Do you have those friends that always ask you, “How do you do so much?” I take pride in juggling—being a mom, a wife, managing our social circle, being actively involved with our community, being a leader at IT By Design, and most of all, hosting our event Build IT LIVE. But to tell you the truth, in the week before Build IT, it makes even the most organized of us people ask ourselves, “Am I really organized?” It’s controlled chaos. There are so many moving parts with so many different individuals involved. It’s true that a part of it is my own making. All the content that we require for this event does add another element beyond traditional events, but the value that we add to our attendees makes it absolutely worth the effort. However, how do I control this chaos?
There are a few key principles that I have learned by managing large-scale events. One of them being that such events must meet the highest of the audience’s expectations. You will definitely know what went wrong, but no one else knows that. We are always working hard to be better than we were the year before, and so with those self-inflicted expectations, comes a lot of work. There are key priorities that we need to make sure get done. First, you need to have a solid project plan. Before you even start putting together your event, think about every detail that goes into the entire process. From the largest component of mainstage sessions to the minutia detail of where the bags are going to be put at the bell stand when people are checking out—every detail matters. This is our fifth year doing Build IT LIVE, and over the last five years that project plan has gotten pretty robust. And every year you add more things to the plan which leads to newer learnings.
Next, you must delegate. Look at your team and recognize each member’s unique abilities. What is it that they do with a passion that you know will help them excel. Tiffani is extremely creative; hence, she’s going to be responsible for all the creatives for the event. Rita is our teacher, which means that she will be responsible for making sure the content is where it needs to be. There are so many people involved with the execution of any type of event, but the key is to know what each person is good at. To set them up for success, you also, however, need to make sure they have the appropriate metrics to help them manage and stay on time. You see, if someone loves something so much, they also have the ability to go down rabbit holes. They get so engrossed in one component that managing time becomes challenging. That’s our job as the leader to make sure that everything stays on track.
Next, you need to inspect what you expect. Just because you’ve delegated tasks, it doesn’t mean that you can forget about them. You need to “be there for your team” to make sure that they know deliverables need to be met. Make sure you’re dotting your I’s and crossing your t’s when it comes to the print collateral, what’s being fed to your attendees and what the timings are; every little detail matters. With time, will come confidence. Your team will eventually get to know what you’re expecting, and you’ll have less to inspect. But at the end of the day, you, as the leader, are responsible for this event. No one else but you. You need to build your own list of items that you want to review, that is separate from the project plan, these are the things that matter to you. Not everything can matter, but you’d truly want to inspect the really important elements.
Finally, there are going to be days when you’d have to roll up your sleeves and support the team. You’d have to work on all those last-minute pending things, whether it’s a note card that needs to be put somewhere, or gift boxes, reviewing emails, next year’s event pages or any of the gazillion other things that go into the event. There are going to be things that didn’t happen the way you wanted them to be, but that’s alright! That could be the learning for next year. If it can be fixed, fix it. Otherwise, find an alternative, but figure it out. Your team is counting on you to lead them.
There’s a lot of pressure, anxiety and stress to work through, and more than our fair share of cookies being eaten (we’ll worry about those extra pounds after the event), but all in all it also shows you the strength of your team. Who steps up and is there for the other team members, and who doesn’t make the cut. There’s no better way to determine the strength of a team than to have your own event. It tests the best of us. But if you do it well, if you are able to control the chaos, there is no better satisfaction than the last day of your event when you see the smiles on your team’s faces because they know they got the job done. It’s that feeling that invigorates us to do this again every single year, forgetting all the sleepless nights, the stressful meetings, the working into the wee hours trying to get those presentations done, harassing educators for templates—it’s all worth it. Controlling chaos requires you to:
- Be organized with a plan
- Effectively delegate
- Prioritize what you need to get done
- Inspect what you expect
- And finally, get your hands dirty to help the team out.
And through all this, be the cheerleader they need you to be. I love putting events together. Why? Because of the satisfaction you feel when you know you’ve done something well by looking at people’s appreciation of all your hard work—and most importantly, seeing the joy on your team’s face. It’s the most rewarding controlled chaos, as long as you have a plan.
For more content like this, be sure to follow IT By Design on LinkedIn and YouTube, check out our on-demand learning platform, Build IT University, and be sure to register for Build IT LIVE, our 3-day education focused conference, September 18 –20 in Orlando, FL!