Event logistics for a mindful experience


By Leanne Andrecyk

Logistics: the process of planning, organizing and managing activities. Born from the military arts, it is the essence of the event industry and the most important element of the craft.  A true master of logistics can take event management from an activity to a scientific discipline. Event logistics can encompass all planning phases of an event; however the focus of this article is on the end game: the logistics of event execution with guest participation in mind.

To someone attending your event, an interesting, thoughtful agenda is the mark of a professionally planned and managed event. However, there is another schedule of events that runs in the background, parallel to that agenda, which makes an event planner a true professional – the play-by-play checklist of the day that ensures the event agenda is executed flawlessly. This is where the best event planners shine.

Event run sheets: The key to success

Coordinating and integrating the tandem and parallel actions of an infinite number of suppliers, all contributing to the execution of an event, is paramount to its success and represents a true precision act. Known under many different names including run sheet, checklist or timeline, the “schedule behind the schedule” is the true backbone to the success of any event execution. This document represents all the planning and preparation of the previous months whittled down to the blow-by-blow story of how the event will unfold. And, believe it or not, a truly professional logistical run sheet will turn an amateur into an expert planner. In the event of an emergency, a run sheet should be able to provide all the required information for a planner new to the event to pick up and carry on.

Strong logistics management is absolutely essential in delivering the business results expected from an event. From behind the scenes, it is imperative to equip your team with information.  Spare no detail to capture the play-by-play checklist of the day by building your run sheet in tandem with your critical path. Follow the law of physics – every action has an opposite and equal reaction! As you plot out your critical path, each “to do” will result in an on-site action that needs to be captured on your run sheet. Everything from opening the doors to checking in with your client at appropriate and pre-determined times should be accounted for in the timeline. The point of this exercise is to ensure that during the high-stress of event day, nothing slips through the cracks, where the smallest forgotten detail could wreak havoc on the day.

Look beyond the norm

When planning an event, the obvious logistical items that come to mind include on-site registration, food and beverage delivery and human resources, to name a few. A true logistical genius immediately thinks of things that go beyond the norm and not necessarily on one’s radar, namely the overall guest experience. What will guests actually do when they arrive and how will they feel about their experience?

Event professionals have become very adept at creating events that are well-oiled logistical machines. Sometimes this can create a mindless experience for guests – active participants quickly become in-active attendees as they begin to operate on autopilot to navigate an event experience that is all too familiar.

With the myriad of things that already populate the minds of guests it is imperative that we find the right balance between a well-oiled familiar process and the opportunity for guests to be mindful, ensuring the experience we are presenting is dynamic and interesting. You don’t want to take away the ability for guests to be present and aware of what they are doing. If we avoid creativity to maintain easy on-site logistics then we jeopardize the overall return on investment of the guest experience. We want to be able to guide guests through the event without removing their active participation.

Opportunity for improvement

Don’t rely on cut and paste. When working on a repeat or annual event it can be very tempting to work with the previous event run sheet. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to improve upon your own efficiency and ensure each year the event is presented, and that it continues to arouse curiosity to keep guests attentive. Last year’s documents are a valuable resource to become familiar with what was planned and how it was rolled out but should not be seen as a way to cut corners on creativity.

An event’s run sheet can be a useful tool to check against a schedule that could be too full for guests to maintain mindful participation. An event or conference agenda will typically include registration, meal service, transitions, breakouts, workshops, local tours, keynotes, trade shows, along with several other elements that events, especially conferences, may offer. We are occasionally so pre-occupied with fitting in an over-abundance of options into the event or conference that we aren’t thinking about what it’s actually going to be like for guests to experience a very long and intense day.

Manages event flow

A logistical timeline laid out from end to end can quickly show how an eight-hour day has been jam-packed with 12 hours’ worth of experiences. Use your run sheet to identify when the program is overflowing. If executing the run sheet requires an inordinate number of team members then most likely the ability for a guest to take it all in is next to impossible. A sense of frustration can quickly replace mindfulness, with regret setting in at the end of the day for not succeeding. Leave guests excited about the positive and practical takeaways of an event, not what they feared they may have missed.

A run sheet is certainly the tool of choice to track the daily execution of an event. In addition, it can also provide you with the checks and balances, throughout the planning phase of the event, to ensure the experience being presented is achievable. Providing guests with a sense of being well cared for, without spoon-feeding them with a mindless wash, rinse and repeat experience, is essential. Keep your team well equipped with a detailed event schedule and ensure it tells the story of an event experience that guests will truly relish!

About the author 

Leanne Andrecyk is Managing Partner of Zed Events Great Productions. For more information visit www.zedevents.ca.

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