Getting people together for a great event requires more than just invitations, a gourmet menu, and a venue. Event planning has evolved into a more robust organizational and strategic model over the years.
Event planning is a huge undertaking whether it is a small meeting or a large conference. The early consideration of many factors will help alleviate stress during the whole process. From setting a budget to promoting your event, there are a number of components to take into account early on.
To that end, here are ten event planning tips that are sure to make any event planner wow their clients. They’ll help jump-start the event planning process, stay organized, and maximize your event’s success.
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1. Identify your event goals
Start by writing down your goals on a blank sheet of paper. You will gain clarity over the entire process if you jot down your objectives. This stage also calls for an understanding of past events. The following is a crucial question you should be able to find an answer to;
- What is the purpose of the event?
Is it for product promotion, knowledge sharing, fundraising, show gratitude to customers/stakeholders, etc?
The answer will affect the format of the event and shape the concept, timing, duration, role distribution of teams, venue, catering, and sound.
Don’t force yourself to go with conventional formats when planning the event, be flexible. Consider unconferences, open-air events, virtual events, and many more. Ultimately, your format should help reach your event’s objective.
2. Start the planning process early
Start planning right away. A large event should begin planning at least four to six months before it takes place. Plan smaller events at least a month in advance. You should also complete vendor contracts a few weeks before your event in order to avoid any potential headaches.
During the event planning process, many things are likely to change. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hosting a networking event, a sales presentation, or a client presentation. Create your initial plan and also create a backup plan.
3. Leverage technology
There are many software tools that make event planning seamless. They can help with common tasks like delegate registration, hotel booking, travel booking, signing vendor contracts, or allocation of exhibition space. Examples include Eventbrite, Trello, and Whova, amongst others.
Apps for events have become popular in recent years. You can send alerts, notifications, and push messages to participants to build anticipation before the event. You can also collect participants’/clients feedback by using the app to administer a survey. Participants can engage with one another, with sponsors, and with the organizers using some event apps that offer networking functionality.
4. Budget for unexpected circumstances
While it is important to incorporate the main task list into your budget, prepare for unforeseen situations. For instance, when planning an open-air luncheon during the summer, make provision for temporary shelters should it get too sunny (or in case it rains). It is better to consider such matters in advance and be prepared financially.
Factoring a backup location into the budget is also important. There’s always the possibility that, at the last minute, the air conditioning won’t work properly in the hall, the disabled toilets won’t be accessible or the equipment won’t fit through the door. To avoid such issues, keep a little extra in your budget.
5. Offer a complimentary Service/Activity
While it may look like going overboard for some, it could end up being great PR. Add an item to the list of activities that were not paid for or anticipated. For example, a lemonade/fresh juice stand while attendees/guests are on recess or a shoe shining service free of charge.
This leaves a great lasting impression on your clients. Offering a complimentary service is also giving the “little extras”. You are intentional about creating an unforgettable experience when you include these add-ons.
6. Run through the steps
Perform a walk-through of the whole event process about two weeks before the event begins. Meet with your team and mentally go through everything, from initial implementation to follow-up. There is often time to correct complications raised at these meetings. A day before the event, conduct another run-through in the venue.
Run-throughs are vital to event planning. When you conduct a run-through you are mentally recreating the event before it happens. Below are a few things to do during a run-through;
- Check through all the technicals/pieces of equipment. Make sure they are in good working condition e.g musical instruments, microphones, speakers, projectors, lighting, etc.
- Do a rehearsal with your clients (if applicable). For example a wedding ceremony, you might want to do a dry run with the bridal train.
- Do a practice run with your team on the table arrangements and guest sitting positions as well as reconfirm the menu with the caterer. Where there is a Master of ceremony not from your organization, have him/her do a dress rehearsal.
In so doing you can envisage any challenge to at least 90% and plan against identified lapses.
7. Promote the event to your target audience
A successful event promotion requires a lot of time. Your marketing strategy is determined by your event type, target audience, internal resources, and budget. When selecting your media partners, choose those who will reach your target audience. It is better to invite specific partners rather than inviting everyone. Additionally, all channels will need to promote one core message.
Of course, there can be variations to the message but the overall meaning should be consistent. For example, if you have an event for young families and want to appeal to mothers and fathers, you’d use a different language for each of them.
Getting online before, during, and after the event is also a great way to promote your event. You can utilize some of these online marketing strategies;
- Create a hashtag for the event and encourage sharing as well ( you can add a giveaway for retweets like free tickets for the first 20 retweets)
- Use email marketing to promote the event to your target audience.
- Rebrand your social media handles to reflect the event.
- Engage in influencer marketing on all your active social media platforms.
8. Ensure excellent service delivery
Insist that your team treats participants, speakers, and partners with respect. Meet their expectations and address their problems, even if you are exhausted and things don’t go according to plan. Most people’s memories are shaped by how they were treated and the atmosphere, not by what was said.
Think of everything down to the smallest detail when planning the event. How they register, what music will be played, whether there will be an interesting photo corner, how presentations look, and what service will be provided during breaks. Exceed people’s expectations with the most ordinary things, and create the WOW effect. An event’s atmosphere is molded by this.
With that being said, don’t give your staff a rigid set of rules and try to predict how people will behave in every situation. People are unpredictable. Instead, give them a series of loose guidelines they can follow.
9. Engage in negotiations
Many vendors will not tell you this, but (almost) everything is negotiable. Remember that unforeseen costs may occur with every event, so negotiate as low a price as possible.
Set your budget before meeting with vendors, and offer 5-10% less than this range. Despite their pushback, your vendor wants to earn your business. This will earn you extra cash for other things and boost your client’s loyalty to your event planning outfit.
10. Request for feedback
When an event is over, many organizers are tempted to take a break. It’s imperative that after an event, whether via email or social media, you follow up with attendees to demonstrate the event was successful. Your state of exhaustion and happiness after the event may make it difficult for you to evaluate all the events objectively.
That is why you should have participants fill out a form at the end of the event or online once they get home. Ask them to rate events in various aspects: logistics, guest speakers, venues, and the work of organizers. You will be able to improve your events in the future by using the information provided here.
At the end of an event, take video reviews or receive feedback through social networks. When you host the event again, this will come in handy. Gathering event data will help you come up with an effective strategy and work toward improving your results consistently.
Event planning success depends on being able to prioritize and focus on each task without getting distracted by other things or getting overwhelmed by the vast array of details.
A successful event is one that is well planned. Getting a head start means a smooth(er) outcome.
As you look forward to your next bridal shower or an annual general meeting, be sure to take into account the above tips. Event planning is varied and part of the fun is adding your own unique spin to it. These tips are just that – tips – use them well and you’ll see how they can positively impact your success.