Years ago I wrote a blog post on 10 Things to Remember When Planning a Professional Event. These pearls of wisdom still apply to how I approach event planning for my clients. So much could be said on this topic! So I challenged myself to share 10 more pieces of event planning advice, many of which I learned since the time I wrote the original blog post.
Take a look at 10 more things to remember when planning a business or nonprofit event.
- Set the date for all planning meetings/calls right from the start
If you wait until the last minute to schedule your planning committee meetings or conference calls, it will be like herding cats. Avoid schedules from filling up (and poor attendance at your meetings) by establishing your meeting schedule as early out as possible. Determine the number of meetings you need and space them out. Your last meeting should be right about 1 week prior to the event. Then, get these dates on everyone’s calendar early so there are less excuses of “I had another commitment.” Don’t forget to send out a reminder a few days prior to each meeting!
- Plan something guests actually want to attend
This is an important one. So often people forget to think outside the box to incorporate special elements that will make people look forward to the event, not just see it as a blemish on their calendar that they have to attend. If you establish your event as having fantastic food, lively entertainment or a unique venue and décor, you will keep regular guests coming back and new guests coming for the experience.
- Give the event a theme (trust me on this one)
Themes sound hokey, and they can be. However, picking a theme for your event will help you out in a couple different ways. First, it gives direction to your décor, menu and keynote speaker or entertainment. Second, it makes it memorable for your guests. If you’re planning an annual event, each year will stand out separately because of its unique theme. This keeps you out of the rut of essentially planning the same event year after year.
- Time the sending of your invitation
It’s just as possible to send your invitations too early as it is to send them too late. Anything sent earlier than 8 weeks out is liable to get shoved under a pile of things because it doesn’t seem to warrant an immediate decision of yes or no. Anything sent later than 4 weeks out may be hitting guests too late as people tend to fill their calendars about 1 month in advance. Aim for the sweet spot of having your invitations hit mailboxes at 6 weeks prior to your event date (take into account the added time of printing, assembling and delivering the invitations).
- Solicit sponsors uniquely and personally
Sponsorships are the real financial success of your event. This is where you tend to make your most money, well before your actual event. Don’t assume that sponsors will come pounding on your door, checks in hand, just because you send out a mass email. They may have received the “ask” and may even be considering it. This is all the more reason to hit them again with a personal follow-up. Stress the importance of the cause the event supports. Tell them the exact role you hope they play (level of sponsorship) and outline the benefits they will receive in return. A personal ask takes mere minutes, but can result in far more sponsorships than what you would have received without doing so.
- Engage your planning committee by assigning very specific tasks
If you have a planning committee (and you should), make sure you’re fully utilizing them. It’s likely that one or two people will play the role as lead organizers, but that’s not the excuse for everyone else to sit back. Engage all members of your planning committee by assigning very specific tasks suited to their skills or connections. If you’re feeling like there’s too much on your plate, assign something to someone else. The bottom line is that if someone wants to lend a helping hand, make sure you’re communicating how they can best be of service.
- Secure your regular attendees with a personal ask
Much like sponsors, don’t take for granted that regular attendees will purchase tickets and come back year after year simply by receiving their invitation. If you’re less than one month out from your event and you notice some key people didn’t respond, follow-up! This is the “low hanging fruit” to build your attendance. Some may have a conflict and truly cannot attend, but maybe they will still make a donation in lieu of their attendance. Others may have forgotten or thought they bought tickets when they didn’t. In all cases, a follow-up is a good thing!
- Anything you can do in advance, do in advance
Inevitably, there will be some things you can only do the few days leading up to the event. But for everything else, do it as soon as it can be done. This will save you a lot of stress and also allow you the benefit of time to troubleshoot any problems that could occur. Maybe your program booklets weren’t printed correctly. If you take care of this weeks prior to the event, there’s still time to get them fixed. This wouldn’t be the case if you waited until the same day to print your program.
- People will disappoint and frustrate you – but it will all be okay
Yes, it’s the nature of event planning. You become emotionally invested in the success of your event, so when someone cancels at the last minute or there’s a vendor mix-up, it can feel like your world is crashing down. Try to stay level-headed and keep in mind it really is just an event. Most people won’t notice if things don’t go as you planned, because they don’t know your plan. Your relationships and reputation are what will last, so keep that in mind when you feel like blowing up on someone.
- Take time to show thanks
Finally and most importantly, be sure to share your gratitude with people who went above and beyond to make the event a success. Donors, sponsors, volunteers and vendors all put a lot of heart and soul into the details of the event. It will absolutely be noticed, and appreciated, if you send them some personal words of thanks.
Have you had to plan a business or nonprofit event? Good or bad, share your experience and some tips of your own!