As an event manager, we are contracted by an individual on behalf of an organization who we refer to as our client, but most of the time we really don’t just work with that one individual on the event. There are usually volunteer committees, board members and other staff that we work with to pull an event together. They each play a different role in the event planning process and when we understand their role, it will make working with them much easier.

First, I want to stress that it is important to remember that in most cases the person that signed the contract will be the ultimate decision maker for the event. However, just because they are your client and the ultimate decision maker it doesn’t mean that the other people involved (volunteers, board members and administrative staff) will not influence the decisions that are made.

Determining the roles that each individual plays from the beginning will help you understand how to deal with them. I have listed some examples of the roles that volunteer committees, board members and other staff play within an event and offered some advice on how to work with them.

Volunteer Committees

Often volunteer committees are given a great deal of power over a specific aspect of an event. Understanding the roles your volunteers play and how important their role is in the event will help to determine the way in which you deal with them. For example, you may have a décor committee that is given a budget and has free range on how to allocate those funds. Your role here is to guide them and keep them on budget and make sure their ideas meet the theme of the event. The same would go for a food and beverage, program, fundraising or other committee. Respect their experience, but don’t be afraid to let them know if they are heading over budget or away from the overall theme.

For more guidance on how to work with volunteers, read our blog article Building and Maintaining Strong Relationships With Your Volunteers.

Board Members

A lot of the events we plan are for associations and charities, both of which have boards that need to be answered to. Boards are responsible to think big picture and create long term goals. It is your job to understand their vision and goals for the organization and how to translate that into the success of your event. You may not have direct dealings with the board, but that doesn’t mean their input is not important. For example, a charity may have a goal of reaching key influencers in the community through their annual gala event. You would then translate that goal into a reality through strategically approaching businesses and key influencers in the community to attend your event, whether it be through a strategic sponsorship, attending the event or presenting at the event.

Organization Staff

Managers and administrative staff are often those with whom you speak on a daily basis, and are the daily connection to your client. Their role is to support you through the planning process and connect you with the various people with whom you will be dealing. They may not have a lot of influence over decisions, but they can help to contribute to the overall efficiency of the planning and execution. One thing to remember about administrative staff is that they are likely working on multiple projects at once. Be sure to value their time and always let them know the urgency of your requests.

To summarize, it really takes a team of people to put a great event together. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of those you are working with is critical to the success of your event and getting everyone working towards the same goal!