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5 Reasons Why Having Connections Isn’t Enough for Successful Public Relations

connection fail

Let me let you in on a dirty little secret. Sure, I’ve built up a good book of business and take my networking seriously, but I’m not even close to knowing every reporter on a first name basis – nor do I feel inadequate for this (cue gasps of PR professionals everywhere).

Now I’m not saying that having connections doesn’t mean anything, I’m just saying that it doesn’t mean everything. In fact, a lack of connections is the one thing you can compensate for with a solid strategy, on-point content and polished presence. The other way around? Not so much.

You know that old adage “It’s not about what you know, but who you know”? Well, I’d like to dispel this myth once and for all with five compelling reasons why having connections isn’t enough for successful public relations. Humor me, will you?

  1. Your story still has to be newsworthy

You might rub elbows, share jokes and sip coffee with a good variety of local reporters; however, if you expect them to repeatedly publish non-newsworthy stories as a favor, you will quickly drain that well dry. Everyone answers to someone and even their best attempts to sneak in your promotions will be vetted out by a check and balance somewhere in the hierarchy. Besides, it won’t do anything for preserving their reputation as a respectable reporter.

  1. You need to understand the outlets and what they are looking for

Continuing to pitch a variety of clients’ stories to the same outlet where you have your connection is putting on blinders to all other outlets that may be far better suited for a particular topic. People who rely too heavily on their connections often push clients to use that outlet, yet it’s not always in the best interest of the client. A lack of such connections leaves you with the unbiased freedom to pursue outlets solely on their reach and relevancy.

  1. It takes strategy to select the right angle

As I mentioned above, even the best connections won’t make up for the lack of a story’s newsworthiness. So often what makes a story newsworthy is the angle you take when writing it. This requires a good understanding of what makes the media tick and a strategic mind to align that with how you pitch your story. Simply writing the facts, even if free of any grammatical errors, is not enough to make it to the front page.

As far as having connections, even your own uncle or brother who works for the Wall Street Journal will need to decline an article that is overly promotional or self-serving. The ability to select the angle that will grab a reporter’s (and readers’) attention is worth so much more.

  1. Your content needs to be polished

You may have fostered some pretty solid connections in the local market; however, if you continue to provide them with crap writing, you can expect your emails to start getting “lost” in their inbox. The best connections will not outlast press releases and articles that are strewn together haphazardly and laced with elementary grammatical errors. A knack for creating captivating content and an eye for catching spelling and grammar mistakes is worth far more than the ability to name drop. Before you place any more emphasis on stalking reporters, first dedicate your time to polishing your basic writing skills.

  1. Connections can come and go

Finally, if your entire public relations strategy is built around your media and business connections, you are playing a dangerous game. Connections, as with any relationship, come and go fluidly. Even when you dedicate great amounts of time and energy to fostering them, it takes two to keep a relationship going and a connection or two may decide they need some space. If this should happen and you don’t have quality communication skills to lean on, you will most certainly fall down.

What additional skills or strategies have you found to be more effective than simply relying upon personal connections? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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#YOUREDOINGITWRONG: 7 Common Hashtag Mistakes

hashtagabuse

It’s taken the social media world by storm and nearly every platform has found a way to make it relevant to the way people share and archive content. It’s the #hashtag. This crooked looking game of tic-tac-toe no longer means “number sign” in modern society. Rather, it’s better known as the powerful symbol that turns ordinary text into a hyperlinked portal to a galaxy of content shared around the world on that exact topic.

And just as we have with nearly every other aspect of social media, we have found quite a few ways to royally mess up the use of this tool. Here are seven common ways people are abusing the hashtag way more than they should.

1. It contains a spelling error

Hashtags are very specific. What you type in is what you get.  Unlike a Google search that will offer you a courteous suggestion of “Did you mean…?” hashtags don’t spell check, research or interpret what you type. By design, this is what allows every hashtag to be so unique and to represent exactly what you want to say. This also provides the perfect storm for spelling errors to render an otherwise powerful hashtag completely useless.

Let’s look an example. The very popular #iloveyou has more than 18 million posts on Instagram (at the time of writing this blog). Using this hashtag will get your picture seen by any of the millions of users who would stumble upon this mega-tag by the second. However, one slip of the thumb might cause you to tag #iloevyou which places your content in the ranks of just 45 other posts, earning you hardly any views. Proofread before publishing just as you would anything else! Never rely on auto-correct, which really seems to hate the formatting of hashtags.

