Project Management 101: A Producer’s Checklist

Police Officers, Enlisted Men and Women, Airline Pilots, Firefighter: these are a few jobs in which highly skilled people put the public’s safety first, and are considered some of the most stressful jobs someone can have, according to some rankings. Funny enough, project management and coordination finds itself comfortably on the same list – number six to be exact. If you have lived in the experiential marketing world you might be nodding your head in agreement right now.

Regardless of the number of experiences you’ve activated, or years you have in the industry, every project is different and will pose it’s very own logistical challenges. A project manager’s job is to plan and adapt to their project to ensure their client’s dollars are being spent properly to achieve the goal laid out in the sales initiative and creative renderings. Thinking about, and utilizing the steps laid out below will alleviate some of your stress, and should set you on the right path to executing your next one-of a-kind experience.

Think Ahead – Relentless Planning

 A couple of steps need to be taken before a project becomes legitimate, the first is an idea laid out by creative, and the second is a signed contract. While this process is happening, a project manager should be using their time to prepare for the moment the project gets the green light. Establishing the following first steps will ensure you are not starting from scratch when approved for production: understand the projects budget, reach out to potential vendors, establish key deadlines to hit your target date, market research, logistics, permitting, etc.

Create a Production Schedule – Prepare It, Adjust It, Trust It

A well prepared production schedule is the life-line of any organized project manager. Preparation of the schedule allows for a project manager to think about every task that needs to be accounted for in a chronological order. Inevitably, during the production and execution process something will go awry, requiring some adjustments to the schedule. 

Not only will your production schedule help guide you through your process, but it will also instill confidence in your client, as well as hold them accountable for key approval dates. Seeing every task laid out in front of them will ensure your client that they made the right decision in entrusting you with their money, and more importantly, their brand’s impending activation.   

Choose the Right Vendor Partners – Find an Extension of You 

At the end of the day, you will not be the one applying the wrap, or operating the forklift, or adjusting levels on the sound board, so finding the right vendor partners is imperative in your project’s success.  In finding your perfect partner, make sure you are asking the right questions from the first inquiry. The more specific questions you ask, the more your vendor will reveal their true capabilities. Ask questions, lay out expectations, know key dates, ask for samples/case studies, and most importantly, establish a budget.  If you do not feel comfortable with your option, reach out to another until you find your partner – they are out there.

Keep an Open Line of Communication – Be the Person Who Always Answers

When you call or email someone, you expect them to answer, or at least get back to you in a timely manner. Be the person who always answers. Things are going to come up, whether it’s getting quick pricing from a media space, finding out specific fabrication materials from your vendor, or getting quick approval from your client – you are relying on people just as much as they are relying on you. If you are constantly picking up your phone, and answering emails right away, your team, vendors, and clients will be more inclined to do the same for you.

Constant Organization – A Never Ending Task

Organization, organization, organization – if you take one thing from these steps, let it be organization. Create folders on your desktop and email, and add any key information to your teams shared docs if applicable. Create a “Production Bible” out of a 1” binder, which includes everything from written approvals, vendor contracts, permits, email transcripts, etc. (you never know when one of these documents will become useful onsite). If something happens and you are unable to see your project out to its completion, anyone on your team should be able to pick up where you left off, as long as you stayed on top of your organization.

 Expect the Unexpected – Keep a Level Head

Things aren’t always going to go as planned. Every project, big or small, is going to see it’s fair share of hiccups along the way. Every project has a launch date, and the moves you make after receiving a setback can make or break the success of the project. Panicking while having to scramble to come up with a solution will not make the process easier. Keep a level head and try to fully understand what is causing the issue. If you have exhausted your options, be prepared to be open and honest with your client about the current situation. They will thank you for your transparency, and may help come up with a solution that works for them and their brand.  

Trust Your Process – Measure Twice, Cut Once

A lot goes into planning, producing, and executing experiential activations. It takes poise, passion, communication, organization, and diligence, and when done correctly, can be overwhelmingly rewarding. Take pride in your process and have confidence in the work you have done. If you are following your steps you have laid out for yourself in your production schedule, have trust in your vendor partners, have an open line of communication with everyone, are organized, and operating with a level head, there should be nothing that can stop you from successfully activating your next one-of-a-kind experiential activation.