While September brings cooler autumn air, back-to-school excitement and smell of pumpkin-spice lattes for most people, here at the Academy it signals the beginning of Summit-Mode. All hands are on deck to put the finishing touches on a Fall Summit that will leave our Member Attorneys, their teams, and our special guests energized and ready to make a difference in their community through their law firm.
I’ve had the pleasure of organizing Academy events for over 10 years. As an event planner, one thing I’m always certain of is that something will always go wrong. That’s just the nature of events. How you prepare and handle them is what makes the difference.
We have checklists for everything. Trust me when I say, I love checklists. The important thing about checklists is to actually use them onsite. I’ve noticed people get overwhelmed and leave their lists behind. The lists are there for a reason: so you don’t have to come up with what needs to still be handled or prepared when there are things coming at you from every direction. Checklists allow you the headspace to be ready to tackle what the day throws at you. In events, it could be an issue with your audio-visual equipment that needs immediate troubleshooting, an upset attendee or even a missing educational speaker.
While you may agree with me, perhaps you are unsure about how to get started creating a checklist that will be effective and thorough. Here are some tips to get you started:
- To be fully prepared, spend time walking through EVERY step that needs to be handled, large or small. Imagine yourself as the attendee walking up to the event. What do you look for? What do you expect? What questions would you have?
- Answer each of those questions and write down every detailed task it takes to answer that question. For example, if your attendee approaches the event and needs to use the restroom, how easy is it to locate the restroom? Is the restroom clean and well stocked? Add things like “check to make sure the restroom is clean and well stocked” to your checklist!
- If you think to yourself, “Of course I’ll remember to do _______ (fill in the blank) because I always do that task,” you’re not setting yourself up for success. Don’t leave any piece of the event to chance. You’re more likely to forget even the most routine tasks when you’re faced with lots of questions from your team and your event attendees as well as any issues that may arise.
- Ensure your checklist is completely comprehensive. If an unexpected problem or accident arises, you should be able to pass your list off to someone on your team with confidence knowing the event will be handled while you handle emergency situations. Will it be done with your same finesses? Maybe. Maybe not. You will know, however, that your team is prepared and won’t be flailing. The show will go on, even if you aren’t there looking over every little detail.
- Review your lists often! Just because you have completed an event that doesn’t mean your work is done! Review your notes, recap what worked and did not work and then update your checklists for next time. Even if you don’t plan to have this specific event again, you’ll want to recap so you can document your lessons learned. Be honest with yourself about what worked and didn’t. I also recommend asking your team for candid feedback. Let them know their comments will help the team grow and improve for the future.
The idea of having checklists is not just event specific. What procedures do you have at your office for day-to-day tasks? Are they documented? Do you have cross-trained staff? If there was an emergency and you had to leave tomorrow, would your business be able to continue? If you have doubts or are unsure, it’s time to start thinking about what systems you need to put in place at your firm.
Associate Director, Projects and Event Planning
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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