This major hashtag fail may not be the direct result of a spelling error, but it is the result of someone not proofreading before publishing…and anticipating how awkwardly this phrase would read when smooshed into a hashtag.

hashtag fail

2. It is too long or too specific that there’s simply no chance anyone else will ever use (or see) it

Let’s take for example a hashtag like #icantwaitforkathysbirthdaypartyintoronto. I didn’t search it on Instagram, but I don’t feel like I have to. Hashtagging the alphabet backwards will have more posts than this. The example I gave is of a post that is both too long and too specific. Only in very isolated instances is hashtagging a whole sentence acceptable (or part of a good strategy). Instead, the post could have been written as “I can’t wait for #kathys27thbirthday in #Toronto!” Toronto is a far more powerful hashtag. And Kathy’s birthday-specific hashtag could become the designated tag for the party and where your whole group of friends collect photos in one place.

3. It is the “off version” of a more popular term

Holidays are among the biggest offenders of this common mistake. Let’s take for example the Fourth of July. Should you use #fourthofjuly or #4thofjuly or #july4th or #julyfourth or ditch the date and go with #independenceday? Don’t even venture down the path of throwing the year in there or your mind will explode with uncertainty!

The truth is none of these options are “wrong” per se. They were all used to tag posts related to the holiday and each earned some pretty hefty numbers. If your goal is to tag the fastest trending term, then do your research! Scan the different options and compare numbers. Another strategy is to simply go with what you like best, but make sure to be consistent and use this exact term across all your related posts.

4. It simply makes no sense

Sometimes it’s the result of a spelling error, sometimes it’s the result of not understanding hashtags and sometimes it’s the result of not understanding the English language. No matter the reason, if your hashtag makes absolutely no sense, you can bet that no one else (unless by sheer mistake) will choose to use this same tag and your post will never gain exposure beyond your own, isolated network. Again, do your research on whether your tag already exists, whether there’s a more trendy option and always proofread before publishing!

5. It is separated by spaces or apostrophes

For as much as I love to see grammatically correct social media posts, hashtags are one of the few times where you need to throw your spaces, commas, hyphens and apostrophes aside.  Here’s why. The hashtag #you’remybestfriend will be broken as soon as it hits the contraction. #You is a strong hashtag, but it’s missing the more relevant hashtag you’re really after here. In this case, you want to write #youremybestfriend, cringe and hit publish. Additionally, posting “# flowers are beautiful” won’t do anything – at all. Things need to get up close and personal for the hashtag to work. That’s right, the words will touch. Same goes for you hyphens and commas! Write #set-up as #setup and #this,thatandtheotherthing as #thisthatandtheotherthing.

6. It is one of 20+ hashtags you’re using in a single post

If the caption under your photo looks like a paragraph of blue links, you are drowning your followers in a sea of hashtags. Worse yet, you’re risking looking as spammy and desperate as those phishing emails from that Nigerian Prince who is still asking me to wire him large sums of money! More is not always better. There is a point of diminishing returns for hashtags. While this strategy will increase the different ways the social media platform shares your content, to us living, breathing humans it will simply look like you care more about being seen than what you’re really saying. Limit your hashtags to (gasp) 5-7 meaningful and relevant tags. We all thank you in advance.

7. It is used inconsistently

Using existing popular hashtags is a great way to promote your content to a broader, more public audience than your own social network. Another strategic way to use hashtags is to create your own as an organized landing spot for all of the content that relates back to your brand. Best of all, other people can contribute to this “file folder” of content by using the same hashtag. This is exactly what these platforms were intended to promote – a social and interactive online environment.

So where does it go wrong? When you use this hashtag inconsistently. Hashtags are, after all, a communications strategy. Just as you (hopefully) know you must remain consistent in your other marketing and public relations efforts, you must also remain consistent in using this phrase with every piece of relevant content you post. Make it a destination to which people want to travel – and stay a while. This requires quality content that is updated frequently.

Now that you’ve learned the most common ways people are abusing this powerful social media tool, I hope you’ll go out and utilize the almighty hashtag with confidence and creativity. #goodluck!

