Eventbrite • Asana | Ebook

The Event Professional’s Ultimate Guide to Productivity

This year, you’re resolved to be the most productive possible version of yourself. Your events will sell out and your team will be more motivated than ever before.

But June rolls around, and you’re in a slump. You’re spending your days in endless meetings with no clear purpose. Your team is dropping the ball on basic logistics, and communication with sponsors has devolved into reply-all email threads and 3 am Slack messages. And your coffee habit has gotten out of hand, to say the least.

What happened to making this year your year?

Event management doesn’t have to be such an emotional roller coaster. Instead, learn how to make your productivity — and your motivation — last year-round.

No one knows how to do that better than the events team at Asana, a work management tool that helps users plan better projects, track what’s important to their team, and produce better work, faster. This year, Asana’s two-person events team put their productivity skills to the test by launching a 24-event tour across 8 cities in just 3 months.

In this guide the Asana events team will teach you the hard-earned lessons they learned along the way, so that your team can set the foundation for a productive, focused year.

This guide is for...

Event creators who want to create genuine shifts in their work habits and their ability to motivate their teams, so this year’s events (and the work that goes into them) will be the best experiences yet.

You'll learn how to:

• Set and hit ambitious business goals for yourself and your team

• Avoid burnout, finding ways to stay motivated year-round, while keeping your stress level 
in check at a job that’s typically hectic

• Track and manage your progress with tips on time management, prioritization, 
documentation, and more

Meet the productivity experts on Asana’s events team

  • Joshua Zerkel

    Joshua Zerkel
    Head of Global Community at Asana
    Certified Professional Organizer®

  • Logan LeVan

    Logan LeVan
    Social Media Marketing Manager at Asana

  • Step #1

    Set achievable
(but still ambitious) 

  • Step #1

Your goal is to make your events the best they can be — for the attendees, but also for you and your team. But that alone isn’t a goal you can rally around for this year.

“Events are fun, but for most organizations, you don’t do them for their own sake,” says Joshua Zerkel, the Head of Global Community at Asana. Zerkel is also a Certified Professional Organizer® and the founder of Custom Living Solutions, one of the Bay Area’s premier productivity and organizing consulting firms.

Your event is in support of a larger mission — and that’s where you should start when setting your team’s goals for the year.

Start with the "why"

“Set an intention to create events that are in clear support of goals that are bigger than your own.”

— Joshua Zerkel, Head of Global Community at Asana

“To make your events impactful and relevant, you have to connect them with your organization’s greater initiatives and goals,” Zerkel says. Making this connection extremely clear was a major lesson for the Asana team as they launched their 24-event tour in late 2018.

When Zerkel and Logan LeVan, a marketing manager at Asana, recruited other team members to help with Asana events, they realized the importance of the “why” quickly. Tactical conversations deciding which venue or speakers to book were interrupted by high-level strategic questions like, “Why are we doing this event?”

Keep everyone focused on the same goal by writing a clear purpose statement for your event. This purpose should be tied clearly to your organization’s “why,” so everyone understands the big picture and is motivated to help. “From the executive team on down, all teams need to understand the purpose of any major initiative,” LeVan says.

A look at Asana’s purpose statement

1. Engage on-the-ground customer communities to connect them with each other and with Asana

2. Spotlight customers to tell their own stories about teamwork and collaboration

3. Create opportunities for the sales and customer success teams to build relationships with customers and prospects

When you set out to create goals for your events, start with your community’s or business’s higher mission. “If you can become a champion for your organization, creating events that are in clear support of goals bigger than your own, ultimately, it makes your own life easier, because everyone else will back you up,” Zerkel says.

Make your goals measurable

Once you’ve determined the “why,” it’s time to determine more tactical goals for your event that will help you achieve your purpose. This is where more specific, quantitative goals come into play.

For instance, you might have identified that for your business to achieve its goal of becoming a thought leader in your industry, your conference needs to grow to the biggest in your space. But don’t stop there. Define what that means with a clear and measurable goal like “Increase conference attendance 150% year over year.”

Instead of this:

Craft a goal that looks something like this:

Increase ticket sales

Increase ticket revenue by 25% this year

Instead of this:

Consider this:

Make a stronger impression on attendees

Test five new ideas to make this event experience different than the last

On a more personal note:

Find work-life balance

Stop manually targeting every email I send; start using a tool that will do this automatically by the end of January

Once you have a measurable goal, make sure you note how you’re going to track progress towards that goal. Specify what tool you will use to gather the data (such as your event management platform if your goal is attendance), and how often you will share your progress with your team and executives (for instance, by email or with an Asana status update once a week).

