Many businesses, especially smaller-scale ones, don’t have a dedicated event planner and/or manager. It takes a lot of patience and organizational skills, not to mention charm, to put together an event, and not everyone has these traits. This is why event planning is a fast-booming industry that contributes 115 billion (yes, BILLION) dollars to the national GDP.
However, there are times when hiring an event planner is not in the books; for example, you have a limited budget that can be allocated to other more critical expenses like talent fees or venue rental. And even if you’ve hired an event planner, that doesn’t mean you should leave everything in their hands. It’s important to check in from time to time and provide inputs and comments, if only to make sure that everything goes according to plan.
Here are some tips that will help you successfully organize an event, whether or not you’ve done one before.
Begin Planning as Early as You Can
The bigger your event, the longer you need to organize it. Ideally, you should allocate around six months to prepare. This includes searching for the venue, talking and negotiating with clients and sponsors, smoothing over details with your suppliers, and promoting the event. The latter is especially important if you’re organizing a maiden event. This stage is also where you should determine your budget and how much you’re willing to spend on each aspect.
For those who don’t have a lot of experience yet, you can use the original marketing mix, also called the 4 Ps, developed by E. Jerome McCarthy so you have a clear basis for your decisions. These four Ps are product, price, place, and promotion. The modified marketing mix includes three more Ps on top of the original: physical evidence, people, and process.
Think Like a Participant
A good way to make sure that your attendees enjoy the most out of your event is to think like them. Upon arrival at the venue, what happens next? Are they free to explore the booths and exhibits, and mingle with their fellow participants? Where can they get their food and drinks (if you don’t have a catered event or food concessionaires inside the venue)? Where are the toilets? Will there be assigned lockers or other baggage facilities? What about access for the disabled? These are only a few of the considerations you should take note of in order to provide the best possible experience for your attendees.
Another thing you should definitely think about are the giveaways. It may seem a little superficial, but little tokens for your guests, even things as simple as customized silicone wristbands, are practically an expected part of any kind of event nowadays. But apart from serving as small thank-you gifts, these giveaways can also act as promotional materials for your company and your next event.
Consider practical giveaways that can serve multiple purposes both during and after the event, like personalized lanyards that can be reused by the participants as keyrings, gadget holders, and more. Lapel pins customized with your event’s logo are also a good idea, especially since these stylish clothing accessories are also popular collectibles.
Make Sure Things are Clear
Things can get lost in translation with all the back-and-forth discussions between you (or your event planner) and your clients, sponsors, and partners. Even your own staff might interpret instructions differently, so make sure you discuss everything completely on both ends to prevent any misunderstandings and misplaced expectations.
Face-to-face meetings are ideal since you can discuss everything in detail and clarify everything on the spot, but they can be time-consuming and aren’t practical if you’re going to conduct hold one every few days. Reserve these for the initial and final discussions, and allot a day or two midway through the process to monitor the progression of the planning. Otherwise, you can conduct follow ups through phone calls and emails. Remember to keep a meeting minutes document and send a copy to every attendee when you conduct a personal meeting; phone conversations should also be summarized and sent in an email for reference.
There will be a LOT of changes before everything is finalized for your event, including and especially the costs, so you have to be patient and flexible. Don’t be shy to negotiate for lower prices, especially if you have a limited budget. Just do it within reason and don’t be too much of a cheapskate. Be aware of the average rates for services such as photography, food catering, and the like so you know how low you can haggle.
The money you save in some of the items in your events checklist may then be allocated to others — your contingency budget is a good candidate. If you end up not using your savings, then all the better. You can carry the amount over to your next event or even treat your team to a small post-event celebration.
Have a Plan B… And So On
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an event that was pulled off without an issue. You might experience technical difficulties in the middle of Q&A portion, or maybe one of your VIPs is running late. Since you never know when things could go wrong, it’s best to have a backup plan for the most important parts of your event. You should also rank these items in terms of importance, so that you know which one to handle first If multiple issues arise at the same time.
Coordinate Your Promotional Efforts
For your event to be well-attended, your promotional efforts should we well-coordinated. Overselling is a good problem to have, but may not be ideal depending on the size venue and other agreements with your suppliers like food caterers. Underselling, on the other hand, means you may not be able to deliver on your agreements with your clients and partners, on top of the fact that the event may end up losing your company money.
Keep in mind the number of seats or the crowd capacity of your venue, your per-head budget, and specific arrangements with your suppliers and partners, then set realistic goals based on these details.
Use Online Resources
When planning and managing an event, everyone involved should be on the same page no matter if you have just started calling potential suppliers or only have one more week to go before launch. Luckily, technology makes this aspect of event planning a lot smoother. From messaging apps to keep everyone informed of the latest developments in real time, to promotional tools like Eventbrite, to collaborative documents (even if it’s just a simple Google Sheet) that can help each point person to monitor their progress and craft a milestone chart, there is no shortage of online tools that will make event planning a breeze.
Bring it Online
Take advantage of the power of social media. Create a hashtag for your event to create some buzz around it before you even start selling tickets. Not only will this work as an extra (and virtually free) method of promotion, bringing your event online will make it a more seamless experience especially when people start sharing their experiences on-ground. The photos that the attendees will post (and your own social media team) online may end up convincing those who were not able to participate to join you the next time around.
Take a Lot of Photos
Speaking of posting photos, you should definitely consider hiring a professional photographer and videographer to capture some of the best moments during your event. These pictures and videos will serve the double purpose of documentation and promotion for your succeeding projects.
What’s more, hiring the professionals means one less thing to worry about during the event day/s. Just remember to choose those with enough experience covering your type of event. Some photographers and videographers may be well-versed in covering weddings and parties but may not be familiar with the workings of a gaming convention, for example. It’s also a good idea to provide a shot list, especially if your partners have some specific requirements as stated in your contract.
Conduct a Closing Survey
It’s good to know what the attendees liked about the event so that you can keep on doing it and improving on it for the next event. However, and more importantly, it’s also good to know what they didn’t like so that you know what not to do in the future.
Closing surveys usually come in the form of rating scale questions about the various aspects of the event, such as the speakers, food, venue, and the like. Make the questions clear and straight to the point so you won’t get misleading results. To make participants more willing to answer the survey, you can give an additional token of thanks to those who will complete it.
Planning an event is a challenging task, even for people who make it their living, since you have to deal with a lot of variables every single time. However, these simple tips can help make the job a little bit easier, whether you’re a newbie or an old hand.
Are you ready to plan your next event?