What are some of the most egregious mistakes you’ve seen when using hashtags? Share your funny (and helpful) examples by commenting below (pet peeves are welcome)!

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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Life Lesson: 5 Ways to be Your Own Advocate

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Throughout my life, I’ve learned a time or two – the hard way – that no one else is going to seize opportunities for you or voice your opinion. You must be your own advocate.

My most vivid memory of this life lesson was on the campaign trail in my former career. Our candidate was elected and the celebrations were coming to a close. Yet, one big question remained. What do I do next? Do I have a job? We were promised that, yes, we would all be placed somewhere within the new administration; however, days then weeks passed without any senior staff members sitting down with me to discuss my future.

It wasn’t until I started asking some of my peers that I found out that job conversations WERE taking place – for those who were bold enough to wait outside the office door and track down senior staff to MAKE them have this conversation. The people that controlled my fate were beyond busy and weren’t going to make time for me unless I demanded it. I had to become my own advocate if I wanted that job I was promised.

Things worked out. I was finally given the attention I demanded and got the job (I thought) I wanted. While I didn’t stay in this role long, it was a necessary turning point in my career and in my life. I was slapped in the face with the reality that if I didn’t muster up the courage to seize my own opportunities, they were surely going to pass me by.

I want to now share with you some of my hard-learned lessons on ways you can become your own advocate and seize life’s many opportunities – before someone else does.

  1. Build your personal brand

If you’re committed to becoming your own advocate, you must work to build your personal brand just as a publicist does for celebrities. This doesn’t mean securing guest appearances on the Today Show, but it does mean creating a valuable set of skills and qualities that can be marketed to potential clients or employers. Here is a great starter guide to help point you in the right direction. A strong personal brand is a valuable asset and wise investment of your time because it follows you wherever life may lead.

  1. Network internally and externally

For some reason we think of networking as only taking place at socials and mixers where everyone is wearing a stick-on name tag and shoving business cards down each other’s throats. This isn’t reality – and hardly even “networking” in its truest sense. Be aware of opportunities to network internally as well as externally.

No matter your current job, there is a valuable opportunity to build relationships with (and impress) your peers and higher-ups. This is an obvious opportunity if you want to move up within your own company, but it’s also valuable if you want to move on. You never know who other people know and the more people that can recommend your work, the more opportunities you will have at your finger tips.

  1. Actively seek opportunities

Life will rarely ever spoon feed you your next big break. You need to be out in the field – everyday – hunting down opportunities. The people I know who are their own best advocates are the people who get aggressive about knowing all the opportunities that are available to them at any time. They may not be in search of a new job, but they still keep their ear to the ground for anything interesting going on. By the time you realize you’re ready for a career change, you’re already behind the curve. Stay connected on social media, inquire within companies that interest you and keep an open conversation with your peers – who should also be on the hunt!

  1. Stay educated

I can’t stress enough the importance of becoming a lifelong learner. This makes you well-rounded, knowledgeable and interesting. It also keeps your eyes and ears wide open to an array of opportunities that people who are less informed would overlook. Staying well educated is like staying in shape. If you should be presented with the opportunity to run a 5k – or interview for a job – you are fit to jump right in with far less preparation and training than those who do not “stay in shape.”

  1. The right time is always now

Finally, develop a sense of urgency in your life. As your own advocate you cannot become complacent. This is one instance in life where patience will not serve you well. You cannot afford to wait around for the next opportunity to present itself; otherwise you will risk falling into the trap of waiting around forever. Opportunities are always around us. While not every opportunity is a large stepping stone to our dream career, those tiny pebbles do stack up. Get excited, get motivated and become urgent about your need to advocate for your best interests.

What are some ways in which you could benefit from being your own advocate? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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7 Ways to Effectively Manage Busy People

busy people

Whether it’s a client, a boss, a friend or a spouse, we all have those one or two extremely busy people in our lives. I’m not talking about the “busy bodies,” but the truly busy, nose-to-the-grind-stone people who are booked almost all day every day with important tasks.

While their exhausting schedules challenge them, they also challenge us with how we can break through the noise to communicate with them. The good news is that it’s not completely impossible to get timely responses from these people. It simply takes managing them in a different way. Here are seven ways to help you effectively manage busy people and their busy schedules.

