Nailed It! How We Used Wrike to Plan Our First User Conference

On October 1 of this year, we pulled off our biggest collaborative project ever, our first annual user conference! We named it Collaborate, and it involved 59 Wrikers across 2 continents and in 3 countries, planning 29 sessions, with 34 speakers, 302 attendees, 4 sponsors, 6 vendors, and 609 tasks. A lot can go wrong with all those moving parts, but we’re happy to report it was a smashing success!

Out of all the feedback we received, the most common question was: “How did you manage to pull this off?”

We invited our Director of Events, Trish King, to share some insights on how we planned and executed this incredible event.

How we used Wrike to plan the Collaborate user conference

1. We broke down the project into manageable phases.

From the big stuff like selecting the event venue down to the millions of tiny day-of details, an event of this magnitude requires thousands of moving parts to align. The checklist of tasks gets even harder to manage as you involve multiple offices, vendors, speakers, and sponsors. To help us manage the chaos, we broke up our plan into 4 phases:

  • Proposing - During this stage, we tackle some of the big decisions that would impact the rest of the event. Writing event and talk themes, building a list of potential speakers, and opening up purchase reqs are some of the big picture tasks we take on during this first phase.
  • Pre-event - At this point, we start getting into the nitty-gritty and executing on critical event details. Selecting speakers, ordering things like carpeting, lights, and food, and booking travel for everyone involved are a few of the mission-critical tasks we accomplish here.
  • On-site event - While the event is in progress, we’re laser-focused on ensuring everything is running as smoothly as possible. Details matter, and the all the work we’ve done before this point can all be for naught if we can’t execute efficiently. During the show, we’re running around checking in on the tiniest details, including coordination of speakers and sessions, registration, and ensuring the coffee and lunch breaks are starting on time.
  • Post-event - Our work doesn’t stop once the event is over. We get right to work analyzing how we performed to look for ways we can improve before the next event. During this last phase, we compile attendance reports, review all spending against the budget, and calculate the event’s ROI.

Collaborate required the collaboration of multiple teams at Wrike spread across multiple offices. To help each team deliver on their part of the project, we created folders within each of these phases filled with tasks assigned to that team. This helped each team manage the event as their own separate projects. “Every team knew exactly what deliverables they were accountable for,” says Trish King, our Director of Events.

Additionally, each team could view the project in their own preferred Wrike view. The design team loved using the Board view to see the status of each piece of creative. Our content team used the List view to keep track of the dozens of slide presentations we had to review. The event marketing team used both the Table view to quickly get a grasp of how things were progressing and the File view to conveniently check the status of the banners, images, brochures and other assets. Each view in Wrike caters to specific work styles and objectives, allowing teams to tailor the tool to their needs without having to manage data in multiple sources.

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“Every team knew exactly what deliverables they were accountable for.” -- Trish King

2. We used Wrike as our single source of truth

Visibility and accessibility are incredibly important for a smooth event. As information comes pouring in through IM chats, emails, Google docs, and hallway conversations, critical event details sometimes slip through the cracks. Additionally, it’s essential to be able to both zoom out to the birds-eye view and quickly dive into the weeds when necessary.

Wrike was our single source of truth. Every conversation, request, and assignment was put into the system, giving everyone involved one place to see and access everything they needed. This cut down on confusion and freed us from time-sucking back and forth. A simple task like ensuring everyone has T-shirts to wear to the event can easily take hours when you have to get sizing and follow up with a team of 40+ people. But with Wrike, all we needed to do was create a task and assign it to the team using simple checkboxes. From there, we could see at a glance who had and hadn’t followed up without having to track them down. It was visible to the whole team, and peer pressure helped ensure everything got done! This simple method saved us countless hours managing flights and hotel check-in and check-out dates for the team.

Custom forms make this even easier. Details can be configured in advance so all people have to do is select the correct options (shirt sizes, preferred airlines, hotel dates, etc.) and all the essential data is collected and formatted automatically. “Managing these kinds of details is a pain using spreadsheets,” explains King. “Ensuring everyone is filling out the spreadsheet properly and using the latest version of the files can be a nightmare. It’s hard to know if everything has been completed and updated as well. Spreadsheets don't remind you what you need to do, Wrike does.”

Keeping people up-to-date is a breeze with Wrike. Team members could subscribe to any tasks they wanted so time wasn’t wasted following up and keeping people informed of changes.

Wrike was also our document repository. All invoices, releases, contracts, and receipts were kept in Wrike. With everything in one convenient place, people don’t get stuck trying to hunt down essential documents or get roadblocked if the keeper of that document is out of the office.

“Spreadsheets don't remind you of what you need to do, Wrike does” -- Trish King

3. We had productive meetings

In-person meetings are a critical way to get everyone in alignment, answer questions, and announce updates. But long or unproductive meetings can waste time, slow progress, and even add to the confusion if not handled properly. Wrike helps us eliminate the need for a lot of meetings, and for the ones that remain, it makes them more purposeful and effective.

All of our Collaborate meetings were recorded in Zoom, and the video recording was attached directly to the task. “With video recordings of every meeting stored in Wrike, everyone could stay up to date and benefit from the meetings whether they were able to attend or not,” says King.

The agenda for each meeting was kept in Wrike, giving everyone ample time to come with thoughts, questions, or ideas. As new team members were brought onboard to the project, time spent getting them up to speed was minimal because they could see how the conversation and work had progressed in Wrike.

“With video recordings of every meeting stored in Wrike, everyone could stay up to date and benefit from the meetings whether they were able to attend or not.” -- Trish King

4. We held people accountable to the process

Accountability is hard to enforce and even harder to measure. It’s a struggle to notify assignees when task deadlines are approaching, coordinate with vendors and speakers, follow up on design requests, and meet submission dates. Wrike helped keep everyone clear on what was expected of them and reminded us of important dates and deadlines.

“Every detail was stored in Wrike and available to everyone, on any device. No one could say they didn’t know or that they didn’t receive something,” explains King. Using Wrike, we had true accountability and follow-through.

Sticking to this strict template not only helped make this event a success but will now make it easier to plan our next event, or even have someone else from the team pick up and plan an event if needed. It’s critical to clearly define the process as soon as possible and hold everyone to it to reap these benefits.

“Every detail was stored in Wrike and available to everyone, on any device. No one could say they didn’t know or that they didn’t receive something.” -- Trish King

It’s All in the Details

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Events are complicated things requiring the alignment of multiple people, teams, and resources. Collaborate required the successful completion of thousands of tasks by hundreds of collaborators. Any ball dropped had the potential to undermine the hard work we put into the event. Fortunately for us, even the tiniest details were executed beautifully, enhancing the experience for all of our guests. We received overwhelming feedback about how well run the event was from our attendees, guest speakers, sponsors, and vendors.

Wrike does not replace a strong vision, hard work, and follow-through, but it eliminates much of the needless back and forth that wastes time and causes confusion. Successful events are all about nailing even the smallest of details, and we’re proud to say Wrike helped us do just that. If you’d like to replicate our process, we’ve created a brand-new event management template you can use to pull off a successful event of your own. Get started with our new Event Management template in Wrike for free.

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