Authors: Vaidehi & Elika

<aside> 💡 I’ll post this after the how local groups can leverage EAG(x) events



~~The way many EA events (in particular conferences and retreats run in the past 12 months) are run is unsustainable (for organisers), involves likely more resources than the average non-events ops EA realises, and does not promote knowledge sharing and learning.~~*

In this post, we highlight some of the key challenges with current approaches to ‘event ops’ and share our models for sustainable, improved event planning. The purpose of this is to facilitate shared learning amongst organisers and to recognise how the current norms of events in EA are unsustainable, high-cost, and often lead to sub-par events.

Our goals are to:

We’d love to hear if you fit into the category of event planner and don’t find this helpful or actionable. Not all of these points are unique to events, but we’re limiting the scope of this post to be as concrete and specific as possible. If people have noticed similar things in other areas we’d love to hear about them.

*What counts as an event? Our definition is fairly broad: retreats, conferences, workshops, seminars & fellowships! They can be in-person or virtual, I think about 70% of this advice is useful for both, and 30% specific to in-person.

The Situation: Poor Planning / Expectation Setting is Contributing to Organiser Burnout and a Lack of Learning

~~The cost on talent: The way most EA events are run right now put an enormous amount of stress on the organisers. We want to be clear: good operations / event people are not easily replaceable. But we’ve heard from a strong trend of event organisers being put under tremendous amounts of pressure and been overworked due to planning and capacity challenges. We give a bunch of specific (sometimes anonymised) examples throughout this post of where we have personally observed negative effects are a result of insufficient planning or capacity.~~

~~The cost to learning, improving and running better events: This also means there is little room for experimentation to learn, improve and make events more impactful.~~

The Hierarchy of Events Planning


In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. Our pyramid is similar - components lower down in the hierarchy are more basic and are necessary for an event to exist. The exact configuration of each component affects the ones above it (e.g. if your venue only has 2 rooms, you probably can’t have an agenda with 3 tracks of events running simultaneously).

However, influence is not strictly linear - so the structure of the event might influence which venue you choose (e.g. if you want to create an informal atmosphere, you might choose to host an event in a smaller, more casual venue instead of a formal one, or if you need a lot of stewardship for newer attendees, you might hire a larger team to manage those needs).

Consider Leverage

If you could invest 1-10% more resources (time) for 10-30% return, this seems worth considering. In the following, we’re going to try and point out the highest leverage points of each step of the pyramid - the places where spending that extra time could make a big difference and open up more possibilities.

Work backwards from specific goals