  1. Use clear and concise messaging

Getting answers from a busy person can be like pulling teeth. Even if they get the time to read your email or listen to your voicemail, they’re usually called away to the next task before they can provide you with the information you need.

Reduce the friction of this process by using clear and concise messaging. Your emails should be brief, to the point and should highlight exactly what you’re asking of them. Dates, times and location should also be bolded or underlined so they pop out. By cutting to the chase, you save them the time of reading through paragraphs to get to the point and increase the chance they’ll have enough time left over to shoot you a quick reply.

  1. Consolidate the number of messages you send

There may be times where you need 3 or 4 things from a busy person in a single day. This most commonly happens when it’s one of my clients. Rather than shooting off an email every time I have a question, I keep a running list for that day (or that week) and several hours before close of business, I consolidate these requests into a single, clear and concise message.

Think of it this way, the more messages you throw into an already inundated inbox makes it even less likely that you’ll hear back from them that day, week…or ever. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  1. Schedule meetings far in advance – and confirm them

Finding a tiny time slot on a busy person’s calendar can create a game of email or phone tag that just never ends. For my busiest clients, we scheduled our reoccurring meetings for the quarter or even half of the year all at once. This got the meetings on both of our calendars nice and early and allowed us to plan around those dates. Expecting to find an open time in a busy person’s calendar just one week in advance is like walking in to the most exclusive salon in town and asking for an appointment that day. Maybe you’ll get lucky, but it’s far more likely you’ll get asked to come in 10 weeks.

Additionally, once you have these meetings set far in advance, be sure and follow-up several days before the meeting is set to take place. It’s likely the busy person has long since forgotten about this obligation. If they don’t have a secretary (or reliable calendar reminders) there is a good chance that you’ll get stood up.

  1. Provide briefings prior to events

For some of my busy clients, I schedule them to attend events such as fundraisers, public appearances, speaking engagements or media events as part of our communications and branding strategy. In these scenarios, it is also my responsibility to adequately prepare them for such events with details like directions, what to wear, other dignitaries in attendance, how long they’ll be speaking and what topics they should cover.

I place all of these details in a single-page template that serves as an event briefing and send them several days in advance to prepare my clients in mere minutes for the event. They love the efficiency of this process and the depth of the details I provide. As a busy person, your life is a whirlwind. If you can help them to feel more prepared and organized, you will quickly make a good impression.

  1. Anticipate their needs and questions and address them before they have to ask

When communicating with a busy person, you should strive to answer all of their questions before they have to ask. This eliminates back and forth communication that can drag on for days – even weeks.

For example, when setting up a meeting, don’t simply email them with “Can we schedule a time to meet?” This question produces so many more questions. Instead, be as descriptive (yet concise) as possible. Include why you want to meet and approximately how much time you’re asking of them. Also propose several dates, times and locations from which they may choose. This allows them to confirm all of these details for you within a single response, rather than through an unreasonably long email chain.

  1. Make meetings as convenient for them as possible

Simply put, come to them. In most cases, I think it’s fair to schedule a meeting somewhere mutually convenient for you and the person you’re meeting. But for a busy person (especially one who is paying me or may potentially pay me), I make it as convenient as possible for them. Why? Because every minute they spend commuting to a further location is less time they can dedicate to our meeting. I’d rather drive a little further and make the meeting last a little longer. It also shows you respect their time and it also provides them with a good first impression of how easy you will be to work with.

  1. Minimize their to-do list (take on as much as you can for them)

Finally, lessen their load as much as you can! For my busy clients, we will cover a laundry list of to-do’s during each meeting. While they’re perfectly capable of taking on many of these tasks, it’s not their time best spent. I take on as many of these tasks as I can; leaving them only with the smallest items that absolutely cannot be done without them (like asking a donor for a large amount of money). But even for these tasks, I still work to prepare and remind them so that it’s as easy as possible. I never mind taking on these tasks, because when they’re in my hands I know they’ll get done when I want them done. And with busy people…well, that’s just not usually the case.

How have you made dealing with very busy people easier? Share your experiences and insights by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Most Effective Way to Follow-Up

listen to me

There’s one exclamation that I’m sure to say at least once a week (often with my hands on my head for emphasis). “I spend WAY too much time following-up with people!” How many of you share my grief?

