28 March 2013

Pull off an event in your spare time :: The Tools

In an effort to give away all my best secrets about how to pull off a large-scale event in your spare time, I thought I'd share with you today some of the tools we used in putting together All Dressed Up.

There are also a couple things I wish I'd realized from the start. I'll share those, too.

From the very beginning of planning All Dressed Up, I had a desire to run efficiently, not wasting the time of my super-talented committee members.  That's the spot where most of the my tools were born from - a desire for efficiency, increased communication, and a "headquarters" of sorts, for our tasks and goals.

Here's the skinny:


1. Teamwork Project Management: I checked with a friend of mine, who's a certified Project Manager, for an free online resource where my committee could track their individual tasks as well as our committee's overall tasks. I also needed a place to house documents like our sponsor list, important contacts, meeting schedule, and every other crazy microsoft document you can think of.  In the past, the committee has used a huge spreadsheet on Google Docs, which did the job, but wasn't particularly easy to navigate, so I was sure there was a better way. My overall opinion of TeamworkPM is that for a trained Project Manager, it's probably perfect, but for a novice and her junior league friends - probably not the best solution. Again - this is probably a very good system for a professional project manager.  For this regularish gal, however, it wasn't my favorite.

WHAT I LOVED: 

  • It did have a spot to house our documents, but it wasn't all that easy to figure out what had been updated most recently
  • It allowed us to track "milestones", such as media deadlines and committee meetings
  • It was free

WHAT I DID NOT SO MUCH LOVE:

  • The interface was not intuitive - even the "dashboard" didn't really show me what I needed to see most
  • It didn't have a nice way to "complete" tasks without making them disappear altogether
  • I don't know what's up with their tech support, but one night I needed to login to the system during a committee meeting (a major key to using the system), and couldn't get in. When I tried to reach tech support, I found that they were located in Australia (or something), and were likely deep into REM sleep during our committee meeting.  How could they abandon me in my time of need?



2. Eventbrite: Somewhere along the line, I was invited to an event where the host used Eventbrite to manage their ticket sales and attendees.  It was simple and easy to use from the end-user perspective, so when our committee decided to try online registration for the first time for our 2012 event, my first suggestion was Eventbrite.  As a side note, we also used Eventbrite to manage our volunteer shifts.  We have some things to learn due to the uniqueness of our volunteers' needs, but it works quite well in that capacity, too. Overall, Eventbrite is OUTSTANDING. I would recommend it a hundred times.  In fact, I think I will.  Use it. You won't be sorry.


WHAT I LOVED: 

  • Tech Support: This is HUGE.  There is free tech support TWENTY FOUR HOURS PER DAY, SEVEN DAYS PER WEEK, AKA 24/7.  When you're not (ahem) working on the project during your normal work hours, and end up with a major problem at 10:47 on a Tuesday night, the ability to reach knowledgeable, professional support representatives is really important. I learned this one by doing it.  
  • It was free.  Since we're a non-profit, there was no charge for us to use their outstanding service.  
  • The system's robust reporting capability gives you the information you need when you need it.  At one point in the registration process, we were curious where we stood compared to the registrations last year at the same point in the process. We pulled up last year's event, ran the report, and found out that we were exactly on track with where we'd been the previous year.  Pretty nifty!  
WHAT I DID NOT SO MUCH LOVE:  In all honesty, the only non-glowing thing I can think of about Eventbrite is that ticket design is not 100% customizable. For instance, we couldn't force the system to have multiple time slots available, but then also have it so girls could only get one ticket per time slot.  Additionally, we wanted to limit the number of tickets that were available per email address, and couldn't figure out a way to do that, either.  Again, however, it was free.  Beggars can't be choosers, baby.  


    Other tips and tricks:
    • Start paying attention to the money right away at the beginning. Know where you can spend, and where you'll need to scrimp.  The money-related decisions will come at you quick as the event draws near, and that's also the time everything else is coming at you quickly. Make sure you're paying attention the dollars at each step.
    • If you can, set a schedule early on.  Junior League makes this easy, because when you're chair, you're chair for just one year.  You know how much time you have to accomplish your project, then you're on to your next commitment.  For the sanity of your committee, do what you can to set your meeting schedule at the beginning. This will help them plan around family commitments, arrange childcare, and plan appropriately for having their goals met in time to report back to the full committee.

    WHEW.  So that's what I learned.  Check out the tools, if you'd like. They really can make all the difference.

    I'll be back soon with a full recap of the event. You're going to be so excited for those stinkin' adorable prom-goers.




    1 comment:

    1. Love the nitty-gritty details on what programs worked well, Cammy! I've often thought I should go through a project management training to get the tips and tricks so thanks for a little preview. Really digging this blog!

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