Synkro

Organizing an event can be incredibly complex and stressful. Organizing a  congress, conference, or seminar for 100 people or more, for example, has a lot of moving parts including a mix of talks, booths, meals, and networking opportunities. From the venue and catering to security, A/V, signage, registrations, and more, organizing events of this size involves a team of people working together before, during, and after the event. Not to mention all the third-party providers that need to stay in the loop.

Traditionally, your event roadbook would help you stay somewhat organized and keep the team focused on key steps for that timeframe. However, these legacy paper roadbooks are fraught with issues – they’re difficult to update, messy to distribute, and quickly become out of date. Worse, they can lead to major errors and oversights that cost your organization revenue, loyal participants, and even your reputation.

Let’s take a look at the main challenges in planning professional congresses and similar events, how they are typically solved, the limitations of these techniques, and how a centralized roadbook can help.

Why do you need a roadbook?

If you do this every year, you usually know what needs to be done before the event happens. But each venue and specific occurrence of your congress or conference comes with its own logistical puzzle, different partners to work with, and so on. Plus, even if you have time to figure things out ahead of your event, you need to know who is supposed to do what, where, and when throughout the event. A clear plan is like a score for an orchestra: it sounds good, but there is little room for improvisation.

To minimize stress, save time, and avoid mistakes, most event planning teams build a giant to-do list ahead of the event. Some call it a roadbook; others call it a script or an event agenda, and we like to call it a score

In any case, it is a detailed list of everything that needs to be done during the event, when it needs to be done, where it happens, who is responsible for each task, and any associated information. It makes it easier to make sure everything is covered, everybody knows where they need to be, and also who to contact about any particular issue.

Many teams build this roadbook throughout the event planning process using a Word document or Excel spreadsheet. They collaborate on this list by sending email attachments or sharing those documents over Dropbox, SharePoint, or OneDrive. A couple of days before the event, they make this list available to everyone involved, either online or by printing it out. 

Main challenges with Excel or paper roadbooks

Building and using a roadbook like this looks easy enough and doesn’t require any advanced technology. It doesn’t rely on any internet connection or battery that can run out. But…

It takes a lot of time

Ahead of the event, you must format the list a certain way, add headers, sort tasks in a certain order, enable change tracking, and upload the document somewhere or attach it to emails. It might not seem like a lot of effort, but multiply that by the number of iterations of the document and the number of people involved, and you will realize it eats up a lot of time you could spend focusing on much more valuable things.

During the event itself, it is also very time-consuming to update this list, especially if you have to maintain different versions of it for different people involved. Let’s say you need security guards to be present at certain entry points throughout the event. They need to know where and when you want them. Same for hostesses or caterers.

And if you print this list out, you must then retrieve all of the paper versions, fix them with a pen, and then hand them out again – every day of the event. If you use a digital document like an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document, you need to update it and redistribute the new version, hoping that everyone will use the right one.

It is very error-prone

First off, since there are several versions of your roadbook document over time, it is incredibly difficult to ensure that everyone is using the same, latest version. This leads to mistakes when people are in the place they were supposed to be in the old version, but not in the place they were expected in the new one. Or when catering starts too late because you decided to begin serving earlier than yesterday to account for queuing time.

Second, since it is usually one long unstructured list, it is difficult to check for consistency. It is easy to accidentally schedule the same person at different places at the same time (which, let’s admit, is biologically still impossible). Or, all of a sudden, two different presentations are scheduled in the same room simultaneously. 

These sorts of conflicts can be avoided, but it requires a lot of work and time you don’t have, especially when everyone is running around trying to make the best event possible.

It is very stressful

Since it is just a list, it is very hard to browse through. If you only have tasks in chronological order, how do you check all the tasks for a specific room, or a specific group of people? You type in the search box if it’s an Excel file. You flip pages if it’s a paper document. Highlighters become your best friends.