I can’t stand the blazing bold font of an email message that’s not yet been answered. If I’m anywhere near my phone or computer during normal business hours (and who isn’t these days?), you can expect a response within the hour. Even if I don’t have the full answer, I’ll at least send an acknowledgement so you know the task is on my list. This makes it even more frustrating for me to spend so much of my time chasing down answers from other people.

Following-up has become one of the finest arts of communication. It’s a delicate balance of friendliness and force. You can’t be so abrupt that you get tuned out completely, but if you aren’t direct you’ll never get a response. So what is the secret to crafting an effective follow-up message? Here are six rules of engagement that will help get your questions answered!

Be polite

Always, always, always be polite. It doesn’t matter if this is your fifth follow-up message, you have to maintain your composure and professionalism if you ever want a shot at receiving a response. Time is valuable for everyone, so while it’s taking some (more) or your time to follow-up, you’re also asking for someone else’s time to provide you with an answer. Don’t act annoyed or be passive aggressive with your message. Reference your original conversation, reiterate your request and genuinely thank them for their time.

Allow a reasonable amount of time to pass

You or I may hold ourselves to the standard of answering an email within one business day, but realize that not everyone shares that same practice. For some people, a week might be a reasonable amount of time to get you a response – especially if it’s not urgent. My rule of thumb is to wait at least one week before sending the first follow-up message. I’m often pleasantly surprised by the number of responses that come in on their own right about this time. And I’m always glad I didn’t annoy them with a reminder when they were, in fact, on top of things.

Once you send the first follow-up message one week later, continue to wait a week in between each email. You can use alternative methods of communication in between that time (such as phone, text or Linkedin message). Some people are just terrible at checking email, but will respond promptly when you contact them through an alternative source. It will also increase your chances of getting your message heard. If there’s a significant deadline approaching, you can use this as a reason to follow-up more frequently than the one-week rule. Play this card selectively or risk becoming one of the 11 most annoying email personalities.

Give the benefit of the doubt

Don’t be so quick to assume that the only reason some has not responded to you is because they’re rude or incompetent. In between work, life happens and sometimes takes precedence over your requests. Have patience when waiting a reasonable amount of time before following-up with someone. They might have just had a death or illness in the family. Or maybe they have just returned from some time off and are still catching up on emails. I remember when I first had my son; I was a little slow at responding to messages but greatly appreciated those who afforded me patience and understanding during this time.

Don’t be repetitive

If your follow-up strategy requires several messages, avoid the temptation to simply copy and paste your request from week to week. This repetition is annoying and can seem condescending to your contact, like you’re assuming they won’t know the difference. For each follow-up message, include a new message at the beginning that updates your contact with where things currently stand (don’t make them read down through your whole conversation to figure this out). And for bonus points, add in something timely or relevant that will show you put thought into this follow-up. For example, maybe you saw that they published a new blog this week. Reference something you like about that blog and they’ll know you’re really paying attention and are invested in this relationship.

Make answering easy

Especially if you have multiple questions awaiting answers, the best way to increase your chances of getting a response is to make it as easy as possible. Once tactic I use is to break down each question into its own bullet point so that my contact can simply respond in-line. Other times I will bold or underline the question so that within the context of my message people know exacting what needs a response.

If I have a laundry list of questions or items that warrant more of a discussion, a phone call is the way to go. Emails should be short, sweet and to the point. The question should appear in the very beginning and again at the end. Repetition is a courtesy because it allows your contact to easily skim the message, identify what you’re asking for and quickly respond.

Give an easy “opt-out”

This is most applicable to a message in which you’re asking for someone to meet with you or buy your services. For reasons unknown, some people just hate saying no. Instead, they’ll avoid answering altogether so that they don’t feel like they’re letting you down. In the long run this is a disservice to you both. If you’ve followed-up multiple times, it may be time to offer your final message where you directly ask if you should stop contacting them. Be polite and friendly. Even if they take you up on the offer, this professional courtesy will end things on a positive note and reflect well on you and your business.

