Event Operations 101
In real life (IRL) events. Remember them? They used to be pretty big before the pandemic Zoomified our social lives, got us into baking, and sent us all Zillow surfing. IRL events are coming back, and it’s important to consider event operations as you’re dusting off those calendars. Additionally, with the rise of hybrid events (events that are held both in-person and virtually), event planning has been given an extra layer of complexity, having to consider the event experience for those attending in-person and dialing in remotely.
If you’re planning an event for your community, it’s beneficial to recognize that event management has several community operations components that should be involved in everything from planning to execution.
In fact, if you are in charge of community operations, you might find yourself being the project manager or main event planner for your community events. Similar to community management, there is a lot of overlap when it comes to event management and community operations, and this article helps provide some distinctions.
A guide to event operations in community management
These are the five main aspects of event operations you may encounter in your community role, whether you’re a community manager or a community operations manager.
Event project management
At the outset, let’s define your role. Event planning requires the involvement of multiple people - from the people creating the agenda to the person managing the vendors to the marketing team promoting the event, to even the speakers. As a community operations person, you may be involved in a few of these areas, liaising with the primary task owners and making sure everything is running on time.
As the crowned event project manager, you may find yourself scheduling standup meetings with those involved in the event planning, creating a project plan and punch list, organizing tasks, finalizing dates, informing participants, coordinating with people responsible for vendor management, and working cross-functionally with marketing.
You may also be the primary point of contact for any questions, roadblocks, conflicts, or escalation points if something is going wrong. You’ll have a hand on all of the cookie jars.
In addition to organizing and leading the project though, you’ll likely have your own set of action items related to the event, a few of which are mentioned below.
As someone in charge of processes and tools, you’ll likely find yourself tasked with figuring out forms for the event. Throughout the event planning process, there are a few forms that will be needed, such as:
Call for Speakers/Presenters Form
A form for people to apply to speak at the event.
- What are the criteria of speakers you are looking for?
- What information do you need for applicants to provide?
- How many speakers are you looking for?
- What is the format of the presentation? (e.g. a panel, a workshop, a breakout session, a keynote)
- What is the proposed topic and abstract for the session the applicant wants to present?
Aside from the form itself, you need to think of the process supporting that form:
- What kind of information is going to be proactively provided for applicants? (e.g. deadline requirements, speaker fee, what kinds of sessions and speakers you’re looking for)
- What platform or tool is the form created on?
- Where do form responses go? Who receives them? How are they notified when new responses come in?
- How are applications reviewed and approved, rejected, or vetted?
A form for people to RSVP to the event.
- Are they RSVP’ing to attend virtually or in-person?
- If it’s in-person, do you collect their dietary restrictions or any other information?
- For all RSVPs, what info do you want to collect?
- Is there a maximum capacity where registration is closed?
And of course, there are also processes to consider with this form:
- How do you keep track of RSVPs and who those people are? (Are registrations tracked in your CRM?)
- How do you manage in-person vs. virtual RSVPs?
- What following information do you provide registered people?
- Can you track who actually ends up attending the event vs. who are no-shows?
- Stepping back for a moment, if the guest list is limited or invite-only, how do you send the invitations out with the RSVP form?
A survey that is sent after the event takes place to get feedback from participants.
- What was the overall satisfaction from the event?
- Did the attendees find the content helpful?
- How was the overall event experience, whether the person attended virtually or in-person?
- Was there anything they would have changed about the event?
- Are they planning on watching any of the recordings of sessions?
- Would they go to the next event? (e.g. Are you planning to attend the event next year?)
Process-wise, it’s helpful to keep track of who submits the post-event survey:
- People who do plan on going to the next event in the post-event survey should absolutely get an invitation
- Should you reach out to anyone who had a negative experience?
- What content did people find very helpful? What content did folks not enjoy?
It’s important to note that there’s a lot more to it than simply creating the forms. Like any survey, forms need to be crafted carefully in order to best capture the information you’re trying to collect. It’s best to partner with either marketing or your community manager to help craft the questions and answer types in the form itself. But the operational components, like the tool it’s hosted on, how responses are collected, and how you act upon the responses and store the data are operational items you’ll want to consider and manage.
Virtual events platform
If you’re planning a virtual event or a hybrid event with a virtual component to it, you’ll need to have a virtual events platform to host the event. Your company may have one already, or perhaps you already have a contract with an event management platform for your community programs. As the community operations person, you’re likely already very familiar with this.
Depending on the availability of an existing platform, you may need to go through a vendor procurement process. In this case, it may take some time to speak with vendors, get demos, ensure that the platform fulfills your business requirements, and go through negotiations, signing, and onboarding.
If you have an events platform already, you’re ahead of the game. You need to set up the event, run tests to ensure the platform runs as it should, do training and enablement with your team and your speakers, and make sure it’s set up for the attendees.
Additionally, during the event itself, you’ll likely be partnering with the vendor to provide support for attendees who might encounter technical difficulties.
Swag is something people absolutely love, and it can be a key highlight for events. It helps you brand your event, and your community, and can sometimes even increase someone’s loyalty and love for a brand. As a community operations person, you may be looped in to help support some of the swag logistics.
Though we’re not designers, and you’ll likely partner with your creative or marketing team to design the swag and determine what swag item(s) you’ll be providing, you have a lot of value to add when it comes to the swag logistics.
For example, if you are holding a virtual or hybrid event, how do you distribute the swag to the virtual attendees? Do you try and coordinate the swag to arrive before the event, or provide opportunities for people to win swag during the event and have it shipped to them? If that’s the case, did you collect their preferred mailing address in the registration form? Are you working directly with the swag vendor to drop ship the swag, or are they sending it to a separate distribution center? In what format do they require the recipients?
If your event is in-person, you still need to have the swag shipped, unpackaged and distributed. Is the swag sitting on a table for anyone to grab? Is it one per person and they need to be checked off on a list to get their item? Is it a prize for doing something specific, and does that need to be tracked? These are all on-site swag logistics that you could help support.
The event has ended, but a community operations manager’s job is never done. This was mentioned above, but one operational task after an event is the post-event survey, used for collecting feedback about the event.
Additionally, you may be tasked with putting together the final event statistics. This will show things like the number of RSVPs, the number of attendees, the type of attendee (virtual vs. in-person), budget, the post-event survey score, and any other notable items from the event. The figures and insights you gain through this exercise will help you organize better and more impactful events in the future.
How Talkbase can help
Event operations can be stressful, and Talkbase is here to help. The Talkbase events component can help you with task management, event planning milestones, registration logistics, speaker acquisition, and more. To learn more, visit talkbase.io
July 5, 2022
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