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Planning Your Next Event

Happy New Year! It's a great time to kick off the new year with a solid plan that will drive your next project towards success. Planning is a crucial tool to include in your activities to reach your goals in a timely fashion. I hope that these ideas and tips will be beneficial in your next project planning effort. The key to every successful project is in the planning. Creating a project plan is essential in developing your project or community event. Quite often, most event planners and community organizers often ignore project planning to focus on the work that may seem more important. In my early years of community engagement, planning was often the last thing considered. Most people often fail to realize the great value of having a project plan. A great strategy can help save time, money, and possibly many challenges that may be faced. There are several steps to planning a successful project that may be helpful:

Project Goals

  • A project is successful when it has met the needs of the stakeholders or community gatekeepers. Stakeholders can be anyone who is directly or indirectly impacted by the project. It's essential to identify the stakeholders or gatekeepers in your project. Surprisingly, it's not always easy to distinguish the stakeholders of a project. Examples of stakeholders may include:

    • The project sponsor or financial supporter

    • The client or customer who receives the deliverable

    • Users of the project output

    • Project Manager or Project Team

    • Board or Advisory group member

    • Community leaders

After identifying your stakeholders, the next step will be to ascertain their needs. One way to identify their needs is by conducting key informant interviews with them. During the interview process, it's key to discover the requirements that create real benefits. Beware, sometimes stakeholders may discuss needs that aren't relevant and may not deliver benefits. From experience, I have found that it's good to listen and hear what is being said by your audience.

Once all interviews have been completed, develop a prioritized list of needs. The next step is to create measurable goals to be reviewed against the SMART principle. Once you establish a set of goals, place them in the project plan. It's also helpful to include the needs and expectations of the stakeholders. This is the most challenging part of the planning process. Here are the elements of the SMART principle:

Project Deliverables

  • Once the goals are created, develop a list of items that the project will need to reach its goals. Remember to add all deliverables to the project plan with approximate deliverable dates. Try not to stress if the dates are not accurate. Every good plan should be flexible and adjustable to reach the overall goals of the project.

Project Schedule:

Now the fun begins by developing a list of tasks to be applied for each potential deliverable or objective. For each task, make a note of the following essential items:

  • Amount of time required for completing the tasks

  • Note who on your team will be responsible for each task and their role

This task will help establish the amount of effort for each deliverable leading to more precise delivery date. In developing your plan, there are several project planning tools available. Many of the tools are free. It's a great idea to check them out to see what feels right for you. Here are some potential project management tools for your review:

  • Asana

  • Basecamp

  • Orangescrum

  • Meistertask

  • Wrike

  • Smartsheet

  • Slack

  • Zoho

  • Freedcamp

Human Resource Plan:

  • Identify by naming the team members and organizations that may have a leading role in your project. For each, describe their roles and responsibilities. Remember to identify the number of people needed for the project and, if possible, the amount of time to complete each task.

Communications Plan:

  • Develop a document that reveals who should be kept informed about the project's activities and how the information will be distributed to them. Monthly or quarterly status reports are often provided that describes how the project is performing, accomplishments, and future work.

Risk Management Plan:

  • Risk management is essential to the success of project management. It's imperative and highly recommended to identify as many risks as possible to your project. Planning helps the project manager to be prepared and ready to deal with potential or unexpected challenges. Here are a few examples of ordinary, everyday project risks:

    • Lack of stakeholder input

    • Poor communication leading to misunderstandings

    • Stakeholders adding new ideas or activities after the project has begun

    • Not understanding the needs of stakeholders

    • Unclear or misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities

    • Unexpected budget cuts or budget delays

    • Not enough time estimated to complete projects

    • Disagreements between team members or stakeholders

Once you start working on your project, you and your team will identify other potential risks that may or may not occur. It's a great idea to list those potential risks and jot down notes of how each would be handled if it should happen during the project. You are now ready to get started in what will be a GREAT project.

For more information about planning your next community engagement, please contact us at

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