And if a task says, “Make sure the room is set up as on the plan,” you have to flip through more pages or documents to find the plan and make sure it’s the right one – ot to mention that it can be very hard to remember everything you are supposed to do unless you set your own alarms or reminders.

All those little searches add a lot of mental load on your work, which in turn creates many opportunities for errors.

There’s got to be a better way, right?

The Benefits of a Centralized Dashboard for Event Staff & Organizers

What if you could centralize all your on-event tasks in one place as a single source of truth to collaborate on throughout the year, and for people to use during the event?

Imagine that all stakeholders, from your teammates to third-party providers, could access only those tasks that are relevant to them, from any device, without the need to print out or email anything?

This is the seamless organization a centralized digital roadbook provides.

With such a tool, you can collaborate on one version of your to-do list all throughout the year, and even during the event. Every one of your teammates and even external providers can browse those tasks, search, and filter by room, group, or by topic, to see only the information they need.

Updating the list and distributing those updates takes no time at all since everyone is plugged into the same source of truth. They don’t even need to refresh, since updates are pushed to their device as soon as they are made.

And if you need to attach documents to tasks – say, venue or room maps, contact lists, or anything else, really – those links are visible directly in the tool. You can view documents independently, or navigate to them straight from their associated tasks.

Since all that information is no longer loose text in an unstructured document, it becomes more actionable. Do you want to mark your tasks as done when they are, so you don’t forget them? Just one click. Do you want to set a reminder to get an alarm a few minutes before a task starts? Two clicks.

Overall, a centralized roadbook gives you all the information and functionality of an old-school Excel or paper document, but in an easier-to-browse, less stressful, less error-prone way so that you can deliver the best event experience possible for all the people involved.

Could it be the perfect event planning system?

It must be complicated

Surely, such a tool must be much more complicated than a simple paper or Excel document, right? Plus, you are used to working with these, and you have your systems to deal with their limitations.

Of course, any new tool or technology has a learning curve. But if the user interface is well designed, presents the information as closely as possible to what you are used to, and the right features are available at the right time and place, this learning curve can be really short. 

And when you can familiarize yourself with the tool ahead of time, you will already be proficient with it when the event starts.

What if my internet connection fails?

Let’s face it: wifi is a fragile commodity in big events. If an auditorium is underground, or too many people are connected at the same time, your internet connection can fail sometimes.

But if your centralized roadbook is smart, it will work offline, too. It stores all the information you need on your device so that you can keep browsing it even when you don’t have a reliable Internet connection. If any changes happen while you are offline, they synchronize automatically when you have connected again.

That sounds fancy and expensive

First of all, how ironic is it that most modern events have tools for every attendee-facing need to make it easier to register, browse the conference agenda, get all the latest news, ask questions, etc. But you and your team – the most important people responsible for ensuring everyone has the best experience – still have to deal with the stress, the work and the mental load of an old Excel spreadsheet?

Second, all of that work you are doing to keep everybody in sync, or to fix avoidable mistakes, or to make sure you don’t forget anything? That work costs money, too.

And finally, to let you start building and using your centralized roadbook as early as possible before the event starts, you can pay per year, instead of per month.

Conclusion

To run a smooth congress, conference, or seminar, it takes a lot of dedicated project managers and external providers to be in sync with each other, to play the same score.

This often requires building and using a roadbook listing all the tasks needed, when, where and by whom.

You can build this roadbook into a Word or Excel document you can print out in different versions and copies during the event. But it is very time-consuming, error-prone, and stressful.

Or you can use a centralized digital roadbook like the one we’ve built at Synkro.

Still on the fence? Check out our special demo account where you can take it for a test drive. All you have to do is go to our web app, or download our iOS or Android app, and log in with email address demo@epseelon.com, and password password1!. You will be able to see how Synkro works with a demo event, that we reset every day.

And of course, if you have any questions, remarks or suggestions, your feedback is always welcome, so feel free to reach out to us.

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