Project management for event planning has become the modern event marketer’s secret medicine to keeping a healthy event portfolio. Event leaders implementing project management tools are seeing ROI as high as 387%.
According to a recent Forrester research report, the increased need for cross-functional execution, more competition demanding higher levels of productivity, and the need for event strategies to be more agile, leaves using a spreadsheet as only a temporary band-aid for corporate event leaders.
“While the spreadsheet worked well for me, it was not conducive to sharing with my team and my boss,'' says Melissa Polissedjian, Senior Manager, Event Marketing and Strategy at DrFirst. DrFirst is a pioneer in software solutions and services that provide real-time access to patient data and improve communication and collaboration to help drive better health outcomes.
So when the event team started feeling the aches and pains of a growing list of tasks and teams involved, they knew they needed a collaborative work management solution that would do what DrFirst does for clinicians - improve communication and drive better outcomes.
Event management challenges when planning 100+ events in a year
“Working with almost a million dollar budget, which is a big chunk of what we do in marketing, I wanted to prove to my leadership team that we are getting the most out of the opportunity to attend conferences and trade shows,” says Melissa.
The DrFirst team has always had an ambitious event strategy. In 2017, they were attending close to 150 events per year all over the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Their event plans vary from having a 10X10’ booth at a convention center to having elaborate $200,000+ booth displays at healthcare and mobile tech conferences.
It was nearly impossible to attend so many events and be effective in the planning stages. "We just didn't have the bandwidth," says Melissa. The DrFirst team was realizing that to successfully execute cross-functional events on time and on target, they would need to rapidly evolve how they coordinated their work.
Melissa was using a spreadsheet to do project management for event planning tasks, logistics, and budgets. “It just wasn’t scalable and it wasn’t shareable, even if I put it in a shared drive (which I hate!)” admits Melissa.
She would receive constant emails from staff attendees and have to manually create documents, like event briefs, for leadership. “I was spending anywhere from 10 to 30 hours a week going back and forth on email just communicating the details around each event to multiple people.”
These frustrations led to DrFirst making the decision to scale back their event attendance to around 80 events per year. After continuing to experience collaboration challenges and staff turnover, the team came to another conclusion, also reached by Forrester.
To successfully carry out project management for event planning, teams need tools and processes that deliver clarity of plan, process, and responsibility so they can focus on role-specific work instead of coordination.
A new, better way to plan marketing events
Melissa and her team needed a collaborative work management solution that would:
● Empower collaborative project management for event planning. In a fast-moving environment with limited resources and aggressive event goals, Melissa needed a solution to help her stay organized while creating transparency.
● Create alignment for cross-functional execution of complex event initiatives across seven sales teams, a dozen or more marketers, and team leads.
● Provide a single source of truth for event programs, with real-time insights into task completions, updates, and at-risk work such as shipment delays.
● Reduce the time spent planning, coordinating, and tracking events, empowering the teams executing on the tasks and the supervisory lead, Melissa, through automation and task reminders.
It has been a little over a year now since EventGeek was introduced to DrFirst by one of the event coordinators. The results?
“I just did my budget for fiscal year 2020. We have a little bit over 110 events this year. We are creeping back up there!“ says Melissa.
We asked Melissa how she’s able to save time and become more effective in managing a healthy, growing event portfolio. “Can I show you?” says Melissa excitedly as she proceeds to share some of her favorite EventGeek features.
Adding attachments, event schedules, floor plans, and booth specifications has been a huge help in creating a go-to place to gather all information for a specific event. “There are so many different pieces of information I need to share with the team. I am attaching documents like our mobile banner ads and it’s just helpful for everyone to see without me having to worry if I shared everything,” says Melissa. “I am adding notes to the note section which staff attendees can easily see in the mobile app as they are attending the event”. She’s been able to achieve full transparency across several departments and functions… and that’s no easy task!
“I book travel for a couple of our large events each year. For example, I have an event in March that 35-40 staff members are going [to].” With the travel tracking feature, she is able to record the travel information, share it with the appropriate staff attendees, and tie it back to her event spending reports. “I really like how the budget breaks down planned vs. actual spend. It’s helpful to show that you may have planned $5,000 for an expense and only spent $2,500”.
Melissa even been able to get some of her weekends back! When attending events, she will often have collateral or booth inventory she needs to get to the venue on time. By using the shipment tracking feature in EventGeek, Melissa and her team are able to see if anything is at-risk or has already been delivered. “I don't have to answer my phone on weekends when people are asking where's my box is,” laughs Melissa. “It's so easy to get the tracking information!”
So what is Melissa’s favorite EventGeek feature?
All of the information that she inputs into the system automatically updates into a customizable event brief. “I used to have to create event briefs manually. There were so many different versions and changes. It was just a nightmare,” says Melissa. “With the iframe, I am able to embed this on our site [and] intranet, and that used to take me a lot of time. I don’t have to update those sites ever again!”
Positive impacts implementing project management tactics for event planning
“It was a lot of information to transfer to EventGeek” admits Melissa. Going from a 50-60 column spreadsheet to a tool designed specifically to master project management for event planning was no easy task. “I spoke with support and asked a lot of questions. Everyone was so helpful. I am starting to make EventGeek my bible now!”
Average time-to-value in using a collaborative project management system for event planning is considerably fast - 3 months on average. And once onboarded, users like Melissa report seeing ROI as high as 387%.
“The biggest value to me is time and transparency,” says Melissa, “I don’t have to spend nights and weekends communicating information anymore. Now I just say: go to EventGeek.”