On Wednesday 28th October, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 1 of EventLAB 2020 Online, focused on Sustainability, Workplace Culture & Leadership.
Watch the full video below or read on for the key takeaways of this fireside chat titled 'The Changing Shape Of Post-Covid-19 Project Management'. Lizzy Eaton, Director of Oddity Events & Marketing and Karolina Daniuk, Senior Events Manager at Digital Catapult took to the virtual stage for this one.
Most event managers have had to support clients in their transition to virtual events, whilst simultaneously learning themselves. With virtual events, there is a physical barrier preventing us from being able to put out fires in the normal way. For example, if a speaker’s microphone is off or broken, you can fix it fairly quickly at a live event, but at a virtual event you are relying on the technology and the speaker’s own equipment and knowledge leaving a whole range of new variables. You have to become your own expert production company, AV support, event technologist, and more!
Karolina notes that lead times can be (and often are) much shorter than for a live event, despite the fact that there is so much more preparation needed and a learning curve to overcome for many event planners! The virtual event planning experience can be a lot more intense, so a little understanding is often necessary when organising a virtual event for the first time.
Be clear with your expectations
It’s important that project managers are super clear when handing out roles and responsibilities within the team. Especially when managing a team remotely, it’s easy to assume someone has picked something up when it may have easily been missed. Communication, and even over-communication, is essential to ensure everyone is doing what’s expected of them. Be crystal clear, to the point and never assume someone can read your mind!
Communicate with key stakeholders
Having more open and frequent conversations with stakeholders is key to project management in digital world. They need to be reassured that their events will still be a success, but it’s also important to manage their expectations and share with them industry experiences and best practice. Karolina notes that, given the current climate, there is a general sense of acceptance from stakeholders for changes in the event project planning.
Lizzy recommends planning a weekly ‘Risk Register’ call with clients or stakeholders, to go through all the potential risks, role-play the plan of action and develop a strong contingency plan. For example, if a speaker in another country loses internet and drops off the session, you need to have a plan of action. It’s important to always be prepared for the unexpected!
Trends for the future
Digital events are here to stay. Obviously, some event planners will have done virtual events such as webinars, pre-COVID, but the truth is this is now the reality for all of us. What’s more, some events actually work better as digital events. Hybrid events will also take off and be the norm for the events world in 2021 and beyond.
In terms of the tech, there will be a rise in the use of VR and AR, even if it’s a digital event. There will be more gamification to keep it engaging for attendees, which will also lead to the development of much simpler, more affordable equipment.
Lastly, we predict that teams will continue to work in different ways too. There are much more freelancers available to come in during larger projects, so teams will definitely be a lot more agile, efficient and flexible moving forward.
What’re your top tips for platforms to track and manage your team remotely?
Lizzy says that Slack is great for her team. Not just for project managing remotely, but also for the morale of the team. Karolina also uses Slack to keep in touch with the team, and Trello for project management. Having platforms like these is really important - you can keep in touch with each other in other ways than a Zoom call and you’re also able to easily see what has been allocated to who.
What have you done to train teams effectively to deliver different roles?
There’s no way we can be an expert in every single role, so allocate the different roles and be really clear from the outset. It’s important to recognise the strengths within your team and outsource where necessary. Some people are better at some things than others and that’s okay! Practice makes perfect and this is the time for us to be open and learn from each other.
What do you enjoy most about project management?
For Lizzy, seeing how a team approaches a challenge or task they’ve been given is what she loves. She notes she sometimes finds it hard to take a step back and let them do it their own way, but it’s about trusting your team and not micro-managing. For Karolina, her favourite part is seeing a project come together and seeing her team thriving and succeeding.
Do you think events will be going ahead in the later half of next year and is it worth booking venues for September 2021?
Yes. The events industry has pulled together so much in making noise that the government can’t ignore us forever! However, it is important to add into your project plan what your cancellation terms are as a reminder just in case. You could also split the event between different venues and make it a roadshow-type situation, which will allow for any cancellations making the whole event is at risk. This will also reduce travel and allow people to still attend if you have to make it completely virtual.
Karolina believes September 2021 is a good target, and recognises that many venues and organisers are doing as much as they can to be prepared for post-lockdown in-person events again, for example by becoming accredited with the Hire Space Safer Events Accreditation.
Do you think tech tools will get better in the future?
Yes, they have to! It would be a wasted opportunity if we didn’t try and constantly improve these, as we will be so reliant on them. It does take time though to use and review every single one. Karolina adds that this is an opportunity for innovation and adapting platforms to improve them. If we have feedback as an industry, we should provide that feedback collectively to the leading tech companies to help them improve and inform them of exactly what we need.
About The Speakers
Lizzy Eaton, Director, Oddity Events & Marketing
Lizzy is the founder and director of Oddity Events & Marketing, an award-winning start-up events agency which specialises in delivering events with personality to high-level audiences like politicians, journalists and academics.
Karolina Daniuk, Senior Events Manager, Digital Catapult
Strategic planner, relationship manager, and events delivery expert with nearly a decade of experience. As a Senior Events Manager at Digital Catapult, Karolina leads a team delivering over 140 events annually, contributing to accelerating the adoption of new and emerging technologies in the UK.
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