Being an event tech project manager has always been a challenging, often stressful role. It takes a lot of people and a lot of effort to pull off a successful event. Those organizers, vendors, presenters and participants increasingly rely on technology to deliver tailored and seamless experiences to attendees. They expect applications to perform without disruption, meaning no news is often good news. It’s quite rare to be thanked for having technology that works as expected, but in the past year, with so many technology flops for big events, there’s a new level of gratitude for seamless event technology.
Before 2020, it was common to have event tech project managers figure out how to deliver the desired experiences after event planning and strategy has finished. We have been consistently focused more on implementation phase—there to ensure the right suite of tools is in place to support the event team’s vision and strategy.
Now technology is the Event
But with the changes that 2020 brought to the event industry, there truly is no event vision and strategy without a host of technologies playing nice with each other — making the role of the event tech project manager more important than ever. A virtual event offers a completely different set of challenges for event planners, with technology front and center. Onsite, attendee experiences were customized by offering things with physical space and time. Attendees could experience more than what is on one screen at a time.
It is a tough balancing act to support creativity and imagination while setting realistic expectations for what is technically possible. As event teams plan branded experiences, registration, content delivery, and more, the event tech PM quickly becomes a consultant and trusted advisor. Not only are they trying to match up these event plans with technology capabilities, they are thinking ahead to the requirements, level of risk, and the effort to pull this off. Not to mention virtual events seem to have a project timeline of less than three months.
Relationship Building (it's not all APIs and UX)
I really believe promoting teamwork to be a key best practice in my role as event tech project manager.
Virtual events technologically grow in complexity as you increase the number of tech providers and integrations. But just as important as ensuring that the tech communicates well, the people responsible for implementing these solutions need to be in sync. It’s the event tech project manager’s job to ensure that happens. Developing rapport with the various event tech partners in advance and during the project is so important. You want to be able to help problem solve together at a granular level if necessary, and that requires trust and a willingness to investigate, troubleshoot, and test as requested. If specific data from a partner doesn’t look correct, I don’t want to just make it their problem or accuse them as the responsible party. Finding solutions and problem solving is always a team effort between partners and the client. And, having team members and partners who can understand APIs and integrations, and the more an event tech project manager knows, the less you need to rely on pulling in developers to answer simple questions.
That’s where the “tech” portion of my job becomes so important. The value of an event tech project manager is event technology knowledge they bring to the table - they need to look at and understand the technology of the event, including event APIs, data structure, all of the integrations happening, as well as the broadcasting and content delivery solution. We are always learning and asking questions. Beyond that though, we need to be able to communicate what experience the technology is delivering to all stakeholders in a way that makes sense to them. Having the trust of my stakeholders is critical for me to do my job effectively and make sure I am being included in any strategy discussions.
Capture Enduring Content
While planning your seamless delivery for an upcoming virtual event, I cannot emphasize enough the value of planning for your post-event strategy. We live in a world now where attendees want access to session content immediately. Since every aspect of the event can be captured, we have the opportunity to give life to the event even after we “pack up and go home”... or in this case, walk from the desk over to the kitchen for a celebratory hot toddy. Looking back at the virtual events I have helped deliver in the last year, there’s almost nothing worse than seeing clients finish their last session and realize no one thought about what happens next. No one had thought about or answered these questions: Where will the sessions be posted after? When is the survey going out? How long is registration staying open? What is contractually paid for post-event with all of the event tech providers? I cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is to plan ahead for this. Often, clients decide too late that they want to keep registration and platforms open and incur unexpected costs from technology providers. The most successful events have plans for what happens after the is over, and of course, an event tech project manager to help piece everything together.
The shift to virtual and hybrid events is here to stay, and I am obviously biased, but I highly recommend prioritizing an event technology manager role on your team with a spot on your planning team. You probably know by now that quality event technology isn't cheap, and the best thing you can do is see this role as an equally important investment for your event’s success.
Rae Malcham, Senior Technical Project Manager, Hubb
With over eight years of project management experience in technology and corporate events, Rae Malcham is the go-to person for managing all things event tech logistics and integrations. She loves making things happen and bringing people together.