, as well as to start creating a committee culture of collaboration and cooperation. Really dig in and enjoy it! TIP 2 – If you start the actual planning process before your team has had a chance to brainstorm, you should expect lots of distractions and “What about this? We should do that!” conversations in the weeks ahead. By getting all the ideas out at once, you can work together to create a shared vision and prioritise what ideas you’ll actually use. At the end of the brainstorm session, you’ll have worked together to create:
  • A common vision for the vent
  • An event theme within that vision
  • Three clear objectives for the event based on the outcomes you are seeking to achieve
  • What you’ll be evaluating at the conclusion of the event

Don’t randomly assign event related tasks to committee members without taking time to establish your event’s purpose and discover team member strengths and abilities. Jumping in while failing to establish a sense of unity, camaraderie, and mutual purpose can lead to arguments during planning, frustration throughout planning, and an event that lacks unity and cohesiveness at the end of the day (after all, an event reflects its planners!).

TIP 3 – Take some time to build team culture, identify strengths, and build strong relationships within the committee at the very beginning of the planning process. A strong team supports one another and knows how to come together to encourage, assist, and challenge each other in order to produce the best possible end result. Some things that you should implement from day one of the planning process:

 

  • Listen to your team members, and make every effort to use suggestions and input from every member (not just the most vocal or experienced people)
  • Make meetings pleasant: play upbeat music, take turns providing snacks, share team wins or other positive feedback during the first five minutes
  • Make it clear how each task contributes to the larger event objective; events naturally come with lots of small details that can feel like “busy work” if your team members don’t understand how they contribute to the big picture
  • Make failure a learning experience, not a beat down. (Enough said!)

Don’t entertain event ideas that fall outside of your team’s vision and objectives! Once you’re done brainstorming and have created objectives that serve a shared vision, you need to focus on meeting them. New ideas may be more exciting or glamorous (and you can save great ones for the next event!), but if they won’t get you where you need to go, you have to leave them behind.

TIP 4 – If you feel things starting to get off track, be prepared to review the planning work from your first session and discuss what fits into the vision, theme, and objectives that your group had decided on. Better yet, encourage your group members to actively refer to your event vision and explain how their progress is aligning with the objectives you’re working towards throughout the entire planning process.

Being the event planning lovers that we are, we have to say: experienced, knowledgeable professionals who know how to provide direction and guidance can play an invaluable role in the early planning stages of any event. If you’re about to take on something huge for your organisation (say, your annual conference), working with a PCO can ensure that you have nothing but the best results. We know just how to come alongside your team, experienced or not, and help them establish clear objectives that can be accomplished one step (or ingredient!) at a time.

So if you’ve just gotten word that you’re on this year’s event committee … take a deep breath, dig out some sticky notes, and give us a call!

Mā te wā!

Sandra Julian
Event Director

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