What is a Project Manager?
A project manager:
- is in overall charge of the planning and execution of a particular project or event.
- carries the heart of the person, people or organization who has planned this event to see their goals fulfilled and carried out in the event.
- communicates to their team.
- must be organized and be steps ahead of everyone.
- is decisive and clear about expectations.
- needs to be available 24-7 as the last few weeks/days of the event approaches and during the event itself.
9-Step Guide to Managing a Project as a Volunteer Mom
STEP 1: Initial Planning Stage (information you’ll receive from the visionary)
You are leading and serving an important event. As the project manager you are carrying the heart of the person, people, organization or visionary to see the desired outcome/goals achieved.
The groundwork for planning is so important, and includes these details:
- What event, conference, retreat, gala, activity, etc. are you being asked to be in charge of?
- What is the organization’s vision and goals of the event? WHY is it being held?
- Is there a title or theme to the event?
- What is the event date(s)? Identify what days of the week those dates are?
- What are start and end time(s) of the event days?
- Where is the event located?
- How far away is the event from today’s date?
- Find out who your team is that will be available to help. Most often, it’s never just one person organizing AND doing all of the work (unless you’re a mompreneur).
STEP 2: Brain Dump
Organize a team meeting with those who are helping you with the event. In this meeting, you’ll:
- Thank everyone for committing to helping in the success of this event.
- Share the vision, goals and desired outcome of this event that was given to you.
- Get your whiteboard, pen and paper or laptop and ask everyone to share anything and everything on their minds about this event. (You could write this yourself or ask someone to write it for you).
Note: The reason it’s important to involve your team is to have them feel involved, included and own the project with you.
STEP 3: Organize Brain Dump / Create Spreadsheet
Take the notes from your brain dump (which are unorganized, chaotic and without structure) and begin organizing and placing into categories and subcategories, etc. in a spreadsheet that can be shared with others. Google Sheets is great for this.
Set-up your spreadsheet row that include categories and subcategories, such as:
- Graphic design (logo, event design)
- Marketing, promotions or advertising (social media, posters, handouts, billboards, notebooks, pens, waterbottles, pins, stickers, workbook, etc.)
- Entertainment (music, comedy)
- Food (breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert)
- Special guests of honour (accomodations, food, transportation)
- Budget (what is available in each category)
- Media team (live videos, stills, etc.)
- Volunteers (how many people are needed and in what categories)
- Workshops (what is required in each workshop, what does the guest speaker require)
- Parking (parking attendants and overflow parking)
Columns are also necessary, such as:
- Task Assigned To (make sure everyone has a task and that no task is left out)
- Priority (Low, High)
- Start Date
- End Date
- Completed (Yes, No)
STEP 4: Team Meeting / Fill-in-the-Blanks
Share the project management spreadsheet with your team and organize a team meeting.
The goal of this meeting is to fill-in-the-blanks. Each category and/or subcategory must have someone assigned to it, the priority is set, the start and end date is noted, the budget is included and whether it’s completed.
Allow your team the ability to add notes to the spreadsheet and whether it’s completed.
STEP 5: Weekly Check-ins
One way to keep on top of the project is to review it weekly along with the WHY and the goals of the event.
As a suggestion, it’s often great to review your project spreadsheet every Friday and then have a team meeting on Mondays, so everyone feels ready to attack their lists again in the week. Be sure to do what works best for you and your team.
Whatever form you’re able to meet with your team (in-person or by video), it’s important to keep on the same page as you strive forward to seeing all the end dates met.
Although you’re managing a project as a volunteer, the end result falls on you as you oversee everything.
STEP 6: Crunch Week
The final week before the event is certainly a crunch week to see all tasks completed.
There is often a last push that takes place which might include late nights, making decisions quickly and creating solutions for any challenges that come up.
STEP 7: The Day Before the Event
Finalize all the details, and try to get some good nourishment through food and sleep; you’ll need the energy!
This is the point where you really can’t do too much that couldn’t already be done. You set the tone with your team, so be sure to communicate having everyone feel on the same page, excited and ready to go.
STEP 8: Event Day(s)!
SMILE … the event is here!
All that you and your team have planned will come together and culminate in this great event. This certainly deserves a pre-party celebration and cheer (but it’ll usually be a mini one as you keep going).
During the event days, you’ll need to:
- Have water and your phone.
- Make yourself available at all times and every day.
- Answer questions (probably more-so from your team, but could be from the people attending as they recognize that you’re the one that’s always there).
- Move from place-to-place finding out how things are going getting a sense from you team.
- Be available to put out fires as they come up.
- Make on-site decisions and create solutions.
STEP 9: Thank-you’s, Evaluation & Debriefing
The event is over and it’s time to sit down!
As a project manager, you’ll easily magnify any flaws, but you have to remember that nobody will have noticed it as much as you. So instead for the moment, harness your thoughts and your focus towards all that went well! Celebrate the success of the event and your hard work in making it happen.
Thank the person who asked you to project manage
It’s truly an honour to be asked and trusted to manage an event, whether of small or large magnitude. Be sure to thank the people or organization who believed in you.
Thank your team
Be sure to message and speak to your team letting them know how much you appreciated them. A thank-you goes a long way and reiterates their value in seeing the goals met.
Consider having a team night where you come together celebrating the hard work. Include some great food, conversation, games, etc. Make it light and make it fun!
Evaluation & Debriefing
This is important step as the company or organization gauges the success of the event by how everything went and whether the goals were achieved.
This process can also be hard for you, the project manager, as well. (Some personality traits in project managers show up, such as people-pleasing and perfectionism).
- Arrange a final team meeting for the purpose of evalution and defriefing.
- Bring successes/challenges. Ask your team to come prepared. Either you can leave this more general or specific, such as, “Come prepared with your list of successes and challenges” or if you have a set list of questions, you could distribute those before the team meeting. Come prepared with any notes you have about the event, having listed the successes and the challenges.
Evaluation & Debriefing Meeting
- Begin the meeting positively. Thank your team, reiterate the successes, the testimonies and good feedback. Focus on the WHY and the goal as this was the main objective of putting on this event.
- Hear from each person. This helps them feel heard and valued. Active listening is important and writing down the details of what was a challenge/success is key for the next event.
- Concluding the meeting. Reiterate the success of the event, focusing on the goal and how it was achieved and bring out briefly and gently, that anything that requires attention for the next time will be documented.