Build goals that can adapt with you

No matter how well-planned your goals are, “event planning and management is iterative,” Zerkel says. “You can go in with a goal in mind, but you’re dealing with a lot of moving parts, including partners outside your company over which you likely have little control. You won’t know how a new event series is going to go until you’ve done it a few times.”

Take learnings from each event you do and adjust your goals based on those learnings. If limiting factors like venue capacity or weather throw you a curveball, leave yourself room to get creative with how you hit your goal. For example, if your goal was to reach 1,000 attendees but the only available venue has a capacity of 500, you might try livestreaming the event to reach the same number of people.

  • Step #2

    Keep your team focused to crush your goals

  • Step #2

“One of big challenges with the sheer number of events we manage is keeping track of logistics,” Zerkel says. “Even just one event has laundry list of things to do, from securing a venue to promotion and follow up.”

When faced with an always-growing to-do list, it’s easy for you and your team to get distracted from your main goal. The key to stopping that from happening is organization.

“I’ve met two types of event managers: Those who like checking things off to-do lists and those who host events because they are fun. To be successful, you need to be both types.”

— Joshua Zerkel, Head of Global Community at Asana

Get your docs in a row

“The first question we asked ourselves was, ‘What is every single thing we need to do to make these events happen?’” Zerkel says. “You can’t do this work successfully without tears unless you’re organized. That organization helps me stay sane.”

The Asana events team has a project (in Asana, naturally) for each event that outlines everything that needs to be done. It includes a “why we are doing this” brief along with all event-related tasks and their owners.

The project is then is shared with everyone within the organization who might be asked to contribute to executing the event. But don’t stop there — you’ll need a handful of documents at the start of each new event. Here are the docs Asana relies on to stay on track:

An event budget spreadsheet that breaks down every penny to be spent, from venue rental to catering to AV to marketing

Docs with travel details for any team members or speakers traveling for an event

Shared folders that contain things like copy for email campaigns promoting the events and design illustrations

A spreadsheet tracking weekly progress to registration goals using their event management platform’s data

Get started with Asana’s event planning template

Track your team’s to-dos and progress on your events with Asana’s customizable event planning template.

Of course, the docs and tools you use to get organized might not look exactly like this list. Other common documents you might need include a speaker sourcing and outreach template, a promotional calendar, or a sponsorship valuation workbook.

Pro tip:
Don't get lost in app overwhelm

“You want to spend your time focusing on doing great work, not on managing the tools you use,” Zerkel says. If your list of productivity apps is as long as your to-do list, figure out what you’re trying to solve for and use the bare minimum number of tools to make things happen. And as much as possible, choose event management technology that integrates with your other tools, so you can save time with automatic data syncs.”

Prioritize tasks and create a daily ritual

“I have a tendency to multitask,” Logan LeVan admits. As both Asana’s social media manager and the organizer for event logistics, it’s easy to see why. “But with event planning, you have to be able to prioritize and focus on what’s important this week,” she says.

Each week, LeVan centers herself on the one task that’s most essential to check off. Then, to manage everything else on her plate, she follows a set schedule.

“Each day I check registration numbers first thing in morning, then check in with all the vendors, then all the team members,” LeVan says. “It’s a daily ritual that keeps me on track for each of my events. If that structure doesn’t exist for you, try setting a schedule for yourself.”

Keep your cross-functional team on track

It’s hard to believe, but your event may not be every team member’s number one priority (even if you think it should be). But part of your job is probably going to be to work with people who aren’t solely focused on your event, or events at all.

“Part of our job is recognizing that we’re the only ones with the mandate and responsibility for our events,” Zerkel says. “When you’re working cross-functionally, make sure you understand people are busy and that your asks fit into their goals.”

The work you do to align your event with your organization’s goals is a great start. But don’t stop there.

“Make sure everyone’s bought in not just on the concept but on the work that each group needs to do,” Zerkel says. He and LeVan assign tasks in Asana to each team member contributing to the event, such as coworkers on marketing, customer success, and sales.

But handing the members of your team a huge list of to-dos is not enough on its own — in fact, it might simply overwhelm them. To keep everyone on track to your goals, you’ll need to anticipate confusion and resolve it before it escalates.

