Top five essential skills for project managing a launch event

Nathan Waugh, Portfolio Director, dmg events Middle East & Asia

Launching an event is a complex and challenging business – one that has the power to inflict a wide range of emotions upon the Project Manager, often within the space of a few hours. These emotions will most likely, at one point or another (sometimes simultaneously) include frustration, elation, anger, enthusiasm, disappointment… and can often mean going from feeling like you have a mountain to climb through to freewheeling down the other side!

Ultimately, though, launch events are the lifeblood of our industry and those Project Managers who possess the skillset required to launch, sustain and grow a brand new event are both rare and highly valuable. dmg events is acutely aware of this fact, having launched more than 20 large scale events during the last five years.

Here, in no particular order, is a perspective on the TOP 5 skills and attributes required for project managing a launch event.

  1. Create and communicate a compelling vision

Being able to clearly see where you want to get to, how you want to get there and most importantly, what success looks like, is vital for any launch. Not only that, but being able to effectively sell that vision, whether that is to exhibitors, sponsors, partners or internally to your own team is a must for any successful launch. A solid and well thought out business plan is important, but communicating that plan so that it jumps off the page into a compelling vision is more so.

  1. Maintain tight budget control

It’s all well and good having grand and ambitious ‘blue sky’ plans… but you’ve got to keep the Finance Director happy. The hard-nosed reality with launches is that if they don’t meet their budget – whether that be to make some profit or just to break even in the first year – you might not get another shot at it. Staying on top of all costs and revenue, allied to accurate forecasting which is neither too bullish nor bearish, is a critical element in ensuring that the event has a chance of success.

  1. Negotiate hard for win-win outcomes

Closely linked to tight financial control is the ability to negotiate, negotiate and negotiate some more. A Project Manager who ensures that they, and their team, get the best value for their pound on every single cost, as well as being able to drive hard win-win outcomes on deals with associations, media partners and other supporters, is someone who will be able to extract, and ensure that their team extracts, maximum value from all suppliers and partners.

  1. Embody a culture of creativity and (calculated) risk taking

Creativity and embedding a culture within your team where creativity is encouraged and rewarded…and occasional inevitable failures are treated as learning opportunities…is another essential element for the successful launch event project manager. Risk taking forms a natural part of this – no successful launch has taken place without a few risks, but those risks must always be carefully weighed up against the potential benefits, and action taken accordingly.

  1. Grow a thick skin

Last but certainly not least, every successful launch project manager knows that they need a thick skin when trying to create a successful launch. All manner of people will go to great lengths to explain in detail why what you want to do cannot be done - filter out the constructive bits from the criticism, have faith in your plans and make sure that you communicate that belief to your team and anyone else who is willing to listen!

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