In the fun and creative world of event planning, documenting ‘standard operating procedures’ (SOPs) sounds about as dull as it gets. Like a continental breakfast, sometimes you have to do it for budget concerns. While it promises something for everyone, no one really walks away satisfied.
But unlike yesterday’s bacon and still-half-frozen bagels, standard operating procedures can lighten your workload and give you something to wake up excited about. Crafting, utilizing and honing SOPs with a trusted supplier can create a common language, reduce uncertainty, and boost performance for both the event planner and their partner. In this article, we will provide 5 steps to customize production SOPs that strengthen your supplier relationship and make you a better planner.
1. Define meeting categories and purposes
Understanding the types of meetings you plan plus their core communication goals is the first step to creating solid production SOPs within your event planning process. (For help getting clear about the purpose of your event, check out ‘Questioning your way to a successful event’.) Goal clarity can be particularly challenging for third-party planners with limited access to their client’s insights, though digging deep into an event’s goals can be a challenge for internal planners too. Sometimes everyone is moving so quickly to “get it done,” they forget to question why this event is happening in the first place! They may be focused on what happened last time instead of how to present information in the most efficient and interesting way. Once you understand the ‘why’ of the event, your production partner will be better able to help you with the “how.”
2. Define equipment essentials along with ‘upgrades’
Once you know the categories you are working with, you can set up a meeting with an audio visual equipment supplier or production partner to determine the essential equipment for making the event seamless from a production perspective. In addition to creating a list, this is a great opportunity to really increase your AV IQ and learn from your AV partner the elements that go into creating a polished environment. It may sound like a small thing, but knowing how to ask for the kind of switcher you need by name or understand the projector to screen ratio your ballroom needs makes you a stronger, smarter planner. Once you’ve got the list of essentials down for each meeting category you plan, you can have some fun going through the creative extras to innovate. Additional lighting, scenic elements, video, recording, and live playback can all enhance your event. Dreaming up interesting options and having an a la carte menu ready to choose from when budget allows or that special attendee will be on site will give you and your production partner an easy way to build a more meaningful attendee experience.
3. Consider what could go wrong
It’s not too big a deal if the projector goes out on the four-person marketing department. They can gather instead around a laptop for a half-hour update. It’s a really big deal if the projector goes out at 8:04am when the CEO is presenting the new sales strategy to 800 sales representatives at the annual conference. This turns into an even bigger deal and there’s no backup projector. A great production supplier will consider the location, type of equipment, size of the audience, cost and speed to replace the equipment. They’ll advise you about the need for backup equipment and any charges that apply. Back-up equipment should be a part of your SOPs, along with documentation about how you made the decision to purchase or waive this equipment. When things inevitably go wrong as they frequently do, you will stand apart from your peers for having a well thought out plan and decision criteria to back you up.
4. Seek input from anyone willing to give insight
As the old saying goes, no one is an island. By involving your peers you will get ideas for SOP’s that are different than you would have thought of yourself. Involving your production partners will give you the benefit of experience from people who are experts in their field. By involving your management team, you’ll raise your profile in your company and have their buy-in if something doesn’t go to plan. Developing SOPs for your meeting can be an amazing way to get time with a manager that’s usually too busy or connect with someone even higher up the chain than your immediate supervisor. If you are able to develop event SOPs that help your own planning, offering to help translate them to other meeting types across your peers is a terrific way to show you are a team player. You may be remembered well at review time or when there’s a position open for promotion.
5. Consider the human side of the event or meeting
Does the sales manager have a favorite song she loves to walk into? Maybe the keynote speaker wants a pitcher of Arnold Palmers at the podium? Does the CEO need extra-large type on the confidence monitor or despise spotlights? Building the human element into your SOPs is a great way to ensure you capture the details that others miss. Is it possible to correct those kinds of things on the spot? Of course – you can always grab the banquet captain for an Arnold Palmer and solve the problem. However, if you’ve got the pitcher there during rehearsal, or have that favorite song playing when the person walks in for a slide review, you and your production provider will radiate a degree of professionalism that is sure to be noticed and appreciated – maybe even rewarded!
If used correctly, standard operating procedures can ensure your I’s are dotted and your T’s are crossed. They’ll do this while creating additional time and space for the more creative elements of your planning. Knowing your essential details are in place will lessen your stress and free your mental energy to focus on the attendee experience in a way that showcases you and your production partner as true professionals.