If you regularly attend a conference or annual show that’s known to be well-run, there’s an amazing team behind the scenes that makes that happen. And at the top of that team is a talented program manager. Great program managers are worth their weight in gold because they not only create an atmosphere of teamwork, they make sure all the moving parts are covered so the staff, speakers, attendees, and shareholders are all happy.
Does this sound like a unicorn? Well, maybe! But keep in mind that it boils down to both personality characteristics and acquired skills. If you’re a program manager, you likely have many of these down pat.
8 Characteristics of a Great Program Manager
The best program managers (whether they work for a large industry or a neighborhood garden club) have similar characteristics in common. They’re not perfect people, but they are smart people. They know their strengths and make sure that any area where they are weak is covered by another team member. Here’s what we have observed in some pretty amazing professionals over the years:
- They possess a calm demeanor. In the event industry, you can expect the unexpected to happen. Again and again. And if a program manager loses their head when something goes amiss, that trickles down to event staff and event-goers alike. Simply put, you can’t be a hothead and a successful program manager at the same time—your team won’t trust you and your event will suffer. Calm is the name of the game.
- They’re able to delegate. You cannot do everything yourself, so being able to delegate is imperative. If you tend to be controlling, keep that in mind as you deal with your staff, and remember—a little controlling can work in your favor, but micro-managing almost always backfires.
- They radiate good energy. You don’t really need to be the most extroverted person in the room, but your goal should be to maintain a friendly, professional, positive energy. People want to feel good working for and attending your event, so be that person that radiates all the feels.
- They keep “the big picture” in mind. It’s your job to understand the overall purpose and goal of the event and to do your best to ensure they are covered. If you tend to get bogged down in details, try to have someone on your staff or team that can help you stay on track. That’s what effective leaders do.
- They’re detail-oriented. And yes, you still have to be detail-oriented because as you know, there are many moving parts to a conference, an event, or a meeting! Don’t rely on your memory to keep things straight—use spreadsheets and Dropbox to keep track of paperwork, logistics, and other details.
- They’re organized. Disorganization has a way of derailing the best events, because when you’re disorganized, it’s only a matter of time before a ball is dropped. Find a management software you like (we use Monday.com), and if other team members are involved, make sure they are using the same management program you are. From speakers to finances to communication, it all needs to be tracked.
- They train their team well. You may have someone else in your organization who trains team members, but if it’s you, then take some time to develop roles and responsibilities of each person. Well-trained team members take the heat off of you and free you up to do your job. People working at the admission booth or table, for example, should be trained on what to do if someone loses their badge, wants their money back, asks about discounts, or has any other issue. If they’re not properly trained, they’ll simply call you.
- They communicate clearly. Effective communication is imperative for your team members, event speakers, and event attendees. You may not interface with every person at your organization’s event, but with those you do, have a goal to speak clearly and effectively, handle any issues that arise promptly, and express gratitude for jobs well done. When you need to give constructive criticism, do it in a way that helps the other person rather than tears them down.
Okay, did we miss one? What characteristics help you in your work as a program manager? And did any one of these hit a sore spot with you?