Today I want to write about how I organize events. Whether you are planning a private trip, a group trip or another kind of event you can make your life easier if you are organized well in the planning and execution of the event. I have organized more than 21 hiking and other events in 2014/2015 and 14 events for refugees in 2015/2016 and want to use this opportunity to share my best practice with you.
Planning means making lots of decisions
Why should you actually plan something? Doesn’t planning ruin all spontaneity? Why write something down? Well if you don’t write something down you will have to keep it in your mind all the time and will forget something. Writing down is a form of delegation and frees up your mind for more important things. Planning means making lots of decisions. You decide what to do based on your personal goals. Goals could be your personal fitness, to socialize or whatever. It is more efficient to decide beforehand than to decide in each and every situation. Planning does not mean to take care of every possible case – which would be very inefficient. You should stay flexible. (But to have something like a plan B or exit strategy is also not a bad idea.)
Planning the event
First of all I have kind of a bucket list. I have a list of ideas that I have of hikes/trips/etc. I want to make. Sometimes I sit down and make a brainstorming. I look at the map esp. at areas I have not visited or check what cool things other people are doing. Or if I see something I add it to the list. When I have finished an activity I tick it off on my list.
I use a simple text document which I store in Dropbox. So I can edit my document on any device with a simple text editor:
I prefer a solution that is as simple as possible. I.e. I want to be able to go to my ideas as quickly as possible. I heard that some people use OneNote, but I never have tested it myself. Sometimes I use Google Docs, for example for my activities with refugees.
Be careful not to store any sensitive information online (like people’s name). You should be aware that documents that are online can get stolen. If you are in a company you have to use a document management solution with high security (who doesn’t remember Hillary Clinton using her private email).
Google Docs has the advantage that documents can be shared with other people.
What I also do is to somehow categorize my ideas. For example for the time of the year: When swimming is involved it is best to do it in summer. Or in summer it is better to do hikes that are higher up, where else in spring and autumn it is good to not to go too high up for hiking.
When I have holidays or time on a weekend I can start to plan an event in detail. If it is something more complicated I use Google Docs. I create a document with all the relevant information (‘facts’) in one place. I call this a ‘fact sheet’. ‘Sheet’ means it should not contain unnecessary information (like long text copied somewhere from the internet). It should be possible to print the document and keep it in the trouser pocket or give it to other people.
Here is an example. For an event that spans multiple days it would also include an itinerary (with accommodations for every day).
If information is not kept in one place it could be a nightmare, for example if you need a phone number. Also if some people are involved in the planning it could be a nightmare if one people knows one part and the other person knows the other part. If one person is not available it is like you have to piece a puzzle together.
Freedom of information
This is often a problem in companies. Employees hide the information, often unintentionally, and because of that make themselves irreplaceable. Sharing information does not mean that everybody has to know everything or that you or someone else wants to have total control over everything. It just means to empower people to have access to information, to put them in control what is happening with them – if they want to (!) – and enable them to contribute (“Freedom of information”).
Your role in the group
There is usually big potential in a group
I was just talking about empowering people. There is usually big potential in a group. There are areas where people in a group (or a company for that matter) know much more than you. It is advised to use the potential in a group. You usually have an idea and some goals which are connected to it. For example it could be your goal to get fit. So when you do a hike you would put more emphasis on a faster pace. Other people might have other goals, maybe they join your hike to socialize. Generally I try to stick to my plan because I want to archive my goals. This does not mean that other people don’t have good ideas and maybe even that makes you change your goals. Also keep in mind that everybody wants to be important, so if you think you are the only one who is important in a group maybe you better do your activity alone 😉
Publishing the event
So now when I have planned the event (and thought about my role and goals) and want to invite other people to it I publish it.
If your goals are important to you it is a good idea to communicate them. Then it is more likely that you find like-minded people. If your goal is also to make money – which is a legitimate one – I recommend also to state it clearly. The character of the event will change, people will expect good planning and a good service for their money. I don’t ask for money on my events, this gives me the freedom to do what I want.
Publishing the event can mean calling your friends, writing an E-Mail, making a Facebook event, posting on a website (Groops, Couchsurfing, Meetup, Yelp, …) or putting a poster on a pinboard. I usually make a Facebook event or post the event on Couchsurfing.
The invitation should contain all relevant information, esp. the meeting point and time.
Important for the success of an event is that you are committed. Often you will have people that are not sure to join you. They have some options so they want to wait who joins and what option they think is more fun. If you are not sure about the date or time or if you want to do it also other people will not be sure. Why should they decide to join if it could happen that you suddenly cancel the event? Respect other people’s time, if they want to spend time with your activity don’t mess with it.
When organizing something you have to make lots of decisions (I said it before). For example what to do on a particular day. You usually have lots of choices and cannot make everything. Be brave, don’t take forever with a decision or be undecided. Often there is no right and wrong decision, make your decision the right one. Take responsibility for your decisions.
Be extra careful when the event involves paying for some reservation or tickets. Generally it is recommended that people send you the money to your bank account and only then can join. It is bad idea if you pay everything yourself beforehand and then people don’t show up and you don’t get the money back.
Execution of the event
Ok now the big day is here and your activity is starting. It may sound stupid but it is very important: Take care that people can go to the toilet. This is especially important for women and children. These are basic needs, also that people get food or have time to eat something (Check Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
What I also like to do is give people some time on their own. I set up a meeting point and give them for example one hour time until we meet again. They are free to spend the time together or alone. People have different goals and interests than I have, so this enables them to do what they are most interested in.
Take a group picture
Don’t forget to make some group pictures.
After the event
People appreciate it when they have something to remember the event. It is good if people get the photos that other people made, so take care that group pictures etc. are distributed to everyone. Who doesn’t know the event when one person makes great pictures and you never get them.
If you cook something together or have to share the cost for the accommodation it is necessary to collect the money. If it is just the travel cost you can let some people pay the tickets and then those people have to collect the money soon after. Or you can write down all the costs and who have paid it and afterwards calculate who has debts to whom. This is more efficient than doing it every time. The money can then be sent to their respective bank accounts.
People don’t want to pay for something they have not used.
Don’t underestimate this. This can cause lots of conflicts if not done properly, fair and transparently. People don’t want to pay for something they have not used. I use Google Keep to keep track of who has paid what.
Then I use Google Sheets to make the calculations (You can convert Google Keep to Google Docs BTW). So other people can check if I made a mistake (often I forget something).
PS.: I am not sponsored by Google. 😉
The more, the merrier
I hope this was helpful. Most of what I have written here is also some kind of marketing. This should make your next event more successful. For me the principle is: “The more, the merrier”. So have fun!!!
Time-Management (in german)