Say you’re manning the press room on the first day of a huge client conference, and five executive briefings are about to begin. Several reporters have gathered around you with questions about the day’s announcements and requests for power cords. Your phone is ringing and the walkie-talkie just went off.
Are you ready for this? If not, you may be in for a long ride.
This was my first year working on an annual 15,000+ person media event (the largest event of the year for one of our top tech clients), and I must admit that I had never experienced anything quite like it. If you’ve ever worked on an event like this, you know how overwhelming and insurmountable the task can seem at first.
But here here are five things I learned that will make life a lot easier next time.
1. Don’t wait to get all of the necessary info
One of the most important parts of a large event is having an overarching narrative that ties all the announcements together. But in order to craft this narrative, you must track down all the necessary information.
First, you need to get buy-in ahead of time from the wide array of groups — including your main client, internal stakeholders at the client organization, and other agency teams — that touch the event, to ensure information is shared in a timely manner. The sooner you have the information you need, the sooner you can begin to piece it together in a cohesive and interesting way that will be most impactful to your stakeholders. It’s great to have flashy news, but make sure it fits into the overall narrative and makes sense for the audience.
2. Find other ways to amplify your news
If your news is shared by an executive on stage, more than likely it will be covered in the media. But not every piece of news can fit into a few days of keynotes. So what do you do with the leftover news that’s still important? Find other ways to tell it. You can surround the keynotes with higher-touch events like media briefing breakfasts (who doesn’t like waffles?) and meetings with key executives and stakeholders. These allow the news to shine and give journalists a chance to ask questions.
3. Identify the right team, on the ground and at home
Never leave a man behind — except in this case. You may be inclined to bring the whole team to the event, but it’s a good idea to leave a core team member back in the office to assume the leadership role. This role could include overseeing coverage reporting and recap needs, as well as answering questions from the home team and providing additional context and direction. This is especially helpful if people from different teams within the agency have been pulled in to help.
4. Create a war room
With so many moving pieces, it helps to get the whole team together in one space where people can ask questions and quickly deal with any situation. This can also be a great learning environment for more junior staff on the team, to see firsthand how the different roles and personalities work together and how veteran team members solve issues that arise. Since everyone has a different workstyle, make sure to set an expectation that team members are free to leave if they need silence or a break.
5. Have fun
It’s important to infuse some fun into the process and bring the whole team together. When my team was ramping up for that 15,000-person event, we created a group playlist and kept a running quote board. At the end of the day, you’ll end up with a list of inside jokes that nobody but you and your team will find funny.
5.1. Bring snacks
This barely slipped out of the top five learnings. Snacks are a critical part of the process and help to ensure no one gets “hangry.” (And in case you haven’t heard, you can now get Chipotle delivered.)
There are some things you can’t control when planning a large event, but with these tips in mind, you’ll be set for success with minimal fire drills. (It wouldn’t be PR without a few of those thrown in every now and then, right?)
Image courtesy of Thomas Galvez