I’ve been involved in a lot of events for student organizations lately. They all want the same topics presentation skills, entrepreneurship coaching, networking skills, and there’s biz case coaching or judging in there too.
While it is rewarding to give back and delightful when you can truly help someone, the experience is often a little lacking. But with a slight change in headset, I should think that all stakeholders would get a lot more out of these events and those involved will be even better prepared for the working world ahead of them.
Dump chaos for project management
Of course there is the chaotic approach to event management as it seems, like homework, the execution is usually a last minute blast of effort. How you clarify the event then arrange for speakers, facilities and do enough marketing all in 2-3 days is miraculous but seldom effective. Many of these events are conceptualized weeks or months ahead so a little classic timeline and project management would render far better results with much less uncertainty and stress, and leave a good framework for the team that will be responsible for the event next year.
Your audience is first, you are second
Perhaps it’s this rush on execution but I find that the focus is on getting the event done not on value to the audience. This is an issue of customer or member centric thinking. I would challenge student organizations to really understand and commit to their mandate and their audience. And it doesn’t hurt to understand their guest and sponsor needs as well. Understanding motivations and delivering a matching value will go a long way to securing success and an ongoing relationship.
An “ah ha” moment
I was advising a student group which was struggling with its reporting structure. It had the classic roles: prez, VPs, treasurer and so on. So I offered a little tweaking then asked “Do you really want to think outside the box?” They said “yes.”
I sketched a new organizational structure around the roles required for an events organization. After all, that what they were, organizers of student events, some social and others serious. Now they have alignment between their roles and the work they do.
Helping the next guy
And then there’s the issue of continuity. I acknowledge that It is a big challenge that student group executive teams change yearly. No sooner is someone up to speed then they are off, and often graduating so focused on with their career and not on campus.
Some groups have instituted a succession plan that cultivates executives. This way, learnings can be passed on and experience is built over a few years. Some groups are also better at choosing executives that are right for the roles they fill – logistics (events), sales (getting sponsors), marketing (promoting to their audience), etc. I realize that joining a student group in an executive role is viewed as an opportunity to learn and it’s good for the resume, but this should be balanced against the needs of the group and the audience it serves.