CREATING DYNAMIC EVENTS requires creativity, drive and initiative — three traits that don't always jibe with the spirit of cooperation that a well-functioning team depends on. In her presentation at The Special Event 2005, “Bringing Out the Best in Others,” Carol Moxam, CSEP, head of Event Edge, outlined techniques for bringing out the best qualities in each member of an event team to ensure great teamwork.
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: You describe three keys to sustaining high performance from your event team; what are they?
CAROL MOXAM: These include expectations, accountability and feedback, [a theory] credited to author Thomas Connellan.
Expectations mean believing that you can succeed, communicating clearly, consistently and effectively, and knowing that your own expectations have significant impact on the performance of others. When you assign accountability to your event team or volunteers, you give them the perspective: “Let me know what you want me to do, hold me accountable for getting results, and then, get out of my way.” Feedback tells us just how we are doing. With positive feedback, we are reinforcing our morals, ethics and behavior, with positive results as the outcome. With negative feedback, we are punishing our partners. And no feedback at all to our team members can lead to extinction of the team. Bringing out the best in others requires that we continually strive to do our best and reinforce improvements even if they're not there yet.
Q: What techniques help assure great teamwork?
A: In the early planning stages of our events, we develop a flow chart. Roles are clearly defined and work is delegated at the beginning of the event planning cycle. We communicate regularly with our event team using industry tools such as critical paths, production schedules and site plans. We are not afraid to ask questions when we do not understand details from our partners or clients for clarification.
We hire the best partners and empower them to make decisions using their expertise. At our events, we review all expectations with our team with briefings on-site. We let them do their job.
Most importantly, we celebrate the success with our team following our event. This can be as simple as a late-night crew meal, smiling, laughing and appreciating the moments of the day. Sometimes we do this in the office with photographs documenting the event. Personally, I like to take a few moments at each event to appreciate the vision that has come to life through the planning process. Rewarding our team with special gestures of time off, the flexibility to leave early on some days, or a nice lunch can mean a lot to an individual. I think we tend to revert to grand rewards when keeping it simple has a far greater impact.
Q: Are there special techniques for working with volunteers?
A: Whether working with volunteers or event partners I apply the same philosophy. The essence of event management is the empowering of team members to do the job they need to get done.
Q: Can you give an example of how great teamwork saved an event for you?
A: When I produced the Canadian premiere of “Star Wars” for Child Find Ontario, we had 12 key team partners, 150 crew members, 50 volunteers and 1,500 guests. Three days before the event, we recognized that we would need a street closure. It was unheard of in our city to obtain the necessary permits in such a short time. Our professionalism documenting the street closure, details provided by our support team and our expectation that it would be possible delivered the results we wanted. I believe that I am only as good as my team members and continue to learn from each and every experience.
Q: What inspired your interest in this topic?
A: I have two young boys, Hunter and Jacob, and it begins in my home, applying these basic skills of expectations, accountability and feedback. I carry this forward into my work experience when working with board members, office peers and event partners. I am passionate about our event industry and when we share our knowledge and experiences with others, I know that it is making a difference for future events.