Some of our clients as well as our own planners have used words like “overwhelmed,” “stressed,” and “zoned out” to describe the feelings they go through when planning that big corporate conference.
To make your professional life just a bit easier, we compiled a list of best practices for event management.
1. Plan Early
There is no such thing as planning too early. In fact, it’s not unusual for clients to come to us as early as 12 months in advance for high-profile events. This gives you plenty of time to make adjustments should last minute changes arise. We can’t tell you the number of times something unexpected occurred out of the blue, such as the venue administrator double booking.
Our tips on event management always include early planning.
How early depends on the scope of event. Early planning also enables you to come up with a checklist of things to be done and the timeframe for taking care of each task. The list won’t be so condensed with tasks overlapping one another when planned early.
2. Be Flexible
Although it sounds negative, we are always prepared in case something goes wrong. We prepare for numerous outcomes that could occur last minute. It helps to be calm and open-minded as well in case a situation arises that you’ve not prepared for.
This is why you need to be flexible. Don’t insist that the event be held on a certain date or at a certain venue. We always stress the need to be flexible and to come up with an alternative for everything. That means backup venues, dates, catering services, etc.
3. Learn from Each Event
It’s very rare that events run 100% as expected, without running into a single hitch. Some hiccups are likely to occur and instead of cursing them, see them as valuable learning lessons. Come up with solutions to minimise the chances of the same issue arising in future events.
One of our tips on event management is to include a post-event review with your staff. Review anything that may have gone wrong. Perhaps the lecture was delayed due to a technical glitch. What’s your plan for preventing that in the future? Maybe there was an ongoing complaint about the restrooms constantly running out of toilet paper; again, what’s your plan?
The keys here: review, learn, and plan.
4. Set Goals
Goal setting may seem unworthy of being mentioned because it’s so obvious. However, we have observed many event planners that begin with a goal but then lose sight of it as the event date nears.
To commit to your objectives, clearly state what it is you’re trying to achieve. If the aim of the event is to promote a new product, how can a conference achieve that in a way that cannot be done through other means like email marketing?
Our best practices for event management always include small goals divided into phases. In other words, what do you hope to get done by week 4 of the planning phase? What about week 3?
5. Assign Duties
Event planning isn’t a one-man job. Delegate roles and keep cross-responsibilities to a minimum if possible. In other words, two teams shouldn’t be sharing the role of, say, lodging logistics for overnight guests. We have seen miscommunication arise all too often as a result of two or more departments not communicating.
Ideally, there should be one team per role. This means one team/department for venue logistics, one for catering, one for registration, and so on. Our event management tips always include strict role relegation because it keeps teams on point and not distracted by handling multiple duties.
On the subject of assigned duties, we find it helpful to create a shared document that every member can look up and make edits and comments on. Any member with duty-related questions can just refer to the document.
6. Have Plenty of Food
It’s better to have too much than not enough. Catering is one of the first areas planners cut back on due to budget constraints. However, while you don’t need to serve lobsters and T-bone steaks, you should serve above-average quality food and have enough for guests to grab seconds.
We realise that the purpose of the event is to showcase your brand and not about feeding people. However, we must stress that lack of quantity and quality of the food is a common guest complaint in after-event surveys.
When we put out event management tips, we always warn clients not to skimp out on the food because it does influence guest perception more than you may think.
7. Do a Run-Through
About one to two weeks before the event, do a dry run with your staff. Review everything that is going to take place on event day. You should also review Plan-B scenarios to prepare for anything that may go wrong.
If possible, conduct a staff meeting at the venue. This way, the registration people will know where to set up their table. This goes for the guest service team, the sponsor assistance crew, and so on.
Be thorough here. If there is a designated equipment truck driver, where will he park for unloading? These are the type of questions you should be asking during a run-trough.
8. Determine the Parking Situation
So many of our clients thoroughly research the designated venue both online and in person. What they end up neglecting, though, is researching the parking.
How many parking spots are there and how does that compare to the total number of attendees plus staff? Is a permit required? If so, how much, and does the venue administrator provide permits free of charge for guests?
You can also explore nearby parking structures or shuttle buses. If guests end up driving around the venue for a parking space, it’s not going to reflect well on your event as a whole. Make it known ahead of time to your guests what the parking situation will be like.
Events cost money. This is why you should negotiate wherever possible. The venue fee is usually negotiable. Catering services may also bend the price if you order in large quantities. The same goes for hiring a speaker and entertainer. You may even be able to get these people to perform free of charge in exchange for a reference and positive review.
You can also negotiate with sponsors to see if they’re willing to foot more of the cost than was originally agreed upon. Be ready to give a little extra in return, though.
It’s not unusual for the total to be greater than what they projected. For this reason, we also recommend setting aside a backup budget. This is about 10% of the estimated total cost and is to be reserved for unforeseen costs.
10. Have Fun
We feel it’s worth mentioning because we couldn’t help notice the stress our clients go through as they try to plan the perfect event.
While our tips on event management are all important, the most important thing is to enjoy the event just as much as you expect your guests to.
You’re an event planner, not an uptight lawyer or accountant. Your job is to create a memorable experience that merges the meaning of informative and fun into one definition. On event day, your obligation above all others is to be an active participant in your own event.
We know, event planning is a massive undertaking. As insiders, we understand the headaches but also the rewards of the profession. We hope these event management tips were helpful in some way and inspire you to approach your job from a different perspective.
If you have your own event planning advice or tidbits of wisdom, please share them by tweeting to @UltimateExp. At Ultimate Experience, we organise many events ranging from corporate award shows to charity conferences. These are all held throughout various conference venues in London.