“One thing we’ve done to try to iron out complications is to schedule weekly cross-functional standups where we can talk through blockers and assess where we’re at with progress,” LeVan says. A weekly standup (either in-person or virtual) can help you check in to make sure everyone’s tracking against their individual goals, and nothing is going to slip through the cracks. It’s also an opportunity to bat around innovative ideas and brainstorm.

“With events there is no magic wand. We all work together on our individual pieces and tasks.”

— Logan LeVan, Social Media Marketing Manager at Asana

  • Step #3

    Stay motivated and avoid burnout all year long

  • Step #3

Being focused doesn’t mean falling into a creative rut or burning out when it’s still weeks until your event. In fact, it should mean the opposite — that you’re feeling more inspired and motivated than ever. Here’s how.

Make room for experimentation

It’s easy to stay inspired when you learn something new from each event. That’s why Asana sets hypotheses and tests them out on each new event. “Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn,” Zerkel says. “Try different formats, different times of day, different sizes of events — knowing that not all of them will work. If you don’t try new things, how are you going to learn?"

And what you learn can have a significant impact on hitting your goals. For instance, Asana used to host all of their events after work hours. But after running a few tests, they found that while panel discussions do well in the evening (as natural networking forums), hands-on workshops and product trainings actually perform better during the workday. This helped Zerkel and his team choose times to maximize attendance for each event they host.

Stay motivated — through stress — by focusing on the end result

Every event creator faces the moment when attendance numbers aren’t where they need to be. “You can create an excellent experience, but if the people don’t come, it doesn’t matter,” Zerkel says. “That’s the moment where you take a deep breath.”

When your numbers — and the very fate of your event — are in this unpredictable phase, your mindset is just as important as the marketing tactics you put in motion.

“In the day to day, planning events can sometimes be awesome — and sometimes be really not awesome,” says Zerkel. “Get through it by focusing on the bigger picture and what you’re hoping attendees will walk away with.”

For Zerkel, that means focusing on an attendee’s experience at his event. He always passes his ideas through the lens of what he calls “the Josh test” — if he were an attendee, would he want to sit through this event? More importantly, would he love it?

If the answer is no, he’s inspired to work harder. If the answer is yes, he can be confident registrations — or whatever challenge he’s facing — will come around.

How the Asana events team stays motivated

“Planning events where we get to meet customers in person is one of the best parts of my job, and I’m lucky that I get to do it. When I need inspiration, I think about the value that I’m creating not just for the business, but for the attendees. They’re giving up precious hours in their day to spend time with you. So put yourself in their shoes and work hard to create something of value for them.”

— Joshua Zerkel, Head of Global Community at Asana

“If you’ve planned a successful event, you know nothing is more rewarding than the feeling you have once it’s done. When I get stressed, I remind myself of that rewarding feeling at the finish line.

— Logan LeVan, Social Media Marketing Manager at Asana

Pro tip:
The art of letting go of stress on event day

“On the day of the event, I try to get there very early,” says Zerkel. “I get everything set up in advance so that by the time the first person walks in — whether it’s a speaker or a vendor — I’m done with my tasks and can focus on their needs. That sets the stage for the best possible experience.”

Still, he says, “Something is always going to go wrong — a door will be locked or there won’t be enough food. You have to be ready to roll with it.”

Sometimes, successful event management means being willing to let go of something you had planned to do. For instance, at a recent event, the Asana team intended to use an app to survey attendees on their experience. But a technical glitch prevented them from launching the app, so they were forced to drop the idea.

“The goods news is, people generally don’t notice when you haven’t done something you’d planned to,” says LeVan. “People don’t know what they don’t know.”

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and trying to figure out what to prioritize, look at the things that don’t have to happen — at least not today. And remember, events are iterative. You might not fit it in this time, but there’s always the next event.

“Just try to keep perspective,” Zerkel says. “Whatever work you’re doing (or not doing!) at your event won’t lead to the end of the world, even if it doesn’t work perfectly.”

  • Take your productivity to the next level

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You know how to set ambitious goals and create organization that makes them achievable. You have a plan to keep your team aligned and working at maximum productivity. And you have some mantras in your back pocket to remember when stress gets the best of you.

There’s only one thing missing from making this year your most productive and rewarding year yet: the event management technology that will make your life easier along the way. From team collaboration to integrations across all your technology, the right tools can cut your to-do list in half — so you can focus on what really matters.

Find out how to use Asana to manage your event team’s work smarter, sign up here. And to take advantage of Eventbrite’s built-in promotional tools and integrations with all your favorite tools, create your next event today.

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