Automation For Event Pros
We don’t have to tell you that event professionals have seriously high-stress jobs. Donina Ifurung (Owner, On High Heels - Meetings, Events & Public Relations) knows the struggle first-hand, both from her own experiences and the mountain of replies she got when she recently posed a question in an industry-specific LinkedIn group about how her fellow event planners keep from overbooking themselves and burning out. What got my attention was one specific question about how automation strategies might be able to prevent having “to book hundreds of meetings and events a year,” individually. But, right off the bat, Donina got a few great responses to some of her other questions:
Develop hobbies to recharge in your downtime
Donina got the ubiquitous “take up yoga” suggestion, but the heart of this advice is to foster the activities
and interests you love most. Maybe you start regularly scheduling a movie date or you volunteer at an animal shelter or learn to fold origami cranes. It can be anything as long as you love it and it isn’t your job.
Vary your experience and cross train
This might mean taking on different kinds of events, or it might mean learning new responsibilities (maybe try your hand at graphics or learn more about the project’s data entry process). Doing something different can reset your motivation and drive. It can also expand your business opportunities and your professional skill set.
Have a back-up
As an independent planner, this would mean tapping your professional network for help from trusted colleagues. When you can’t take on a client, recommend them to another trusted planner. Being able to refer potential clients will give you a positive boost in their eyes and set the stage for reciprocal relationships that get more business flowing in every direction.
As a venue organizer, this could mean ensuring your team is reliably able to cover your responsibilities while you take some time off. Give them the training and support tools they need and clearly set expectations.
Clearly communicate and enforce your boundaries regarding work time vs. personal time
This is probably one of the most important and most difficult things you can do to find balance. Make a firm decision about how much personal time you need to be healthy and productive. Then clearly communicate that to your clients, your team and your vendors. Tell them plainly that you will no longer be taking non-emergency calls and emails after 6 p.m., or whatever time is feasible and reasonable. Then tell them exactly what constitutes an “emergency.” Give them the tools and trust they need to be able to make that judgement call and then relax because you’ve taken control of your work-life balance.
Reminder here that you have to be willing to enforce this one. If they call, let it go to voicemail. Unless it’s an emergency...
Standardize your processes (Automation for event pros)
You know what works, which is why you’re in this industry. Standardizing your processes means you increase reliability and efficiency. This one covers everything from using the same trusted vendors, to creating event packages that always include specific services and products. It’s really important here to make sure your team understands and adopts standard practices as well. Make sure they understand your standard practice for things like data storage and use, contacting prospective clients, etc. You’re probably already doing this, but it never hurts to investigate new resources and methodologies. You might find you can standardize even more than you already do.
Understand your own limitations and preferences
Yes, you’re a superhero of the events world. But you and your team still have limits. It’s tempting to take on just one more project this month, but you really need to take a harsh look at your personal and professional resources first. Be honest about your ability to effectively manage a client or project before agreeing to take it on. Knowing when you are out of your depth will make you more productive in the long run, so be comfortable telling a client that you can’t accommodate their need or deadline. We promise, it’s OK to say NO when you need to.
Be selective with the clients and projects you accept
This one really dovetails with your understanding of your professional and personal self. The root of this advice is kind of like putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Take on the clients and projects you want and be willing to say no to the rest. You have to make ends meet, but being selective is another practice that will bring you the business you truly want over time.
Automation Strategies for Event Professionals
This is all solid advice for taking charge of your work-life balance. But very little of it addresses Donina’s core question about automating business processes. We think that automation is the key to putting your work-life on autopilot so you have more time for your personal life. Automation augments productivity, but it can be scary because it feels like giving up control. You know how to make things happen, so why would you choose the autopilot feature?
Short answer: TIME. Automating even a few processes will save you time. Stop thinking of it as losing control, but rather as shifting control from the actual process to the time you’ve gained. Now you get to decide what to do with it! Use it for higher level responsibilities – or use it for yourself! Before you start planning out that time (because we know you already are!), let’s talk about how to mine your processes for extra time.
Event professionals are email rock stars. Think about the dozens of types of emails you send. Now think about how many of those you’re composing from scratch each time. How many of them could you easily use a killer template to write instead? Templates are awesome tools for automating your email and reinforce your branding.
Once you’ve created your templates, find out if your email provider or current CRM system allows you to store the templates and schedule emails in advance and merge them with specific contacts lists. If they don’t, investigate services for sending email campaigns. The payoff is time. Load up your email content in advance and all you have to do is… anything else because your email is on autopilot.
Mailings & Print Collateral
For all the emails event pros send, there are still a whole lot of stamps being licked and envelopes being sealed. Save time (and get fewer paper cuts!) by taking advantage of your favorite print shop’s mail services. They can usually package, postmark and ship your mailings.
If you’ve taken a more DIY approach to your print pieces, you may find that there are lots of affordable printing options that don’t involve you personally dealing with paper jams or troubleshooting that annoying line across the page from a dirty print head. It’s totally possible to send a few files to a print shop and never deal with printing and mailing again. Lots of print companies will also cover your design needs, so you might only have to invest a few phone calls and review some proofs before your whole package is in the mail or on your desk.
Having a standardized, customizable registration portal is a serious time saver, especially if it integrates with your other planning mechanisms. Not only will your registrants have a standardized experience, but you will get standardized data, and you get to choose what data you need to be most effective. Online registration portals can significantly cut down the time you spend tracking down details and sorting through paper records.
This is a digital world, so there’s no good reason not to have an online payment system. The best payment systems integrate with your other financial systems, allowing you to have a hands-off data transfer. These systems can also offer more payment types to meet your clients’ and registrants’ needs. Bonus for integrating your registrations and payments in one place! Saving your registrants time will save you time from no longer tracking down unpaid balances or dealing with accepting payments onsite at your event.
Again, this one might feel like you’re losing control, but don’t look at it that way. Delegating is shifting control from the actual process to your own management. Delegating means you can get a better handle on managing your event. When you aren’t doing everything yourself, you have more time to manage what’s happening in a big-picture sense, and more time to maintain your work-life balance.
Delegation is automation because the work gets finished without you having to do it. If you have a support staff – USE THEM! Allow your team to handle data transfers, reporting and other administrative procedures so that you have more time for the big stuff. Support them (and your own sanity) with the right training so they can reliably handle these projects. Then you can put these tasks on autopilot and maybe leave the office on time. If you don’t have a support staff, then you have even more reason to automate as many processes as you can.
So now that you know how to mine your schedule for time by automating business processes, let’s stress again why you should. Automation allows event professionals to manage their projects more smoothly, ultimately allowing them to take on more complex, higher paying ventures. Automation means event pros work less and earn more without “having to book hundreds of meetings and events a year.” Save your sanity and find balance by automating.
Talk to us about how you automate your business processes. Do you have any automation hacks you’d like to share?
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