It’s the first Monday in June.
Have you started thinking about your 2017 Event Development Plan yet?
For many, strategic planning conjures up feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. It can seem daunting to plan for the following year when you are still actively executing against your goals and projects in the current one. That said, starting now will also provide a runway for a process that is likely less rushed and thereby less stressful than years passed. Remember, you don’t need to complete 2017 strategic planning today (or even this week) but building a plan now does give you the opportunity to be more organized, more considerate of milestones, and more patient and inclusive in the process.
Here’s your to-do: Block 90 minutes this week to draft your ideal 2017 planning timeline.
The trick here, since you only have 90 minutes set aside, is to get started quickly and keep your approach organized but shallow. There’s no sense in worrying about all the details or how it will be delegated right now. The foundation of any project or process is usually an outline, which can create buy-in and manage expectations. With that in mind, carve out your 90 minute window and consider these 3 recommendations on how to begin your 2017 planning.
- Start an Excel Spreadsheet to organize your thoughts. Excel has some quick templates that will help you organize the different stages involved with 2017 planning. To find an Excel timeline template from Microsoft, open Microsoft Excel and type “Timeline” in the search box and click Enter.
- If you aren’t as familiar in Excel, you might consider following someone else’s instructions on how to build an effective timeline.
- Remember that how the timeline looks matters less than whether it is functional for you (and your team) and that it captures the phases and key deadlines. I urge you to start simple. Sometimes the best tools lack the distractions of colors, icons, and buttons and instead present the information in a concise, no-frills format. Outline what needs to be done and roughly how long (in days or weeks) this phase will take and start to drop it into the timeline.
- If time allows, you can arrange the phases around the key milestones and conflicts – coming next.
- Identify key milestones or conflicts. Once you’ve landed on your ideal format and have a set of activity phases inserted into your template, continue by populating your planning tool with key milestones and conflicts.
- Key milestones can be event application/partnership deadlines, upcoming board meetings, notable development campaigns (for the second half of the year), and/or proposed launch dates.
- You should also determine what conflicts exist. Conflicts, in this case, are roadblocks which would prevent or delay the planning process. These could include staff vacations, office holidays, staff travel (for events or professional development), or offsite meetings.
By populating these into your planning tool, you gain better perspective on the landscape of the coming months and can address how to organize your planning process around them. It simultaneously acknowledges to your staff that you are aware of the ongoing work and external factors influencing the process and opens the door to feedback from them about upcoming items you may have looked over.
3. Outline a Check-list of Informational Needs. Do yourself a favor. Don’t conduct your 2017 planning in a vacuum. While you are drafting the 2017 planning timeline, you will realize you need more information as your approach certain phases or decision milestones. Keep a running list of what information you (and your team) should collect in advance of kicking off this project. In my previous experience, I liked to delegate information collection across my team so that each member felt like they were bringing a critical piece to the planning process. Key information deliverables could include event assessments, participant (donor) analytics, 2016 event financial statements, post event surveys, and of course 2017 budgets (if they are available).
So are your 90 minutes up? If so, you should have a rough sketch of your 2017 planning timeline, complete with key milestones, potential conflicts, and broad activity phases. In addition to this, you should have started an informational asset list which you and your team can go about collecting over the coming weeks.
90 minutes. 1 small win toward 2017 planning.