Thanks to today's wide-ranging technology, conference planners of all stripes -- on-staff or independent -- can work their magic from home (or almost any location). But the art of remote planning has its own skill set, and the following tips will help ensure the process works well for all concerned.
1. Keep Up With the Industry
Though you might be working from home, be sure to circulate and keep up with the trends in your profession. Attend MICE conferences and trade fairs on a regular basis to foster industry relationships and hone your skills. Northstar Meetings Group, for example, hosts a number of annual events bringing together planners and suppliers from across the globe. Likewise, take advantage of the multitude of webinars and webcasts, education sessions and online courses at your disposal.
Whether you’re a beginner or veteran in planning, your knowledge of the industry should be continuously growing.
2. Maintain Open Communication
Communication is essential to maintaining proper relationships with your clients, suppliers and attendees. The need for such connections only grows when work is predominantly remote.
Everyone with whom you work in the planning process should have the option to turn to you at any time for consultation and assistance. Beyond email and playing phone tag, there are a number of resources you can utilize to maintain an open line of communication with your colleagues, including the following:
- Slack is a cloud-based team-communication app featuring chat rooms organized by topic, private groups and direct messaging.
- Dial My Calls is a simple platform for sending out mass notifications via phone call or text message.
- Skype is a text, voice and video chat application, available on desktop and mobile, and also has a simple file-sharing feature.
- Redbooth is a task-management application with built-in software for instant communication between team members. Workers can communicate in the same window as an assignment, helping to keep conversation productivity-oriented.
- Basecamp simplifies the sharing of strategies by individuals on the same team but spread across multiple departments. It consolidates internal communications, project management and client relations in one place.
- CRM is a customer-relationship management system that uses software to facilitate the collection, organization and management of information about your attendees in one central database. It's a huge help in retaining existing clients, reaching potential ones and winning back past ones.
3. Manage Email Productivity
In this industry, if you don’t keep your inbox under control, you’ll end up losing track of small details. Create an email-filtration system that fits your planning process. That might mean keeping messages unread until you are able to respond, sorting messages into folders and setting follow-up alerts for responding.
However you decide to manage your email, the goal is to read and respond to at least a portion of it every day. It can be challenging to keep up with the deluge, but the longer you wait, the harder it will be.
4. Delegate and Set Boundaries
Individuals who don’t work from home often assume you’re always available. Providing them with the hours you're dedicated to work (or not) limits interruptions and reduces hard feelings and miscommunication. Doing so could result in more original and innovative event solutions and creative partnerships with your vendors, sponsors and other freelancers and stakeholders.
Furthermore, take advantage of delegating tasks according to your team’s strengths. Not everyone needs to be doing everything -- and that includes you. Maintain boundaries and understand that, even as the planner, certain tasks might do better being passed off.
5. Be the Checkpoint
Circling back to point number two, communication management is worth reiterating. Don’t let your event host(s) directly contact your vendors. All communication pertaining to any point of the planning process should be run through you or someone on your team.
You need to be on top of all information pertaining to your meeting. Make it clear that you must be included in all event-centric conversations and correspondences.
6. Take a Break
Creating efficient work habits sets the foundation for productive planning. Structure your days, systemize your workflow, declutter your desk and make time for breaks. Even a 15-second break from your computer screen can give your mind the clarity it needs to push forward successfully.
When outlining your day, leave "buffer spaces" for any unexpected events that might pop up. According to Eventbrite, nearly half of organizers (44 percent) say the biggest barrier to their productivity is last-minute requests.
About the author: Lisa Roberts is a writer and assistant editor at U.S. Moving Experts with nearly a decade of experience writing for the MICE industry.