Event production will always have its logistical challenges. It is something all event managers need to deal with at every event they organise. It’s absolutely vital that this stage goes well.
Event production is like directing a play: it is built scene by scene
The event production stage can be a stressful time as you begin to feel the pressure and the mounting expectation to deliver a great event. You know time is running out. It often feels like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done and your event has temporarily taken over your life. The best way to manage this stage of your event is to create an event operational plan or function sheet – more about these plans in a moment.
Events…. a logistical jigsaw puzzle
Certainly, at larger events there is usually so much to be done by so many people and in such a short space of time: it is indeed a logistical jigsaw puzzle. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport define logistics as ‘the time related positioning of resources to meet user requirements. In our world we are talking about the supply, movement, installation and removal of products and services. Event managers are therefore trying to do manage the flow of materials and people into, on to and around their event site.
From empty space to spectacular event
Let’s assume everybody on your site is working towards the same objective: to be open on time. Easy to say much harder to do in practice, when there are so many variables. The problem is the very small timeframe you have to work in and the large number of contractors on site, trying to do their thing in the context of allowing everyone else… to also do their thing. The reality maybe a little harder to achieve as each team of contractors’ focus is on making sure they stick to their own schedule. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer – scheduling and site planning
The basic tools of the events logistics manager are scheduling and site planning. The site plan in this case is very different to ones you might use for promotional purposes. In terms of scheduling there will be negotiations with suppliers around delivery times, access points, equipment used, site safety plans and removal times. Each party will be trying to get the best solution for the event (you) and their budget. For larger events I would advise a table top dry run exercise with all the key players to try and establish any unknown elements, look for potential problems and identify best fit solutions.
It’s time to direct the action!
Producing any event is like directing a play: it is built, scene by scene. There’s a necessary and logical order and getting this right is important. Essentially, they will be breaking the event down day into its component parts and working out what needs to happen first, second, third and so on. You will be working backwards from the first official opening event and calculating how long it will take to get everything built, the site cleared, cleaned, and ready to receive visitors. The logistics or operational plan will have milestones: times when crucial tasks must be completed and if all goes well, then ‘the build’ should flow without the need of active control. The reality of course for those of us with experience of setting up an event site is somewhat different. You and your team must continuously watch the action unfold, keep a critical eye on the schedules and remind everyone to do what you asked them to do. It’s an active process and where revisions may have to be made.
Key to this stage: brilliant joining instructions and everybody working hard during set up and sticking rigidly to the schedules and site plan
Event logistics or operational plans
In practice your logistics plan is a sequenced list of tasks to be completed on or before event day and will include the following:
- A full chronological running order of everything that needs to happen, detailing time, location, person responsible
- Schedules – including timelines and any contractor time constraints
- Contacts list: useful names and telephone numbers for all key players
- All special instructions about the venue, site, layout, access arrangements, contact numbers, parking, and so on
- A full site plan with any accompanying notes
- Contingency and any back-up plans
- Emergency plans
- List of VIPs, arrival times, special conditions, protocols, and so on
The following people will need a copy of your operational plan:
- Key staff
- All key contractors
- Health and Safety lead
- Caterers – if deemed useful
Key to success…is to assume nothing and triple-check everything, get sight all the necessary paperwork and make sure you go through the plan with all the key players…until they tell you to stop bothering them…they know what they are doing!
It’s amazing just how many emails apparently don’t get received at this stage: so, speak to all key people in person
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How do I help event planners like you?
I run an event management training and consultancy company (The Event Expert) delivering In-house and On-Line event management training courses and event consultancy services to accidental, occasional and professional event managers. My objective is to give them the confidence and skills to design, plan, promote and deliver their own successful and rewarding events.
My courses are based on 20+ years of practical event management experience. I practice what I preach!
My clients come from the world of business, education, sport, the public and charity sector, training companies, tourism, creative agencies, universities and festivals.
Thank you for taking the time this article
Chris, The Event Expert