A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.Confucius (551–479 BCE)
Leading a workshop, organizing a conference, or making an online course happen takes a lot of efforts. Rewarding ones I would claim. And if you are into business hopefully well paid, too. That they succeed is mainly the result in planning. Success comes when preparation meets opportunity. To see what we have prepare and plan for, we have assembled in this chapter the most relevant aspects of workshop and event management.
After the workshop is before the workshop – to adopt a quote from a German Soccer Coach. You plan for an event or workshop. However, the learning can be implemented directly for the next occasion. That means you adjust and get better and better.
For example, I definitely always recommend the use of a workshop plan. Leading the workshop you notice that time estimations were not always correct. Note them down while you conduct and adjust the timings for next time.
Or you notice that something was missing, write it down for the next resources list, so that you don’t lack it in the upcoming event again.
Whenever possible testing should be part of the preparation. Often it is neglected. Mostly for time reasons. Big mistake as we have to notice later. Things go wrong. Equipment is lacking. To follow another process would have been. There is miscommunication. And so on. By testing you eliminate the most crucial mistakes. Others will come during the live session, but mostly not that severe. So, don’t neglect it. And plan the time for the testing into your overall planning.
A life-tested workshop plan has a big value. This can even expressed in money, if you sell your efforts. If everything works smoothly according to your timings, all material is available, and you focus completely on your audience and your
Nowadays, there are hundreds if not thousands of possibilities to organize your tasks. From your head via paper to Smartphone and computer Apps, all is possible. And you choose. But which one is the right approach? The one that works. At the end, the only thing that matters is that things get done. If you prefer good old paper, that’s fine. If you are geek and want to have the latest gadget – wonderful! However, if you do not work alone, the chosen approach suits better everyone in the team. At least he or she should be allowed to change the system in a way that he or she can handle it according to own preference.
Checklists for Planning
Having said the above, immediately bar the option head! Research has proven over and over again that our brain is not a very reliable, but moreover quite biased and tricky tool. That’s why thinking should always be in writing – be it on paper or digitally.
For this reason I am a big fan of checklist. And those who aren’t yet should read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. And you will become a List Nerd, too. Checklists for planning are just fundamental. In which form you write and check your list, is the next question.
List, Kanban or Mindmap
The omnipotent tool of Mindmaps by Tony Buzan is also an excellent planning tool. At least for establishing all tasks and resources it helps a lot to think of all areas.
In the next step you add from the main branches subbranches or directly tasks and resources. When you are done with it, assign responsibilities and dates. Or you simply leave the mindmap as brainstorming tool and add persons and deadlines in another planning tool like Kanban or list.
So, whenever you have equipment or other in mind, consider it to be a task, to be organised, prepared, take care of be someone. Thus, you should add directly a name and a deadline.
Since Toyota introduced the Kanban board it has spread across the world. Be it a physical Kanban in your office or as an Application on your computer or Smartphone, it improved most likely millions of lives.
For workshop planning it is equally useful. There can be different planning approaches to it.
- Either you have the tasks in columns according to their subject, e.g. Marketing, Logistics, or
- you have them by dates (week before, two days before…), or
- by responsible person
- by location (in the office, in the workshop room, errand…)
Which one you choose depends on you and your team. This is a personal preference. The only thing required is that it works and the tasks are fulfilled.
Personally, I prefer by location as my personal mixture with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method – realized in Trello. Responsible person can be marked on the card and you can change the view to persons in Trello. Then, everyone knows his or her tasks. The same goes for dates. And the big advantage is that I have it on the computer screen, the iPad and my iPhone.
The alternative is the classic Action Plan with Task, Name, and Date. These can also be grouped into for example two weeks before, one week before, two days before. This helps to see whether you are on track or not.
Lists like these have the satisfying effect of ticking a task as done, which so far no digital tool can provide in the same manner.
Calendar or Project Management Software
Remember Michael Hyatt’s words: “What gets scheduled, gets done.” Having tasks and responsible persons in your planning is an excellent step. Often this suffices, sometimes not. People are busy and overlook their tasks. Or something apparently more urgent pops up. Thus, it is the smarter way to have blocked time right aways in each person’s calendar for the respective task – including buffer time.
If you have a project management software in place even better. Events and workshops can be planned even smoother with these tools. However, it remains a question of personal taste and availability how you do your planning.
Right upfront: The Planner is not the Doer! What does that mean? Even if you plan for yourself, bear in mind that – however motivated and energized you are at the time of planning – there will be times when you are drained, demotivated, and just down. You will postpone, work with half the energy double the time, commit mistakes.
In other words, planning is practically always overoptimistic. Even experienced planners, e.g. in construction always fail to set realistic timings. Accordingly, you should always add about 30% to your expected time as a buffer. This serves you to correct mistakes, catch up delays, wrong deliveries, cancellations etc.
Planning for what?
- Target Audience Analysis
- Workshop Plan and Program
- Event Management
Read up there more in detail and develop your own planning accordingly.
Wishing you best of luck for your endeavours!