Why events audits are good for you!

It’s Monday morning, and you zone in on the killer words: ‘We’re going to be audited’. Your heart sinks. Your boss has said this calmly, but the fear is instantly there. There’s a little inward groan, or a little nervous laughter. Or both.


Why events audits are good for you!

You’re thinking: ‘Is my house in order’? (You’re also thinking: ‘Probably not’). And you know your boss won’t be happy when they find out.

You don’t know when the audit is taking place, or what they’re looking for… clearly, some late nights are ahead, in order to catch up!

In contrast, imagine if you heard the words ‘We’re going to be audited’, and you have a totally different reaction. More along the lines ‘Oh, OK. Well, we should be fine’. Not at all stressed or concerned about it.

It might even be an opportunity to show off your value as a fantastic events manager to your employer. You could use your glowing post-audit success to argue for a pay rise or a bonus. Or a promotion in title, or some other perk. Why not?

Let’s be honest, if you don’t have any issues raised by auditors, you look good; and your boss looks even better. We all know that’s important. Suddenly being audited doesn’t look so bad. It’s an opportunity, not (as I used to call it) ‘homework’!

Some tips on how to tackle the backlog:

  1. Track your progress. Create a ‘master’ spreadsheet listing all of your events for as long back as you think you need to go, date-wise.
  2. Make sure that you can filter it by month/year, and if there are more than one events manager in your team, by individual who looked after the event. This is your collective progress tracker.
  3. Add columns with the information required – e.g. what you think you need to capture as ‘done’ for audit. ‘Tick’ columns, if you like, so you can mark off what you’ve completed. [This may vary depending on your sector and company. For me, the list was: event sheet, event budget, guest list, guest list reconciliation, and post-event evaluation.]
  4. Tackle ‘the beast’ one line at a time. This is depressing at first, but it motivates you by the end!
  5. Start with the most recent events, and then work backwards. I promise, you’ll get it all done. You might even begin to realise how many events you actually organise in any given year. (Hint: more ammunition for speaking your boss about that pay rise!).

However, the key thing is to also add your future events. You need to change the way you think about them – from now on – in the same way. This isn’t just a backwards homework log. It’s a forward log as well. To avoid ‘backlog mountain’ you need to make this stuff part of your normal routine.

Next, you need to spend about six months being really strict with yourself. I mean really strict! With each new event, get the relevant paperwork in place that needs to be tackled, as soon as you start planning the event. For around three months, this will feel really peculiar (no wonder, as this is what wasn’t you weren’t doing before).

After a few months, you should be so used to it, that it’s not odd at all. You’ll wonder how you didn’t manage it before. Which means you’ve become more efficient and better at what you do. Hurrah! Good habits breed good habits. So, think of it as something that’s good for you. Event manager boot camp!

You may think this is totally it is unachievable. It’s all too easy to see completing what you see as pointless extra paperwork as a dull burden and basically as ‘homework’. Which you don’t have time to do. Why should you have to work late to catch up with this stuff? Or come in at the weekends to get it done? (Trust me, this is exactly what I used to think).

However, it is possible to change your bad habits. It requires some effort, but it’s all about a change in mindset. This is something that I have personally struggled with. At one point, I was so busy that my backlog mountain went back about three years! I spent a lot of time at the office on Sundays, and that’s never fun.

But the reality is that if you don’t see it as important, then you will put it off. And then… the backlog becomes a mountain. So you put off dealing with the mountain!

The shift for me was – in my head – changing the word ‘audit’ to ‘good practice’.

It’s good to have your paperwork in order and up-to-date as you go along. Think about it. We all agree that good practice or best practice is, well, a good idea – right?

We expect it in other spheres – medicine, construction, airlines, schools, retail and customer service, NGOs, charities and so on. But sometimes we don’t demand it of ourselves. We let ourselves off the hook too easily.

Adopting good practice enables you (as an individual or as a team) – crucially, as you go along – to have key processes in place that make you work better and more efficiently. And that can’t be bad.

This stuff shouldn’t be an afterthought, you should see it as a tool to help you plan and forecast for your events. So maybe it’s time to get things started. For me, making this mental shift made all the difference. It went something like this:

Of course I want to be great at what I do, and… of course I want to keep improving. Keeping your records and paperwork up-to-date is one part of the process to events success. All of sudden, I’m in. I’m a somewhat unlikely audit convert! So maybe it’s time to change your own thinking.

Don’t be completely fooled though. I will still, always, be just a little bit afraid of auditors. I am human, after all!

So, why not start with the event you’re working on right now. No time like the present. Event evaluation, anyone?

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