In an industry where moving a deadline isn’t an option project management is an effective tool for improvement. An event management company could be handing up to 500 events (or projects) a year. An in-house event manager might manage fewer, but could have several running at the same time. Having an effective system to manage these is essential.
As an event manager, you probably don’t see yourself as a project manager; but you’re producing a unique event to a fixed deadline, so you’ve got more in common than you think. There’s no question that there are a number of shared characteristics between an effective project manager and a good event manager – strong organisational skills, great communication, and above all the ability to produce something on time, on budget and within scope. But that’s often where the similarity ends.
Project management is a profession where people expect to complete a project management qualification, such as PRINCE2, to undertake project management training, and to follow a standard process to achieve their goal. Whereas, in many companies, event management is something you pick up from experience, or by learning from colleagues. This means that even the best event managers will follow their own unique processes; probably clearly documented and very organised, but different to the process used by their colleagues. This can have clear risks for the organisation – particularly if an event manager leaves, or is otherwise unable to complete their event.
There’s no reason why many of the benefits that project managers see from following a standardised project management methodology such as PRINCE2 can’t be applied to event management. Just as a starting point; using a methodology means everyone is using the same terminology – stakeholders, project risk etc – removing potential for misunderstanding. Everyone is using standard documentation, meaning there’s a clear record of where the event is if the manager has to change. Common processes mean that event success is easily replicable and project review means that mistakes won’t be repeated.
While some people are put off by the perception of a rigid approach in formal project management, a methodology such as PRINCE2 can be tailored to your organisation’s requirements. You can add industry-specific terms to your terminology, and make sure you’re aware of risks that apply to your projects; for example, project scope and budget may change, but the date can’t – whereas in some industries the launch date can be varied.
Of course it’s always a challenge to introduce a new approach, but one of the key benefits of using a standard methodology is the vast amount of resources available to support you in adoption. For PRINCE2, there’s a clear training pathway as well as any number of online resources.
So in conclusion, the quickest way to improve the success of your events may be to treat them as projects and take a project management based approach to event management.
Dr Ian Clarkson is Head of Project and Programme Management Product Development aQA -leading providers of Prince2 courses. His role provides business direction and ownership of QA’s portfolio, programme, project and risk management curriculum. Ian is an experienced lecturer, author, speaker and consultant, having delivered programmes and projects in all industry sectors.