From buildings to parties, YOU can plan it!

Whether building a building or putting on a party using a systematic planning and execution approach will get you the results you want.

I was recently asked to chair the benefit gala for the National Repertory Orchestra. The NRO is an 88-piece orchestra composed of young musicians from all over the world who come to Colorado on full scholarships to play for the summer. The gala needs to bring in enough money to cover 15% of the annual operating budget-no small feat!

There was a pretty good list from previous years’ galas of all the things that needed to be done with due dates to start planning. Unfortunately, I was brought in pretty late in the game so the schedule needed to be severely compressed. As a newbie to gala planning and execution, I was apprehensive that we couldn’t pull it off with a much shorter time frame. In that moment of “panic” the light went off, “you have used a project management approach to build some amazing buildings so why not apply this system to throwing a party with a purpose! You can do it girl!”

I used the following six basic principles to pull off a great party that was financially rewarding.

  1. Establish the 3-4 main goals of the “project” and put them into writing.
  2. Take a list of tasks and develop it into a project management plan that includes task, start-date, due date, and responsible party as categories that you can monitor. Easy to use web-based software exists today for project management.
  3. Foster the team approach. Be clear on roles and responsibilities of team members and create easy communication methods. While much of the communication is virtual, make time for face-time (lunches, in-person team meetings, and formal and in-formal get-togethers). You need to create strong bonds with the many people involved when work needs to get done quickly.
  4. Have agendas for meetings and distribute them in advance.  Take notes and make sure to include any decisions made and future action items agreed upon.
  5. Have a very clear decision making process. With an abbreviated time-frame, decisions have to be made quickly; who has authority to make decisions should be clear to all.
  6. Decide on a revenue and expense budget (in our case we also had a net target) and monitor actuals against the budget in real-time if possible. Use the budget as you make choices (and make sure the budget has a contingency to cover the unexpected).

Of course just like a finished building not everything is “perfect” but using a systematic approach to planning and execution makes for a great (and profitable) party! Think about using a project management approach for your next event!