In late May and early June, Mavensdotlive was given the opportunity to collaborate with DARe and the US Embassy for the ‘Academy for Women Entrepreneurs’ 2 events. The first event was a pitching session where the entrepreneurs presented their business to a panel of judges and the second was a graduation ceremony where the three winners were announced and given a seed funding of 3,000 USD.
With our team of six, Mavensdotlive was tasked with organizing the event, setting up the venue and procuring the merchandise. It was one of the most difficult roles that I was tasked with due to it being my first time ever handling something of that scale and because it involved so many components that were beyond your control. All in all, it was a very fulfilling experience as everything turned out much smoother than I thought. In retrospect, these are the 7 important lessons that I took away from it:
1) Plan and Rehearse
Looking back, one of the things that I’m thankful for is how much effort we put into outlining the event despite the time constraint. A couple days before the graduation ceremony, we bent over backwards to have the event’s sequencing be as smooth as possible – which meant endlessly editing the emcee’s script to perfection. Especially for a formal event that has a minister as a guest of honor, making everything appropriate is the bare minimum. What I learned is that you should visualize, as much as you can, how an event would play out; visualize the flow of people, who would be carrying out a task and how exactly it would be carried out, where everyone will be stationed, how one moment would transition to the next and what the cues are for such transition. This is why rehearsals are essential. Even if your script looks good on paper, you will never know whether it works in real life if you don’t rehearse it. What also helped us immensely was to role play and act out the event. This allowed us to see what worked, what was awkward or confusing and from there, we edited the script on the spot.
2) Never Assume, Always Assign
Another important thing that I took away is to be very clear and thorough on who does what. Leading up to the pitch, we had a good grasp of our roles but there were other tasks that were too minor to be assigned to anyone so it was left in the air. While we are understandably occupied with the bigger picture, the important details -when ignored- can cause disruptions during an event. By the time that task has to be done, you just have to haphazardly catch up. From big tasks to small ones, always have it assigned to somebody and discuss how it will be carried out in exact detail. Never assume that a task will sort out itself.
3) Prepare for the Unexpected
No matter how much prep or safety nets you’ve set, the unexpected is always in store. What comes to mind is near the start of the pitching event at DARe’s main auditorium, where the air conditioner did not work as guests started to pour in. Occurrences like this are prone to happen and the only adage I can give you: ‘it is what it is’ – especially true when it is something that can’t be immediately resolved. Another instance is when the judges requested an extra 2 minutes to mark each pitch. Our event was sequenced and timed intricately so as to allow us to finish much earlier. Regardless, we had to just adapt to what was requested. And in retrospect, we’re not sure why we didn’t add in the extra 2 minutes as it allowed the judges to think better about their scores and gave some breathing room to the event. In that regards, I suppose we can learn from this is to be flexible and welcome the unexpected.
4) Learn to Delegate
Admittedly, this is an aspect that I’m still learning to do. While I was put in a leadership role to head this event (for Mavens’ side at least), I was constantly in a situation where I would rather just do something myself than delegate it. Not because I did not trust those around me but because I thought it would cost less time without having to explain what to do and how to do it to other people. This was the wrong mindset to have because my plate was full and I became overwhelmed. I learned that delegation is essential and without it, you will be occupied and drowned by the details.
5) Organize with a Checklist
This is a no brainer but I cannot stress enough just how important it is to organize through a checklist. In my case, I would make a spreadsheet of the event and breakdown the basics: brief summary of the programme, time and date, venue, capacity etc. Next, I would make three sections: what needs to be done before the event, during the event and after the event. For the ‘before’ section, I breakdown every action that needs to be done and for each action, it would state who it would be allocated to, its deadline, notes and status. Another tip is to color code your spreadsheet so that it’s at least visually digestible.
6) Be Persistent with Vendors
Another role I was tasked with was procuring merchandise. While I’m used to communicating with vendors, what made this challenging was that multiple parties were involved in the decision making. I was the bridge between the vendors and the clients; going back and forth on whether the clients approve or not or whether the vendor can produce such an alternative. Dealing with vendors on a close deadline is stress inducing as it takes them a lot of time to even reply to your comms. My tip is to be persistent
7) Have Fun (and Take Pictures!)
Even in the midst of all the stress and rush, the actual events were quite fun. What I took away was that you must give your all in the preparation so that you’ll get to loosen up and breathe a little during the actual event. I also managed to take some pictures that I’ve attached below. Enjoy!