When we think of milestones, we usually picture birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and such, but what does that word mean to meeting planners? If you’re like me, it means the word “deadline” is pounding loudly in the forefront of your overworked brain and is always followed by an exclamation point!
Registration cutoff is next Thursday!
Hotel rooming list was due last Monday!
Drop-dead print deadline is today at 5!
Affordable airline reservations should have been made … wait, last year?!
Sound familiar? It should. Even if you’re new to the planning industry, you already know that with every event there’s a timeline for getting it done. Happy, normal people think of milestones as joyous occasions; as planners, we tend to think of them as, well, exclamation points. But as we discuss here, not all your exclamation points have to be dramatic (!).
When you think of milestones, always follow these basic instructions:
1.) Get a calendar and clearly mark the date of the event/project you’re tracking, then count backward to today’s date to determine exactly how much time you have to get everything done. (Six months or more? Great! Three months? OK, get working! One week? Oy!)
2.) Collect a detailed list of all all event elements along with any signed contracts or agreements you have with vendors/suppliers.
3.) Clearly highlight (with a pen) any deadlines that have been established in those contracts/agreements, then get a red pen and start put those dates on your master calendar.
4.) Put on your happy face and get to work.
Establishing milestones is as simple (or as complicated) as establishing timelines. The last thing you want to do on your path to successful meeting planning is to miss a deadline. All deadlines matter, although you might want to assign levels of importance to the really big ones.
Some people plot this step on a graph that shows dates and the critical paths you must take to get to them. You might have one graph for your hotel contract showing such details as the cutoff for room reservations, the VIP rooming list due date, scheduled tastings/menu selections, food guarantees, etc. Another graph might focus on program plotting — session names, speaker selections and contracts, AV, printing requirements.
For smaller or last-minute events, you may not have time to for graphs, but you’ll need a timeline, even if it means laying out the next 48 hours with each and every member of your team to define who’s doing what and when and how. In these situations, you’ll most likely create a critical path flow chart on the office whiteboard and check things off one at a time.
But when appropriate planning time allows, establishing timelines for all the necessary elements of your event and tracking them to show a critical path from start to midway point to mission accomplished is a valuable tool. It can also be an impressive part of “show and tell” when your boss wants to know what the heck you’ve been doing! Just saying.
Next: MBEC 4.06 — Develop an integrated communication plan