Pre-planning to ensure efficiencies and success – the necessary evil!

Hi guys, you’re listening to the talking regional tourism and events podcast. My name is Linda Tillman, and on this show, we talk about how a successful tourism events economy can drive regional growth and community pride. We offer you tips, insights and even some great case studies on how you can create a sustainable visitor economy. Now let’s talk!

Hi guys, welcome to the talking tourism and event podcast. This is season one, where we’re talking everything regional events, and episode 2, event planning. In this podcast we will be looking at pre-planning to ensure efficiencies in success - what I like to call the necessary evil. The pre-planning stage is the second step to a successful and sustainable event. This is the golden nugget that all event committees need. It is a way to systemise your event and create the plans and processes that will empower your team. This stage of the the event planning process is probably the most critical in terms of being more efficient and reducing the unnecessary pressure and stress that we all know comes with event management. Setting milestones, deadlines and key dates for the overarching event plan allows you to better delegate tasks and reduce the stress of all committee members. You need to stop overloading your mind and start documenting the process. In today's podcast, I’m sharing with you  some practical tips and advice on how to effectively pre-plan for your event in order to save time and stress in the entire planning process. Sounds pretty exciting, right? Okay, let’s get stuck into it.

 I know I said in episode one that post-event review is the most critical step to ensure event success, and I promise I'm not taking that back. But I am saying that pre-event planning is the most critical step to ensure a smoother run and less stressful event. And goddamn, don't we all want that! So the process of pre-event planning includes 5 key steps; the first is setting up the overarching event planning timeline, which we like to refer to as the macro-planning timeline. Then you need to update your strategic and operations plan; then ensure that you have the appropriate team within the committee and that they’re equipped with the tools they need to get on with the job; next is setting up efficient and effective meeting processes; and finally, setting up online collaboration systems to make everyone more efficient. Now, I want to dive deeper into each of these pre-event planning phases, so stay with me - I know some of this may seem overwhelming but I have some great practical tips and tools that’ll help you through it.

Okay, the first step: setting up the twelve month macro-planning timeline. This allows you to ensure that everything's on track at all times. It’s broken down into four phases; pre-planning, working, event delivery and post event. There's a few key things with this macro-planning timeline - it needs to link to your committee structure, with clear responsibility; so it also links to the rEVENTS modules within that month by month process. You also need to link in your meeting agendas. So think about it, whatever you're up to at that stage, that month - stay focussed within your meeting agenda. The meeting agenda will align to your timeline. The executive group will keep an eye on this timeline, and then your sub-coordinators will action any other activity under that. So this actually becomes the event coordinator or the executive groups bible. You need to go through this regularly, and ensure that everything's on track for your event at a macro and a micro level. Now most of you have probably got your own version of a macro-planning tool, but if you want to use our tried and tested template, you can check out the tools and resources at 

Now, the second step in the pre-planning stage is strategic and operations manual. In this step, you need to think big picture - this is where we look at your strategic and operations plan. As you know, this is something that should be done 3 years in advance, and what I suggest is that you refer to it and update it annually. Don't let it become a dusty document that sits on the shelf. It's important that you bring it out each year at your first meeting, and review and ensure that you're on track. We know how easy it is to get sidetracked by new fancy things that we could be doing at our event, but you set this 3 year strategy for a reason. You have a vision, you have a purpose; so stick to that for the 3 year period and kick some goals. You need to also bring this out to keep your team motivated and driven; they need to know as well that they have a purpose. So the second step in the pre-planning stage is to bring out you strategic and operations plan, review it, reflect on what you've achieved in the previous 12 months, and make sure that you're very clear on what will be achieved within the next 12 months and that the whole team is on board with that.

Now, step 3; ensuring you have the appropriate team within your committee and equipping them with the tools they need to get on with their job. I love this quote from Douglas Atkin from Airbnb - ‘their entire purpose is not to manage the community, but rather to empower the community to manage itself.’ Have a think about that - think about that from an event committee point of view. A couple of other things I want you to have a think about - does your committee have a clear structure? Does your committee -so everyone on your committee- do they know their primary role within the team? The most effective committees i've ever worked with operate like a business. They have clearly defined position descriptions. What we recommend in rEVENTS Academy is that event committees structure their team with two key components. So the first is the executive group, so this is typically a team of 6, they work very closely together to oversee the strategy and that macro-level planning that we’ve talked about. The next level is the sub-committee group, so this is more the operational team that ‘gets the shit done’. They work more independent, but they also create their own little teams to deliver on their specific roles. So you need to get that structure right, everyone needs to understand their position within the team. There's one really really key ingredient; once you have this structure in place, it's SO important that you do not micromanage. If you ask someone to do something, trust them to get it done. 

