How to Build a Collaborative Event…

Human Pyramid

Building a collaborative event is not for the faint hearted. Many an event producer has run for the hills when faced with a large committee of partners let alone trying to lead a large team of stakeholders.

If, however, you are brave and follow a few guidelines the benefits of collaboration can be mind-blowing and much bigger than you could ever manage on your own.

Here is a guide based on my learnings directing Social Media Week (SMW) the London Games Fringe & Onemedia.  During SMW we had over 53 event partners, 50+ venues, 110 events and 40 experts on the advisory board. All of this was accomplished in under 16 weeks and here is how:

Choose passionate people to be part of your A team.  More specifically, make sure they are passionate about what you want the event to be about!  They have to be motivated to work for free, donate time and problem solve throughout the process of creating the event not just at the beginning.

Know what you want to achieve – What are you asking people to buy into? You need to have a clear vision, whether you create that yourself then find people who also share it or whether you build it as a group, it has to be a strong vision that does not change. How you get there will change day by day but you all need to head in the same direction.

Some people will contribute more than others , it is easy to get frustrated at this but try and remember  80/20 rule  10% + will be very active and 10%+ will be pretty active, the rest will contribute in their own way and can still make a good contribution i.e contact for a venue, a speaker suggestion also unless you are paying them wades of cash, they are doing this voluntarily.

Hand over responsibilities- probably the hardest thing to do, let go of some control, especially if you have not seen the results in the time you expected, but you need to let others have some ownership. It is easy to think, I will do this myself, but then you will create a habit of picking up the pieces. Co-ownership  and responsibility is good and people will surprise you, mostly in a positive way.

It might take longer to see results- as the group of people learn to work together and share ideas, things can look a bit chaotic for a while. Breathe through it, when it starts to come together it will grow and grow…

Create a fun environment – lots can happen virtually but there is no beating a physical meeting fuelled by food and/or drink. You might not be paying people but you can certainly make being a part of your event enjoyable!

Have a collective online system /space– when you can’t meet but need to brainstorm, solve problems. Make sure that everyone knows how to use it as that can be a barrier to entry.

Share achievements – When things go well, you can’t take all the credit for it, share achievements and also share when things aren’t going so well.

Be prepared for the unexpected – You may have a vision for what you want to achieve but it might succeed your expectations. You may be a victim of your success. Make sure your systems are flexible enough to allow for this.

Be open and honest & do what you say you are going to do! You need to lead by example.

If you have created a collaborative event before, tell us your experiences and we will randomly select a comment to win a Kodak camera!

Photo (cc) Brown's Lake Aquaducks.


Collaboration for good

Love this - mirrors tons of the stuff we've learnt putting on Good for Nothing events....

Guess we'd describe it like this.....

1. Fill a room with purpose

2. Fire it up a bit to get people thinking big

3. Create the space for people to experiment and self-organise

4. Mix up a real diversity of skills and attitudes

5. Set a big open challenge and deadline

6. Play banging tunes and make the food and drink good

7. Don't forget a decent cup of tea...

8. Let it go.....





Great points

Great post from Mel, but I'm inclined to say that having worked with her on Social Media Week London. And Tom, definitely agree with your summary, although it'd be a decent cup of coffee for me!