The Seven Deadly Sins of Event Planning
When they go off without a hitch, mega events can be magic – but when you get to the big leagues, there’s a lot that can go wrong, from problems with the venue to equipment malfunctions to running over budget. So how do you keep things running like clockwork from beginning to end? Read our seven deadly sins of event planning below for a look at the dos and don’ts of pulling off a large-scale events.
1. Not Having a Backup Plan
When you’re planning an event, one of the last things you probably want to think about is everything that could go wrong – but this is key to preventing potential hiccups from turning into disasters. Don’t wait till the last second to make contingency plans; perform a risk assessment early on in the planning process, imagining all possible complications and ways to prevent or provide a solution to those complications. Start with your worst case scenario: extreme weather or a problem with your venue. Draw up a list of backup venues in the area and make sure to gather all attendees’ contact information in case of a last-minute location switch. It’s also a good idea to check and double-check all of your arrangements to avoid any nasty surprises. If possible, do a dry run ahead of the date to make sure all equipment functions correctly, and line up backup equipment if necessary.
2. Underestimating Costs
We get it – you’ve drawn up your budget, and it’s a thing of beauty. Everything’s accounted for, costs have been reduced, and it balances out perfectly. We hate to tell you this, but: you’ve forgotten something. …or something will pop up last minute, or your number of attendees will balloon unexpectedly, or something will break, or… The point is, despite doing your risk assessment, you can never account for all exigencies, which is why you need to leave a cushion in your budget. The bigger the cushion, the more secure you can feel.
3. Keeping Bad Records
We’re not just talking about bookkeeping here – as you advance through the planning process, it’s crucial to keep track of all the changes that occur, no matter how small, to avoid impacting your budget or timeline. A good way to prevent nasty surprises is to set up a procedure for documenting every deviation from the original plan. The person requesting the change should describe it in detail so that the event manager can review how the change will affect the budget, needed manpower or schedule.
4. Not Getting to Know Your Collaborators
As much as type-A planners would love to control everything themselves, it’s simply impossible when organizing a big event. While you may have a handle on your own staff, your partners are a whole other kettle of fish. Get to know your collaborators early on – contractors, vendors, caterers, and so on – so you can get an accurate picture of their resources, skills and workloads. This way you can better stay on schedule and shift tasks around if necessary.
5. Goldilocks-ing Your Social Media
There’s a balance that must be struck when promoting your event via social media – not enough and people forget that it’s happening; too much, and you risk overexposure or, worse, alienating attendees by spamming their feeds. Approach your social media promotion mindfully, and think about what it looks like on the receiving end. Don’t just post the same thing over and over; strive to create fresh, interesting content that draws people in, doesn’t take too long to consume and intrigues rather than beats them over the head with event promotion.
6. Not Allowing Enough Time for Setup
There’s nothing that looks more unprofessional than seeing staff running around setting up when the event should have already opened. Avoid this embarrassing situation by drawing up a detailed production schedule that includes not only a timeline, but specifics regarding who is responsible for what task, where they should be and when. Of course, you know what they say about the best-laid schemes of mice and men – even if your schedule looks fool-proof, you never know what can happen. That’s why it’s essential to build in at least a 30-minute buffer to account for any last-minute contingencies.
7. Mis-Estimating Your Crowd Numbers
Now for the most unpredictable part of the whole equation – your attendees. Among the biggest things that can go wrong is mis-estimating the size of your crowd. Too many, and you’ll cause a jam-up, with a shortage of resources; too few, and your event space looks like an awkward high school dance. Nip this in the bud by setting up a good registration process that requires RSVPs (even if the event is free) so that you can get a fairly accurate body count. Try not to make it too arduous though, otherwise folks will be less likely register. Also make sure to have a good check-in process for when attendees arrive. It may seem superfluous, but check-in can help avoid long lines, gives people an idea of what’s going on, and primes them for the evening.