Managing an event program may be one of the most stressful and underrated jobs in today’s market. It takes a unique combination of marketing, data analysis, operations, and people skills to pull it off. 

I’m not talking about being an event manager or event project manager (although those jobs are tough enough) I’m talking about managing a program that includes multiple events. Even a program that combines multiple types of events like activations and expos, conferences, webinars, speaking tours and product demos. Events that happen over and over in the same location, or in multiple locations. Events that could deliver a huge return on investment, or become a black hole of wasted resources. 

If you depend on that person, or if you are that person, don’t you want to make their work (and their life) as easy as possible? 

Assuming the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” here are three principles you can apply to simplifying your process and streamlining your workflow. 

#1 – Keep it Simple

When you’re designing your workflow it’s tempting to try to address every possibility, contingency, and aberration you can think of. And you can probably think of quite a few. 

Keep in mind that all workflow decisions you make have time implications. For maximum efficiency your workflow should follow Einstein’s rule of making things “As simple as it can be, but not simpler.” A workflow that is complex enough to cover every possibility will be more complex than necessary at least 80 percent of the time. And added complexity leads to loss of consistency, slowed adoption, and longer training and learning curves. 

Overbuilding your workflow can be costly if you’re trying to map all the tasks over to software solutions, plus unnecessary complexity also makes your process more difficult to troubleshoot when things don’t go according to plan. So start with the most simple workflow design you can live with and add steps as you see the benefit of doing so. 

#2 – One Place for Everything

Not to fall back on another cliché, but right up there with the rule of keeping things simple is the old adage of “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Managing any process is easier when everything you need to do the job is at your fingertips. 

For the Event Program Manager that means all the information they need to track event data and make decisions about the program is in one dashboard, ideally a single software platform. Not only does that increase efficiency and accountability, reduce errors and training requirements, and improve security by only having one login to manage, it also means easier and more accurate data comparison and tracking. 

Keep in mind that while you may be able to integrate multiple platforms to manage your workflow today, if any of the systems you’re depending on either goes through an upgrade or is no longer supported. that could cause your entire workflow to fail. Having a single solution narrows any issues to a single point of failure.

Our philosophy at okapi is that, to be effective, an event program management platform should have a place for every piece of information that impacts your data analysis and critical decisions about your event program. That means information about the location, region, market, campaign, activities, personnel, budget, surveys and any other data collected from the event. 

#3 – Touch Everything Only Once

Events are people-driven, so there is only so much of the workflow that can be automated. Which is why it’s important to automate everything you can. When it comes to setting up a workflow to manage your event program that means creating an event, activity, or survey template in the system once then cloning it as needed. 

You may be surprised, when you’re evaluating your workflow, at how many tasks are really just recreating a wheel that’s already been designed. You can save a lot of time and headache, making everyone’s job easier, by setting up these tasks and templates only once. 

The same is true for data. You shouldn’t have to manually export and import data from one platform to another to make it meaningful. Your workflow should be set up to collect, manage, and analyze data in as few steps and touches as possible. 

#4 – Invest on the Front End 

At the other of the spectrum of Einstein’s rule about simplicity is the temptation to just get the obvious steps set up and let the rest of it take care of itself. It won’t. Or at least it won’t without costing you unnecessary time and money. 

The quality of your initial set up will determine the ease of your work for as long as you use that system. So invest the resources to really think through your process and collect stakeholder input if appropriate. This is also the ideal time to evaluate your data collection methodology as well.

Your next step is to document, document, document. You can’t expect consistency if you have not made a record of how things are supposed to work and what you expect from your people and process. But remember, documentation and automation is not a substitute for training. The better your training the better your outcomes. 

If you front load the effort by mapping out your workflow, setting up your software solution to match your map, documenting your processes and benchmarks, and training all personnel on the system you’ll make everyone’s life easier.

#5 – Make it Really Flow

The whole point of calling it a “workflow” is that your design should keep the work moving, flowing from one task to another, one person to another, one point of completion to another. The trick to designing a workflow that really flows is to understand what needs to happen before each stage and after each stage in the process.  

That means all the steps must be connected and assigned in order for the work to flow. You need to document the interdependencies of tasks, the triggers for start the next task in your workflow, and the task ownership and assignments. 

If you look at any task in your workflow and cannot determine what has to happen prior to this point for this task to be successfully completed, what needs to happen immediately following the completion of this task, or who is accountable for making sure this task is not only completed but is completed in an accurate and timely manner, chances are your workflow is broken. 

Yes, these five steps may take some effort and require you to make some changes. But you might be surprised at how much you can increase your event ROI and decrease your stress and frustration just by doing the work now to really streamline your workflow.