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10 MORE Things to Remember When Planning a Professional Event

Android Robot with manualYears 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

 
 

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How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

If you’ve ever planned an event, you’ve likely realized the challenge of planning a fun agenda while ensuring guests leave knowing the purpose of the occasion.

Putting on a good party isn’t enough to inspire guests to get involved, and most importantly, inspire them to give.

Here are some tips for planning an event that guides your guests through getting to know the mission and vision of your organization – and inspire them to play an active role!

Have a “Game Plan”

Greet guests with an outline of the activities and expectations for the event. This is best done with a program book they receive upon checking in. This will show them the order of events for the evening. But more than just letting them know when cocktail hour ends and dinner begins, this is an opportunity to tell them about the various “stations” and activities you have planned that they can take part in to learn more about your organization. When guests know what to expect, that are more likely to notice – and remember – the important elements of your event.

Highlight Each of Your Core Programs

Group your organization’s services and initiatives into 3-5 program areas. Then plan stations and activities throughout your event (yes, the ones that you should highlight in your “game plan”) that guide guests to learn more about your program areas through interactive experiences.

Make it Visual

Use signage, posters and any other visual element to grab guests’ attention. A unique item that represents a core program area is an opportunity to spark a conversation and answer questions. From centerpieces to the decorations on your stage or podium, there are so many ways in which you can incorporate visual elements. For guests who are visual learners, this is one more way to ensure you make a mark on them!

Make it a Game

Present the activities at your event like a game or a scavenger hunt and challenge guests to partake in as many activities as possible. They can earn points, stickers or stamps to track their progress and compete against fellow guests to earn as many as possible. This gives your event a purpose and your guests a goal!

Offer Incentives

In theme with the game-like activities, you should incentivize guests to step outside their comfort zone and interact with your “learning stations” throughout the event. The best way to do this is to offer a prize! You could reward the first guest to complete all activities or have every guest who earns so many points enter their name in a drawing for a grand prize. Think about what would motivate your audience and what type of prize they’d really want to win.

Leave Guests with a Clear Call to Action

Finally and most importantly, be sure your guests leave the event with a clear call to action. Do you want them to volunteer? Maybe you want them to donate? Or maybe you simply want them to spread the word about what you do? Make sure it’s clear to them how you want them to help. Include this call to action in your closing remarks, at the end of your printed program book and, if applicable, give them something on the way out the door so that they remember the action you want them to take.

Do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

 

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10 Things to Remember When Planning a Professional Event

Android Robot with manualThroughout 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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