How to build a collaborative event

Guest blog for Chinwag.


Building a collaborative event is not for the faint hearted. Many event producer has run for the hills when faced with a large committee of partners let alone trying to lead a large team of stakeholders.  If, however, you are brave and follow a few guidelines the benefits of collaboration can be mind-blowing and much bigger than you could ever manage on your own.

Here is a guide based on my learnings directing Social Media Week (SMW) the London Games Fringe & Onemedia.  During SMW we had over 53 event partners, 50+ venues, 110 events and 40 experts on the advisory board. All of this was accomplished in under 16 weeks and here is how:

Choose passionate people to be part of your A team.  More specifically, make sure they are passionate about what you want the event to be about!  They have to be motivated to work for free, donate time and problem solve throughout the process of creating the event not just at the beginning.

Know what you want to achieve – What are you asking people to buy into? You need to have a clear vision, whether you create that yourself then find people who also share it or whether you build it as a group, it has to be a strong vision that does not change. How you get there will change day by day but you all need to head in the same direction.

Some people will contribute more than others , it is easy to get frustrated at this but try and remember  80/20 rule  10% + will be very active and 10%+ will be pretty active, the rest will contribute in their own way and can still make a good contribution i.e contact for a venue, a speaker suggestion also unless you are paying them wades of cash, they are doing this voluntarily.

Hand over responsibilities- probably the hardest thing to do, let go of some control, especially if you have not seen the results in the time you expected, but you need to let others have some ownership. It is easy to think, I will do this myself, but then you will create a habit of picking up the pieces. Co-ownership  and responsibility is good and people will surprise you, mostly in a positive way.

It might take longer to see results- as the group of people learn to work together and share ideas, things can look a bit chaotic for a while. Breathe through it, when it starts to come together it will grow and grow…

Create a fun environment – lots can happen virtually but there is no beating a physical meeting fuelled by food and/or drink. You might not be paying people but you can certainly make being a part of your event enjoyable!

Have a collective online system /space– when you can’t meet but need to brainstorm, solve problems. Make sure that everyone knows how to use it as that can be a barrier to entry.

Share achievements – When things go well, you can’t take all the credit for it, share achievements and also share when things aren’t going so well.

Photo curtsey of Brownslakeaquaducks

Mel NormanComment