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Tag: Schedules

How to Create an Event Schedule, Part 2

Today I’d like to continue our crash course in schedule creation by 1) suggesting some important general approaches, 2) exploring the anatomy of a good schedule, and finally 3) giving you step-by-step instructions on how to create a schedule with “self-correcting” times.

GENERAL APPROACHES- Probably the most important overall concept, for direct sellers at least, is to keep your audience’s time and money in mind. For your schedule that means:
1. Favoring weekend meetings over weekdays (minimizing days off from work & away from home).
2. Starting your event late in the day. This enables most attendees to travel to your meeting on the day it begins, thereby saving a hotel room night.
3. Ending your event early on its final day so most attendees can return home on that same day, also saving a hotel room night.

You also need to keep your own budget in mind by making sure your schedule doesn’t unnecessarily drive you into crew overtime. Beware of late nights, early mornings and long breaks that stretch your days later than they need to go. Sometimes overtime is unavoidable (especially on weekends), but often it’s the result of simply not paying attention. Early on, ask your audio/visual company how and when they start charging for overtime. Even if you can’t avoid the overtime entirely, at least you won’t encounter any expensive surprises when the bills come in.

A few more general ideas: 1) always include both page numbers and line numbers in your schedule 2) have one and only one “keeper of the schedule” All revisions are made by this person, and all updated schedule updates come from this person. 3) I said this in my first schedule blog, but it bears repeating- keep your schedule brief & simple. Don’t make it substitute as a work projects list, a script book, a shipping manifest or anything else.

ANATOMY OF A SCHEDULE- Use a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Apple’s Numbers to build your schedule. Your “keeper of the schedule” should be at least an intermediate user of the program. These are the row & column headings that work best for me:

Let’s quickly take a look at each element…

Line Numbers- Add your own; your spreadsheet’s row numbers will probably be too small to read. In Excel, you only need to type the first 3 line numbers, and then copy down to fill the remaining cells.
Start time- Specify AM or PM. Don’t bother with end times; they’re obvious.
Length- Don’t make readers do the math; include the duration of each presentation.
Script Numbers- The first number refers to the day, the second number refers to the order within that day. So the first script on the first day is #1-1. The second script on the first day is #1-2, and so on. These make it easy to refer to scripts, the titles of which can sometimes get long and clunky. Also, as you save scripts to your hard drive, they’ll automatically arrange themselves in show order.
Contact & Writer- The contact is the person who supplies the information to the writer who creates the script. These columns are useful in the weeks leading up to your event, but can go away once you’re on site.
MC- You might also want to include whoever else is onstage in this column.
Presentation- Keep script titles short & simple. When naming scripts, be aware of titles that could refer to more than one presentation. For instance, “First Afternoon Closing Remarks” is a better title than “Afternoon Closing Remarks” which could refer to any of your afternoon sessions.
Notes- Let this column be your catch-all column for all other pertinent information- awards, special considerations, etc.

CREATING A SCHEDULE WITH “SELF-CORRECTING” TIMES- This is why you use a spreadsheet rather than a word processing program. When you change one time on your schedule, all the other times change correspondingly. It would be too complicated to write out these instructions here, so I’ve created a 5 minute online screencast that shows you how to do it. Make sure your speakers are on, then click on this link, or paste it into your browser: http://www.screencast.com/t/eURUSege

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been managing budget events, schedules and themes– plus all the other elements of direct sales conventions– for over 20 years. Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/02_About-Dick.php

So many companies begin the event planning process by pulling out their last schedule and using it as a template for their next schedule- new products on the first night, awards on the second night, incentive trip on the last day and so on.  That approach certainly works.  And it’s certainly boring and predictable.

Of course there are often good reasons to do some presentations “the way we’ve always done them.”  But that doesn’t hold true for all presentations all the time, year in and year out.  Which is why now is a great to time to think about mixing things up at your 2011 event.

You still begin by looking at your 2010 schedule.  Identify the key events.  Assuming they were in the right place to begin with, ask yourself if they really need to be in same place next year, or if they need to even need to be at all.  For example, could the recognitions that made up your awards night be spread throughout the entire event?   Did having a guest speaker make that much of an impact on your sales force and how they approach their business?  How many keynote speeches were there, and how much value did they really add?  In other words, what would really be missed by your attendees if it weren’t there? 

Once you’ve determined what really needs to be part of the program, take a look where you placed it on the schedule.  Does it have to have the same time and place in your schedule again this year, or can it occur elsewhere?   For example, maybe this year your new product introductions needed to be followed by training, but that’s not going to be the case next year.  So maybe your new product introductions could wait until the last day instead of being earlier.

Or instead of waiting until the last day to kick your 2011 incentive trip, do it on the first night, then follow it up with intensive “How You’re Going to Qualify” training the next day.  Maybe you could even turn your incentive trip announcement into your opening presentation and accomplish two things at once.

There are many ways you can approach your schedule.  But the one approach you definitely want to avoid is making your 2011 schedule an exact copy of what you’ve done before.  That’s no treat for anyone.

Writer/Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

Pumpkin carving & photo: Dick Wilson