When you attend a great event, everything seems to tick along like a well-oiled machine. Everybody knows what’s happening and where, all the staff seem to be well informed, helpful and capable of answering all of your questions, and stress levels are kept at a minimum while the attendees wander from stand to stand, or from one seminar to the next.
However, as any event manager knows, events like these are often likened to swans on a lake - they look graceful, elegant and suave as they glide across the water, but if you were to look beneath the surface, you’d see those webbed feet paddling hard, using lots of energy to maintain that effortless appearance.
Also, as with anything else in life, we mainly learn from our mistakes, and from those events which didn’t go to plan. Everything might look perfect on paper, and you may have run through everything a thousand times in your head, but until your attendees start arriving, it’s very difficult to predict exactly what’s going to happen, or which direction things may turn as the event progresses.
Keep an eye on the small details
The problem is, the things which are likely to go wrong aren’t big, dramatic problems, but rather subtle, small failings which aren’t going to be utterly disastrous for your event… but they can easily affect the atmosphere of your event, causing participant involvement to drop, morale to fall, and the general mood of the event to gradually turn sour.
Disappointment and frustration is just as infectious as delight and enthusiasm, and so it’s of utmost importance you avoid those small errors and oversights which can end up negatively affecting some of your guests.
After all, you want every one of your attendees to leave your event feeling great, having been inspired and motivated, and willing to share their positive experiences with others.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of nine mistakes you really need to be avoiding when you’re planning your event, and the solutions to various problems.
These are mostly common ‘schoolboy errors’, which are so commonly overlooked, you wouldn’t believe how often we’ve come across them. However, by ensuring you consider everything on this list, we’re confident your event will run like clockwork!
Not Checking Things ‘Outside Of Your Control’ - Weather, Transport, Traffic, etc.
- Problem: Unfortunately, not everything that might affect your event will occur in your event space. Dramatic weather, heavy traffic, public transport strikes… all of these things can end up stopping people from easily reaching your venue, which can put a huge damper on things or lead to a serious turnout shortage.
- Solution: This is one of those problems that requires some real contingency planning. Have you looked at alternative transport options, and let your delegates or attendees know how to reach the venue? It might be worth looking into minibus and coach options, reliable local taxi companies, and other forms of transport which are less likely to let you down. As for the weather… there’s not a lot that you can do if a hurricane strikes, but you can keep your eye on the forecasts, and ensure that you send your ticket holders updates on suitable clothing etc.
- Problem: When it comes to events of any size, there are plenty of opportunities for communication problems. For large events, this can be disastrous - breakdowns of communication between internal staff and suppliers, for example, can lead to your event being unable to go ahead as planned. Communication issues between the organisers and the fitters and decorators can lead to the event not looking and feeling right, and there are thousands of other potential problematic combinations of the sort.
- Solution: Firstly, it’s not necessarily in your best interest to micromanage everything down to the last detail - this is going to result in you being burnt out, and little more than a nuisance to those who are doing their jobs properly. However, you are going to have to make an extra effort to make sure that every single member of your team has a checklist, a time scale, and nothing slips through the gap. Be available for questions from your team, follow up queries and ensure everybody knows what their role is without any exceptions.
Trying To Be Overly Unique
- Problem: We get it - you want your event to be the talk of the town, and to exceed everyone’s expectations of what an event can and should be. You want to subvert the norm, shock and surprise, rip up the rulebook and write it again in red ink. It’s totally understandable you’d want to do something different - after all, so many events suffer from the ennui of repetition and predictability - but your event is at risk of being incoherent, messy, confusing and off-putting. There’s also a danger of appearing to try a bit too hard,which a savvy audience can spot a
- Solution: Moderation is key here. By all means, throw in some unusual elements. But if you want to go outside the norm, try and do it in a way that ties itself all together - think of an unusual theme, and adapt more manageable components of your event to fit that. The best results we see are when events look and feel imaginative, and it’s clear a lot of effort has gone into creating a unique atmosphere - but guests and attendees still know where they stand, and are able to really enjoy their time there rather than being confused as to what’s going on.
Scripting Without Thinking Of Timing
- Problem: You’ve got some great ideas, and you want to fit them all into your event. The issue is, there are only 24 hours in a day, and it’s likely your event is only going to be a few hours long, at most. This is a very, very common mistake which all too many event managers come across at some point or another, and it can lead to events feeling rushed and things being delayed, moved or cancelled. You want your event to flow smoothly, and for your attendees to be relaxed - anything but this can lead to bad vibe with stressed guests and staff alike!
