There are various emotions and physical conditions I experienced after different events ... Because I had made a mistake I once had tears running down my face while I was on public transport. Another time I had to call in sick at my second job because I was so exhausted.
Hosting a conference (or another event) is a tough job. Depending on size and complexity a very tough one.
Over the last ten years I was part of a team who prepared and hosted at least one or two conferences a year. Each with a couple of hundred people attending.
One thing is clear to me more than ever before: There´s almost nothing like bringing people together and giving them a good time. If it is a party, a a workshop or to connect and network.
Anyway, how is it possible as an organizer to have fun and enjoy the whole thing as you run it? These are my reflections …
1. Prepare like there is no tomorrow. Then switch purposefully.
Everything stands and falls on preparation. The more you think through conditions, runsheets and details beforehand, the better you will put it into practice.
The pareto principle is all about this this and can be applied in the event business as well: 80 % effort for preparation leads to 20 % effort in execution.
„The man who is prepared has his battle half fought." Miguel de Cervantes
Nevertheless, every event has this point where it is too late to do any more preparation. This is at least the case when the event actually starts.
At our conferences at Equippers this point came in most cases when I drove to the airport for the first time. All dressed up and with a clean car I did my first shuttle service.
In these moments I had to make the decision to switch to not missing out on a certain conference experience. Starting to enjoy and to get the most out of every moment and conversation was something I really had to decide to do.
CAUTION: To keep on preparing and organizing things the last minute causes unnecessary stress and pressure. Putting things in place has to happen way ahead of time and needs to be completed BEFORE THE EVENT by any means.
Exception: Of course you have to react to spontaneous situations and necessary changes. The perfect event will never happen. See point 3 for more on this thought.
2. Work opposite and take a chill-pill.
The human body is designed to have breaks. Even during an event that runs for a couple of hours or even days. And by this I´m not talking about sleeping three hours at night.
I got into this habbit: To relax when the attendees are in the session and to be fully present when they have breaks.
Showing up when guests arrive, checking if everyone is having a good time or if there are adjustments to make, greeting people or having a chat. - That´s all happening before, in between and after the sessions.
When they´re all in the auditorium, everyone found a seat and is listening to the speaker, I can take time to have a coffee or eat some fruit (and even take a seat).
Of course this means that my leaders are happy and the speaker got everything he or she needs. As well as the air con is working properly (or in our case: the windows are open). Production and ushers are doing a good job and no other team or volunteer needs help or support.
So, have your breaks but choose the right time! Trust other teams and volunteers to do their job and make right choices.
CAUTION: The person who isn´t having breaks harms himself, his team and even the attendees. Thinking you´re too important will eventually backfire on you.
At one point I startet feeling so sick I struggled to keep remain standing. Only taking a pain-killing tablet did help. Puh! I don´t recommend.
3. Take notes and look ahead.
An event without mistakes never happens. Never ever. There´s alway room to improve. It might be a challenge not to grieve about things that haven´t worked out the way you hoped they would but it´s an inevitable part of every event that you learn to get better.
It was in November of 2010 at the end of our first conference in Berlin that I was asked by one of our international guest who I was taking back to the airport „So, is there anything you want to improve on?“ - Laughing out loud I nearly crashed the car (Ok, I admit: This is exaggerated.). His subtle way of asking about my perception was something I appreciated nonetheless.
Why did I start laughing? The conference had been a disaster in many ways. I knew that. We had given our best to make the most out of the given circumstances. Because we were a very young church plant we had been limited on staff, finances and other resources. So, our attempt of running a conference must have made a poor impression in the eyes of a few attendees.
Back to his question in the car. My answer came from a pure conscience: „My list is long.“
I had taken notes. Doing this I was able not to regret but to focus on a better conference the next year. Even though many things had been executed on a low level of excellence.
CAUTION: You quickly become frustrated if you take everything on you that´s going wrong.
Why not having a look at what was good, giving praise and appreciation to others and yourself and celebrating success? Everything else can be written down to get evaluated for potential improvement later on.
What kind of experiences have you made concerning events? What helps you to have a good time while running them? Please write a comment.