Be Confident But Not Cocky
There will be many moments in the initial planning stages where you will feel incompetent. It is important to show the committee, right from the get go, that you are confident, that you have experience, that you know the industry and that you will catch up quickly.
It is quite likely that you will not be able to answer all their questions early on no matter how much you prepare, so remain calm, cool and be patient with yourself.
When faced with a question you cannot answer, simply state, “I will definitely look into that and will get back to you as soon as I can. Who is the best person for me to contact should I have any questions?”
By saying you are “looking into” something rather than simply saying “I don’t know” you will demonstrate to the client your commitment to making the event a success.
Do Your Research
It is important to figure out why this event has been successful (or not) in the past. Do some background research to familiarize yourself with the event and be sure to “know your numbers” like revenue, attendance, cost breakdowns, etc.
Most events have their own website so start there. Take a look at who their sponsors are and research them because knowing who the sponsors are will give you a better idea of the overall theme of the event. If it’s available, ask for the wrap-up report, business plan, marketing plan or any market research from previous years.
Search the event online and read the stories published in the media to get a sense of its importance and how the public views it. After your initial research you could also set up a one on one meeting with key committee members to get a sense of their perspective and expectations of the event.
Value Their Time
It is important to realize that committees may not have the patience to explain every detail to you, so be sure to value their time. Often the answers can be found through doing a little research and looking through past documentation. Knowing the answers and only contacting them for critical questions will show that you value their time and are confident in making decisions.
While you do want to value the time of your client, there are definitely times when clarity is needed. If you have exhausted all of the resources available to you, that’s when then you should start asking questions. Be sure to direct your question at the right person and make sure you message is clear and concise. Explain that you have exhausted your resources and are looking for clarity on a subject before you are able to move forward, and be sure to add urgency to the message if need be.
Also don’t be scared about offering suggestions and changes. Just because the event has been successful for years, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon. You are looking at the event with a fresh set of eyes and may have suggestions to offer that have yet to be explored. Change can be good, and your suggestions will demonstrate your leadership and confidence.
Understand Their Expectations
Understanding the expectations of your client, will help to set you up for success. Make sure to thoroughly read your contract to understand what is required of you and what is inside/outside the scope of your work. This will also help you to outline your responsibilities within the critical path and ensure the event stays on track.
Understand the Chain of Command
Most events have some sort of planning committee along with various sub committees, chairs and co-chairs. Be sure to ask for a list of the various committees and who is responsible for specific portions of event. After all, sub committees are often formed to create a smaller workload and to have members involved in areas that they specialize in.
It is also important to know how your client/committee members like to communicate, would they prefer you to email questions or would they rather have a 15 minute phone call every couple of weeks where all your questions and updates can be addressed. Keep in mind each person you may interact with is different, but it is worth knowing how they prefer to communicate to help ensure your line of communication is clear. There is nothing worse than obsessively checking your email waiting for a response, only to find out that person checks their email once a week. Understanding the chain of command will allow you to always communicate with the correct person and show that you value the time of the committee members.
Make a Plan for Your First 30 Days
Things may happen quickly during the transition so create a master plan of what you need to achieve in the first 30 days. This would include tasks like reading past reports, meeting with committee members and familiarizing yourself with the critical path. This will help keep you organized, and more importantly it will help you look like a person who knows what they are doing.