- Solution: Think carefully about how long everything in your event is going to take, and make double sure you leave enough time between features, contests, seminars etc to set things up, allow people to go to the bathroom, grab a drink, and all of those little time-filling things which are so easy to forget about. It may be that you’ll have to drop a couple of ideas from your list of things you’d like to do because of time constraints, but believe us - it’s better to not include something in your itinerary than to rush it, or to risk the flow of your day and the mood of your guests.
Missing Contingency Plans
- Problem: When things go wrong, and they often will no matter how many times you’ve rehearsed, you find that you don’t have a backup or contingency plan in place to deal with it. Panic ensues, the team gets flustered, and small problems escalate and become big ones.
- Solution: Long, long before your event takes place, sit down with your team and brainstorm every possible eventuality you can think of - even crazy ones, as they might trigger some more practical ideas as you discuss them! For each problem, come up with two or three different solutions which would be logical to put in place on the day, and make sure every member of staff is aware of them.
Early Morning Motivational Seminars
- Problem: You want to kick your event off to a great start, by getting everybody into your conference room straight after breakfast for a motivational seminar! Sounds great, right? Well, not for the majority of event-goers. If your guests are staying at a hotel, it’s possible they’ve been at the bar until late meeting their fellow delegates the night before, and they might be feeling a little fragile first thing in the morning. Even if they got a decent night’s sleep, you simply aren’t going to get a high level of enthusiasm before your guests have had their second cup of coffee.
- Solution: Be sensible with this, and look at your timetable through the eyes of your attendees. Start things off gently, warmly, and with the kind of things that will set people up for the day without having to blast them with motivational music and rousing speeches. Oh, and make sure whatever it is you choose to do, it involves free tea, coffee and pastries.
Lack Of Clear Signage
- Problem: You haven’t paid attention to your signage and timetables, and your attendees are wandering around a conference centre, searching for room 4E and getting increasingly frustrated. Again, this is a common problem - things like signs, maps and timetables are all too often an afterthought for many events planners, quickly thrown together and printed out at the last minute. Your guests might never have been in your event space before, and it can be disorienting to walk around among hundreds of strangers at the best of times, let alone when you’re trying to find a workshop among dozens of others.
- Solution: Make sure you put in extra effort when it comes to signage. In fact, we’d say it’s better to be safe than sorry - if needs be, go overboard with your signage and make sure there really is no room for confusion. Get a member of your team to walk around the venue and pick out particularly places where disorientation might happen, and then do everything you can to ensure that it won’t. Ensure that timetables and itineraries are easy to read, consistent, and with each seminar etc. clearly stating where it will be and at what time.
Not Inviting Feedback And Social Media Sharing
- Problem: You’re missing out on vital feedback by not directly asking for it. Your attendees will not necessarily seek you out to let you know what worked and what didn’t from your event, and even if you felt it went fantastically, there’s always room for improvement or areas which were overlooked. Also, if you haven’t reminded your guests to share their photos and thoughts on social media, you’re missing out on an enormous marketing opportunity which could make a massive difference.
- Solution: Either leave feedback forms lying around at the end of your event, or email your attendees directly and invite them to leave their thoughts on an online feedback form. As for social media sharing, make sure that your flyers, your promotional material and other such things clearly show a twitter handle, a hashtag for Instagram, and other social media information which will allow your guests to easily link their photos together.
Not Having The Right Staff With The Right Skills
- Problem: If you haven’t got the right staff, you’re not going to have the right event. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of things which could go wrong at any event, and on the day, the way you’ll deal with those problems is partly dependent on how skilled, experienced and calm under pressure your staff members are. If your team on the ground aren’t sufficiently informed and trained, and can’t answer delegates’ questions (or at least point them in the right direction), your guests are not going to leave as happy as they should do.
- Solution: Make sure your staff and every member of your team is given the training, the support and the time they need to be prepared for your event. Make sure that you have enough staff, too - if you have hundreds of delegates, just two team members in your event space isn’t going to be enough to keep things running smoothly. Perhaps most importantly, your team is going to have to know exactly who they can turn to if they need to handle a complaint or deal with a difficult question - and if that person is you, then make sure you’re available to offer support on the day.
So, that’s our list of nine common mistakes to avoid when you’re planning an event. Have you ever suffered because of one of these issues? Or perhaps you’ve got some more ingenious tips we could add to the list, or a different sort of event management horror story to share! We’d love to hear from you, as would our readers - so get commenting, and let us know your thoughts.
If you’d like to know more about how professional event managers can help you overcome any problems, find the perfect venue, and organise something truly special, check out Ultimate Experience and let’s see what we can do for you.