Sweat the Small Stuff – Lunch w/ TED

Lunch with TED — By on July 1, 2010 at 12:00 am

You’re an event planner with a lot on your plate.  Rory Sutherland wants you to be careful lest you waste time and capital moving mountains when you ought focus on molehills.

I write this week’s Lunch w/ TED for anyone who has ever or will ever plan an event.  Speaking from one event planner to another, you need to take Sutherland’s advice and sweat the small stuff.

How do you sweat the small stuff?

First, carry a small notebook with you where ever you go.  If you own a smartphone in which you can take notes, that will work as well.  Make a note of things that impress you.  For example, if you go to a mall, conference, church, or theme park for the first time and are impressed by the way-finding signage (directories, over-head signs, etc), note why you were impressed and what it was about the signage that impressed you.  Make notes any time that you find yourself unexpectedly delighted by some small yet important detail item.

Second, talk to your friends.  Ask them what sorts of things make them feel at ease or even what sorts of things excite them when attending events.  Make sure that some of the people with whom you speak are not actually helping you plan the event – you need the opinion of somebody removed from the situation.

Third, role play.  This one is the hardest.  Try to put yourself in the shoes of an attendee at your event.  Assume the attendee knows nothing about the event.  If possible, physically walk through that attendee’s experience from arrival in the parking lot to departure from that same parking lot.  What are you looking for?  What do you care about?  What are your expectations?  Write down your findings and solve any problems that you come across.

Finally, if you plan on holding the event again in the future, be sure to survey your attendees.  Attendee surveys are the best way to quickly hone in on the details that you missed.  Make sure the survey prompts people to discuss what they liked as well as what they disliked about the event.  You might be surprised at the small ticket items that ended up becoming an attendee favorite.

Besides event planning, what are other areas where we need to learn to sweat the small stuff?  What have you experienced in your life that makes you wish somebody had bothered to sweat the small stuff? ‘