Whether you've just been thrown into planning or have been planning events your entire life, you can always count on unexpected challenges. Events, no matter how well you script them, are unruly, and things never go quite as you plan. It's important to have a comprehensive game plan in place for every scenario you can imagine. That way, you can adapt and be flexible when you encounter a hiccup you simply couldn't see coming. Below are a few event planning tips to help you plan your next event.
Before the Event
In most cases, you have very little control over when you can start planning your event. It's rarely prescribed by you but by your company, manager, or the company that has hired you to plan. Try to start as early as possible to give yourself the best chance for success.
Set Clear Goals
Each event is an opportunity to improve. Setting goals about what you hope to achieve with this event is key, whether it's an increase in attendees, increased attendee engagement, higher revenue, or higher ratings for speakers. Keeping your focus on your event KPIs will help you when it comes time to prove value and ROI after the event.
Understand the Purpose of the Event
You know whether you're planning a conference, gala, or happy hour – but what does this event need to achieve? What is the theme? What should attendees gain? Figuring this out early will make planning easier. After all, without the right context for your event, you can't pick a venue, event design, format, and more.
How big is this event, and is your team large enough to handle it? If your team isn't, have you determined what contractors and vendors you need to hire? By establishing the team early on, you'll have enough budget to work with and won't create unrealistic expectations.
Promote Your Event
Take the time to develop a comprehensive event promotion plan. Without the use of email marketing, an event website, social media campaigns, and ads, attendees won't know that your event is happening. Invest the time and money in event marketing to drive registration.
During the Event
Always Have Coffee
While this does depend on the type of event you have, there is nothing that incurs the wrath of attendees quite like running out of coffee – or worse, not having coffee at all. If you're planning a conference, workshop, talk, or anything that has a number of speakers on the agenda, make sure to keep the coffee flowing.
Adapt Speaker and Agenda Content
At some events, you have the ability to adapt based on attendee response. If you're using a mobile event app during your event and getting speaker ratings, you can easily see who is and isn't going over well with attendees. If a speaker is poorly rated and they're going to do the same talk at a different time, change up the schedule. Consider taking that speaker's session off of the agenda and replacing it with a higher-rated speaker. Your attendees will thank you.
Be Ready for Anything
While unnecessary to reiterate, things happen that you could have no way of predicting. Keep your staff office stocked with sewing needles, a first aid kit, and whatever else might be helpful. You have little chance of anticipating a hungry bird with a taste for finer food flying into your event space, but it'll be your job to figure out how to react.
After the Event
Do Something with Your Data
You'll collect an enormous amount of data throughout the life of your event – in your mobile event app, at your onsite check-in kiosk, during registration, in surveys, and more! If you don't already have a plan for how you'll use that data to prove whether the event meets its goals, get planning.
The data you capture before, during, and after your event is invaluable. You gain insights into attendees, and potential customers, that most companies can only dream of having access to.
Review Goals and Update Stakeholders
You need to prove event success. Take the time right after the event to identify what went well and what didn't, then do a deeper analysis of your event success metrics. Your stakeholders will be more impressed if you can speak their language and give concrete results.
Tips for Staying Organized While Planning
Planners have to be organized – that's non-negotiable. There are vendors to juggle, payments to make, and stakeholders to answer to. With nonstop schedules, it’s easy to lose control of organization and do what you have to do to get everything done.
So, how do you get on track and stay organized throughout the planning process? Here are a few tricks and tools to help:
Use a Single Event Management Platform
The best way to make sure you aren't losing track of anything? Keep all your plans and processes in one place. With the right event management platform, you can do it all, from setting up your registration site to managing email outreach, tracking attendee engagement to managing vendors.
Put Everything in Your Calendar and Block off Time to Work
Your calendar is your lifeline. It not only tells you when you’re busy but others in the office, as well. Put everything on your calendar. Color coding meetings based on your event can help. If it’s normal for you to be in meetings all day, every day, block some time off on your calendar to get work done. Even setting thirty minutes aside to send emails can help you stay on top of your task list.
Take All Your Notes in One Place
It’s easy to bounce from computer to notebook to phone, but if you want to ensure you never lose the notes you take, take them in one place. The best place for notes is somewhere that's accessible wherever you are.
Organize Your Files Structure
When you run multiple events throughout the year, file organization is key. Set up folders at the start of every event. By taking the time to set up a file structure, you’ll be able to find documents more quickly later on. As the event unfolds, don’t get lazy. Always sort everything into the correct folders.
Set Reminders to Check In on and Start Projects
Email is wonderful – even more so because it’s trackable – but it’s easy to lose track of a conversation when someone doesn’t reply. When you send out emails, always set a deadline for a response. Then, set a reminder for yourself to check in on that date. That way, if the person you reached out to forgets to respond, you won’t realize too late that you never got a response.
Take Stock at the Beginning of Each Week
First thing on Monday or whatever day marks the first day of your week, take stock of what’s to come. Then, create a running list of to-dos for the day, week, month, and even year. Reassess your list at the start of each week. As a result, you'll be more focused and keep track of both near- and long-term tasks.
Learn to Love Process
Working on your own, it’s easy to do things your way. But, as your team grows, the process will be your savior. If there is one way to do something, you’ll be able to make sure it was done and know that it was completed the correct way. When the process breaks down, the system falls apart. Update your process as needed and make sure to train others on your process.
Wrap Up Projects When They End
The final push at the end of a project can leave your documents saved to your desktop, emails flying around, and updates made but not saved to a shared file. Take time at the end of each project to wrap it up. Make sure everything is in the right folder and that you have any notes you might need if you do the project again next year.
It’s All About What Works for You
Organization is personal. You don’t think the same way your coworkers do, and that’s a good thing! Think about how you like to organize information, and create a system that works for you. Likewise, never be afraid to scrap the system if it isn’t working and start again. Every day is a new start.
There are other ways to stay organized when planning meetings and events. Check out our eBook for more information!
You can also read our Event Planning Guide for comprehensive event planning tips and tricks.