What tips or tricks do you have for crafting an effective follow-up message? Share your advice by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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5 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand

personal brand

Whether you’re the business owner or the intern, building a personal brand is a powerful way for employees at all levels to increase their credibility and showcase their expertise. Everyday people have become celebrities all because of how they positioned their personal brand on social media and beyond.

We each have the ability and access to all the tools we need to start building our own brand today – and it’s quite simple! Here are five essential steps for building a strong and influential personal brand.

1. Define your area expertise

First and foremost you have to be able to clearly define your personal brand. Otherwise, how can you expect anyone else to? A powerful component of your personal brand is your area of expertise. Don’t be intimidated by the word “expert.” This doesn’t mean you need to be the most knowledgeable person in the world on a subject. Rather, you simply need to identify a subject that you know a lot about and for which you have passion.

2. Adopt a tagline

Once you know the personal brand you want to build for yourself, the next step is to clearly communicate it to the world. Just as a business adopts a tagline, so should you. Having a personal tagline might sound cheesy – and it can be – but only if you choose a cheesy tagline. If the personal brand you want to create for yourself is more professional and serious, there are endless options for a tagline that will also reflect this tone.

Once you’ve established a tagline, put it to use! Incorporate it into your personal website, blog, business cards and email signature. Use it when introducing yourself at networking events or in business meetings to quickly and clearly communicate who you are. A tagline will help keep your brand consistent and make it memorable.

3. Embody your brand from head to toe

While you may get caught up in building your personal brand on your website, blog and social media, don’t forget about the most valuable brand-building asset you have with you at all times – you! Your clothes, hair and accessories all impact the image you give off to the world and this should remain consistent with your brand.

If you want to be viewed as a respected professional, you need to present yourself as one. Give careful thought to your attire before heading out to a client meeting or networking function. Whether you do this or not, I promise you people will notice either way.

4. Create opportunities for other people to experience your brand

You can create an awesome brand for yourself, but if you don’t allow others the opportunity to experience and interact with it, it will have little impact. Just as a business puts great effort into promoting their brand, you should put effort into promoting yours too.

For a personal brand, this does not require the same tactics that businesses use. Not many of us have the budget (or confidence) to put ourselves on a billboard! Instead, maximize your online presence by creating a personal website, starting a blog and maintaining a strong social media presence. These are all great ways to showcase your area of expertise and give your network an intimate experience with your personal brand. In addition to the virtual world, get out in the real world too! Take advantage of speaking engagements, networking functions and other social events to get out in your local business community and represent your personal brand.

5. Be consistent

If you do nothing else when building your personal brand, be consistent! Think of any business that has built a successful brand; they do not waver from the core values it represents. All of their internal and external communications center on strengthening it. You should embrace this same level of consistency when shaping your own brand.

With every new business opportunity, consider whether or not it aligns with your brand. If not, it’s likely not in your best interest to pursue it. Your brand represents your morals, values and character. If your actions don’t align with the image you’re trying to create for yourself, you will never achieve a strong and influential brand. Instead, keep your personal tagline top of mind and use it to guide the way you present yourself to the world – in person, online and everywhere in between!

What steps have you taken to build your personal brand? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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10 Things to Remember When Planning a Professional Event

corporate event planning

Throughout my career, I’ve played the role of “event planner” more times than I can count. Fundraisers, golf outings, press events, clay shoots, meet and greets, prayer breakfasts, networking mixers, seminars and conferences are just some of the various types of events I’ve helped to plan. For each one there’s been a different venue, audience, menu, setup and marketing strategy. It’s been a whirlwind!

This experience has helped me to create quite the “tool box” of tips and tricks for successful event planning that can only be gained from my own trial and error. Oh and there have been many errors! Now I have professional events down to a work of art. I can anticipate the unexpected and I come prepared to address every odd request you can imagine. To help you do the same, here are 10 things to always, always remember when planning a professional event.

1. Be overly specific, assume nothing

I have many real life examples of event planning follies where I assumed something simple – like there would be a chair at the registration table – only to be left scrambling at the last minute over silly details. I’ve since learned to assume nothing and specify everything. When I’m in the event planning role, I can’t afford to be torn away from more important tasks to handle these types of mishaps. I work closely with the venue to specify the essential details (without being condescending, of course). Even if I risk looking a little too Type A, it’s a small price to pay for a well-executed event and a happy client.

