Event management, in my eyes, is very similar to project management; the key to success is keeping the management side light and simple.
This is especially true when we organize and plan for our annual Smartsheet ENGAGE customer conference. This event brings together the global Smartsheet community for four days of learning and best-practice sharing across multiple roles and industries.
Our end goal is for attendees to head back to their companies energized and ready to make an impact using the Smartsheet platform.
Prior to Smartsheet, I managed events using a mix of static spreadsheets. While that got the job done, it was woefully inefficient. I’ve saved so much time using Smartsheet to manage all the little details that go into producing an event.
For example, we created a shared workspace and Smartsheet dashboard to track key deliverables and deadlines, with underlying sheets to manage the event budget, sponsorship deliverables, demand generation plan, signage and collateral, registration tracking, and more.
We even built the conference agenda in Smartsheet using Card View to ensure we weren’t double-booking our presenters. Our core planning team is always on the same page, with shared visibility and accountability of what’s on track or at risk.
What’s proved especially helpful is the ability for our event team to share progress notes and add documents — all in one centralized location — by attaching them to our tracking sheet.
And the option to track deliverables using different workflow views — Grid View, Gantt View, Card View, or Calendar View — makes it super easy to see where we are behind (or ahead!) of schedule. Whether you’re new to event marketing, or a seasoned pro, I think you’ll find these following six tips and tricks helpful.
1. Provide Visibility, Transparency Across Your Company
We created a Smartsheet dashboard — without any IT help — to share top-level events metrics and updates with our entire organization.
With the dashboard in place, we didn’t need to answer one-off questions over and over again. Since anyone can go to event dashboard and see the real-time metrics at a glance, we met questions such as “How many registrations do we have versus the goal?” or “Where are we with our sponsorship sales?” with an easy answer: check out our ENGAGE dashboard!
If you’re excited to build your own dashboard, Smartsheet Business and Enterprise Plan customers can download the free Event Registration and Tracking template set. It includes a sheet with an auto-calculating workback schedule, a dashboard template, and an event planning sheet to help get you started.
2. Transform Your Planning Meetings
It’s wise to avoid drawn-out email threads and manage your meetings directly in a sheet. We use a single sheet to manage our planning meetings so everything is in one place — from the agenda to the presentation deck, including additional supporting materials and action items.
While sheets are super versatile, we’ve been able to move even faster by using the Smartsheet integrations for Slack and Workplace by Facebook. We can receive automated notifications in our Slack channel and can quickly share key updates with groups using Workplace. Plus both of these apps work great on desktop and mobile.
3. Give Speakers a Best-in-Class Experience
One of the primary reasons our customers attend ENGAGE (and most conferences in general) is to connect with and learn from their peers. We use Smartsheet to coordinate dozens of internal and external speakers across the event agenda, and ultimately want to ensure all of our conference speakers are well prepared before and during the event.
We collect each speaker’s contact information, travel details, bio, and headshot via a quick form. We also use a shared dashboard to communicate key updates, deadlines, and deliverables, as well as scheduling rehearsal times and collecting final presentation decks and materials. Many of our customers speak at various industry conferences each year and have raved about how easy it is to use Smartsheet to manage this process.
4. Manage Your Demand Generation Plan
Most events include a mix of paid, earned, and owned channels to help drive registration. For ENGAGE, we have over 100 individual tactics to manage across multiple platforms. We use Smartsheet to manage all of these workflows and details, including due dates, task owners, links to copy docs, and attaching creative files and thumbnail images directly to the task’s row.
Anyone with permissions in the sheet can upload files directly to a row or via Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and other popular cloud-based file storage platforms.
5. Raise the Bar for Onsite Operational Excellence
One of the reasons I love managing events is seeing all the planning and details come to life on site. When it comes to our onsite production schedule, I use Smartsheet as a literal checklist for each area of the event.
For example, I build out an inventory of everything that’s needed at the registration desk and then double-check during setup that everything is at the event and accounted for. That said, anyone who’s managed an event, large or small, knows that everything doesn’t always go to plan.
The best event professionals keep smiling and adjust along the way. When we’re all running in multiple directions during the event, our team needs to stay connected to update each other on any issues. This makes those Slack and Workplace integrations very handy. We can make lightning-fast requests and approvals on the fly, all accessible via the Smartsheet mobile app.
6. Gather Feedback, Evaluate, and Improve
Gathering feedback from your attendees is such a valuable way to debrief and learn. We use forms to quickly create multiple surveys — one version for our customer attendees, another for speakers, another for sponsors, and an internal survey of our employees.
This allows us to gauge if we met the mark or fell short on key areas of the event, how we performed against the previous year, and how we can improve the experience next time around.
Combining and reviewing all of the survey responses helps us make data-driven decisions on what to stop, start, continue, or improve for the upcoming year. We can feed these results into our standard processes and automate to make future events even more engaging for our customers.
If you want to learn more about Smartsheet ENGAGE, check out our highlight video from last year’s conference: