There were plenty of lessons learnt throughout the process, and part of the plan for the next exhibition has been a full and detailed evaluation and debrief of it. Here are a few that stood out for me as the most transposable:
1. Aim big - Plan for a bigger response than you expect.
Both of us had been part of larger projects in the past, with certain expectations and ambitions for the project but was unprepared for the bulk of entries we received almost immediately. Storing data effectively and tracking incoming messages was an area that we didn't expect to be tested in as much. Though we quickly remedied it, it added an unnecessary stress and distracted us during a period when we could have spent more time promoting the show. Create a decent administrative infrastructure and utilise all tools available to you (Google Sheets and Excel, though unglamorous, are absolute lifesavers) but also, creating and following a process to store data can seem like overkill initially but opens plenty of opportunities down the line with just time management just one (though not the main) advantage we found once we were more organised.
2. Ensure you are being smart with your time.
An obvious one, but writing 25 individual email responses a day is both exhausting and unnecessary. There were a few examples of this but the most obvious piece of advice I can give is to remember that though it is good to be polite, every single 10 minute email adds up. Our automated email we answered every single question we could think of - but realised that people a) didn't read the emails properly or b) had legitimate FAQs that we didn't include in the original email. In both cases we spent too much time at the beginning of the process answering them individually, rather than sending a single email answering FAQs. Later on in the project, "smaller" pieces of work like picking up food and drink dropped down in priority due to the amount we were doing, but still result in consuming at least 3 hours of work if done properly (as well as more out of your budget the later you leave it!)
3. Track everything and evaluate your process.
Probably the most important lesson from the project: everything that you do should be tracked effectively. Whether this be budget, time spent, order of process, incoming artwork, outgoing artwork, packaging (honestly, you wouldn't believe the amount of time we saved by labelling the packaging upon reception of the artwork). By having a full debrief at the end we realised that we spent budget unnecessarily in places, and have made edits to our process going forward to deliver exibitions more effectively going forward. Being effective with your time means more time to relax and get on with your life too. Which brings me too...
4. Have fun and keep healthy.
Honestly, doing projects like this are time consuming, stressful and can be really bad for your health. I got to a point that I was so stressed two weeks before the opening night that I was drinking more than I should and had stopped cycling to work because I was so tired. It was only once I realised that I was doing this and started running, cycling, cooking and playing guitar again, that I felt good about the project. This lull lasted for 4 days, but it was also the worst point of the project. This last point sounds obvious, but it's one that I think too many people forget.
I hope this has been helpful for you all and would love to hear your feedback. I am available for more project management and marketing work, and can be reached anytime on email@example.com.