Step 4; setting up efficient and effective meeting processes. I’m sure everyone's heard the term death by meeting! Unfortunately it's a bit of a reality when we come to regional and rural events, and look; when I ask people why they don't volunteer, whether it be on their local p&c, or an event committee, the answer is often, ‘I get frustrated by meetings’, or ‘i don't have time to go to those bloody meetings!’ why are we so focussed on meetings and not output? That’s my question. Why are we turning away amazing people because of ‘bloody meetings’? Especially when we live in a society that’s so connected, even when we don't want to be! I appreciate that meetings are essential, but they can also be big time-wasters, so you need to be so careful. What I suggest you do is you look at your committee on two levels, and we just talked about this; you have the executive group and they’re looking at that more macro-level, it's really important for them to get together on a regular basis and work as a unit. Under that you have the micro level, or the sub-committee coordinators. They have a very specific role to play; they should be briefed well in advance, and they should understand the deadlines and timeframes that fit into that macro-planning schedule. Now, these guys are the doers, and they don't need to be dragged into meetings. Save their time and energy to do the doing. What I suggest is you keep these sub-committees up to date and informed, by communicating regularly through Facebook groups and other online platforms like Slack. The Cairns tropical pride festival is a fantastic event that has some amazing, innovative and efficient operation systems. They use facebook groups and facebook messenger to run meetings and keep their team up to date. It also keeps the community invested in the event, because they feel as though they have been taken on the journey.  So just think about that - who needs to participate in meeting and how can you keep other people up to date? Don't turn people away from this fear of having to attend meetings. And when you do have to have meetings, make them efficient and effective. As I said, having the meetings align to your macro-planning timeline will ensure that there's a purpose to those meetings, and that there's a clear outcome. We’ve created all of your meeting agendas to link into that macro-planning timeline, and you can find those in the rEVENTS Academy hub. Okay, i'm getting close to wrapping up, but his subject is really important and I want to get as much out as possible, so just bear with me a little longer.

Okay, the final step is setting up online collaboration systems. I get totally frustrated when I hear events talk about how they have to recreate files because a committee member has departed and taken those files with them. There's not excuse for that! In the pre-planning stage you need to set up and effective record keeping platform, and train all of your coordinators, the entire team. You can use things like google drive or dropbox as a file sharing system. In each of those platforms, what we recommend is that you set up your online files based on your committee structure. So for example, you might have folders in there titled marketing, finance, stallholders, post event review, etc. then each of your committee members have access to their individual files. It just prevents any confusion and once again, allows those committee members to stay totally focussed on their key role within the event. What you do when you're setting up with your subcommittee coordinators, you're handing over their checklists and timelines, you're giving them a briefing, and you can also support them to set up their filing system at the same time. It's great for succession planning, because it means that when there's a change in committee members it's a simple process of handing over that filing system.

Now finally, the other one is the efficient communications that you should set up. How many committees go through the painful process of having to redirect phones and emails after a committee member departs. What about all those places that you need to update with new contact details. It's a bloody pain, and it's not necessary! Once again, in the pre-planning stage, take the time to set up efficient systems. This includes setting up emails for all of the relevant positions within the committee; you can have info@, secretary@, marketing@, stallholders@. Then when there's any change, the email address just gets transferred over to the new committee members. You shouldn't have committee members using their personal email accounts, and the same goes for mobile phone contact. Have one central contact for the event, and by no means should that be a personal phone number. Get yourself a prepaid phone, and that can then be passed on to new coordinators or event managers as that progression happens. The other couple of things I want to mention, is you may want to set up a shared calendar. You can do this in your g-suite account with google calendar, and you want to add in key dates such as meetings, deadlines, important dates such as committee members birthdays, event dates and anything else you want the whole team to be aware of. And then finally, another thing you h=may want to consider is an online discussion board, so you can use programs like Slack, and that allows you to have communication with the team rather than just sending a multitude of emails out. It's great for keeping people up to date and requesting input and ideas.

So there you have it, 5 easy steps to your pre-planning that can assist with your events efficiencies. Remember, this is all about systems and making you less busy. So if you take the time to set these things up now, you will save yourself hours of work and double handling each year. We want you to be more productive and less busy. Now we mentioned a few tools and resources throughout this podcast. Over at you can purchase DIY tools to assist you with your pre-planning. We have strategic plan templates, 12 months worth of meeting agendas, and probably the most valuable for every event, a macro-planning schedule template. If you become a member of the rEVENTS hub community, you’ll get all of this and more for free! It’s all waiting for you in the hub at


Thanks for joining us in the regional tourism and events podcast. For more great stuff, be sure to visit us at Talk again soon!

Cristy HoughtonComment