2. Don’t be literal with the headcount

While I advise to be very specific with the event details, I don’t advise to be specific with the headcount. Inevitably people who have RSVPed will not show up and others who did not RSVP will. It’s the ebb and flow of event planning and somehow it all works out. What I’ve learned is that so much money is wasted on overestimating headcount. Instead, I underestimate the guaranteed count by at least 5 (if not 10) people. At the event, the venue can always pull out a little more food (for which they will also charge you). And at least you know you are paying for exactly what’s being consumed, which can be a cost savings of a couple hundred dollars!

3. Anticipate people arriving early (and staying late)

When I’m running logistics for an event, I always arrive at least an hour in advance to set-up, troubleshoot and acclimate myself with the venue and staff. I also do this because I know that a handful of early birds will arrive a half hour early as well. I hate to be caught still setting up (though it would totally be understandable), so instead I beat them at their own game! I also anticipate another group staying past the end of the event to eat and chat until the staff starts vacuuming over their feet. This means I, too, also stay late to ensure a professionally executed event from start to finish.

4. Bring a “tool kit”

You will always have a need for scissors, tape, extra name tags and pens. I can’t emphasize enough how often this has saved me the time of having to ask the venue to search and bring these items to me and how it also helps me to look extra professional and prepared. Slip these items in your laptop bag, and even if you don’t need them, you’ll have the peace of mind that you’re one step ahead.

5. Be accessible

When planning an event, you will need to be accessible and on your feet to address any issues as they arise. Maybe it’s someone at registration who said they paid, but their name isn’t on the list. Or maybe a side dish needs refreshed at the buffet that a server hasn’t yet noticed. I’m all eyes, all ears – and always on my feet at events.

6. Call upon helping hands

In order to pull off tip #5 of always being accessible, you need a competent team of helpers to assist you with being in multiple places at once. When I’m putting out the big fires, I rely on others to manage the registration table and greet guests. What this also means is that I have to prepare easy to manage lists and clearly explain the process to my helpers to ensure they know what to do even when I’m not around.

7. Keep people comfortable

People with full plates and full glasses are happy people. For the most part, people won’t remember the venue or the color of the table linens, but they will remember if they were well fed. Don’t skimp on food or drink and make sure that it is out before guests arrive and is left out even after the event ends, in case people choose to mingle after hours. Also, be sure your menu matches your ticket price. If people are paying a couple hundred dollars to attend a fundraiser, don’t give them chips, pretzels and a cash bar. Show them a good time! I promise you, this is always money well spent.

8. Strategically time your (brief) remarks

Hosting an event and not taking a moment to address the crowd is a really wasted opportunity. You may not be the most confident public speaker, but you can at least put together a few sentences especially if it means promoting the purpose of the event. Timing is everything to ensure people are paying attention. Plan to take the mic (and do use a mic) about halfway through the event. This will catch both latecomers and early-departers. Your remarks also give the event closure. If people need to take off early, they can feel like they have at least stayed for the most important part of the event.

9. Take advantage of the opportunity to market your services or future events

Use your remarks and printed promotional materials to market your services or future events. Give people something (verbally and physically) to take away from the event. You’re footing the bill after all, the least you can do is gain some promotional value from it! If this is an annual event, have a date set for next year’s event and promote it. If the event is not annual, give people some other call to action like a special discount on services if they purchase that day. If nothing else, at least invite them to visit your website and connect with you on social media.

10. Remember, it’s not about you!

It’s your event, but it’s not really about you. It’s about your guests. They are the ones either paying to be there or offering themselves as your captive audience for a few hours. Respect their time and make each guest feel special by greeting them, even if only briefly. Also keep your guests in mind when selecting a venue and food choices. Some restaurant off the beaten path may by a stone’s throw from your home, but it’s a trek for your guests. And just because you like a menu of red meat and potatoes, be thoughtful about your guests who may prefer some variety.

To boil down this entire list of corporate event planning advice, I simply urge you to be hospitable and genuine. Put the extra thought into the details to make this a pleasant experience for your guests so that they remember you for hosting a fun event, not wasting their time. Both extremes leave a lasting impression and you have the power to choose the outcome!

What other things would you add to this list? Share your event experiences (good and bad) by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Life

 

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