Top ten tips for successful event planning

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For the past few years I’ve been organising and hosting events all over the world. From London, to Abu Dhabi, Singapore to Johannesburg. The contents, attendees and culture may change but the fundamentals of event organisation stay the same.

If you’re new to event planning, or a seasoned event planner looking for a reminder,  these tips will help focus your plans.

1.      Ask yourself why you are holding this event

So you’ve decided you are going to hold an event. Arguably the first question you need to ask yourself is: why? It may seem like there’s an obvious answer to this, many times the simple answer is to generate new business or catch up with clients.

Often people decide to hold an event because they think it’s something they should do. But without considering the outcomes you want to achieve you may not be planning the right event to achieve them.

2.      Start planning early

Planning the perfect event takes time. In ideal circumstances, you want to start thinking about events at least six months ahead of delivery. This may seem like a long time, but the earlier you begin to plan, the easier it will be. Venues get booked early, particularly in peak event seasons (roughly March-June and Sep-Nov). Invites need to be sent to ensure you’ve given attendees plenty of notice to get your event in their diary before it gets booked up. At this stage, check you’re not holding the event on the same day as everyone else, or in the middle of a religious or cultural holiday.

3.      Be realistic with your budget

Make sure you are clear on your budget from the outset. If you are charging for places at an event it is important to understand whether the purpose of this is to turn a profit, to break even, or to ensure people turn up.

When creating your budget, don’t be tempted to be too optimistic over the costs, you’ll only be in for a nasty surprise once the bills start coming in. Remember the venue is just a part of many important elements. Marketing includes brochure design, printing, advertising, and where applicable, time of people involved. Costs of drinks receptions, travel, speaker expenses and other materials all need to be accounted for.

4.      Choose the perfect venue

Selecting the right venue for your event is probably one of the most important decisions to make. The type of venue depends on the type of event you are holding. But getting this right (or wrong) can set the tone for the event and your business.

If you use a rented venue, always do a site visit. Some valuable points to consider include:

·         Layout of the rooms and the access to them

·         Whether you have exclusive use for the duration of your event,

·         If using multiple areas are these easy to navigate or are your guests likely to get lost?

·         Is the door to the room on a busy corridor where passing traffic could cause a nuisance?

·         What A/V facilities are there and do they come with the venue

5.      People will remember the food!

It’s true, guests always remember the events where the food was amazing or terrible. Make sure yours is memorable for the right reason.

Catering if difficult because its often the area that sees the first budgets cut. But there is nothing more disappointing than attending an event in a beautiful venue, only to be offered a few stale biscuits with your tea and coffee.

Make sure you have checked with the venue whether they can provide for different dietary requirements. You are often likely to have a surprise vegetarian or gluten free guest on the day.

6.      Don’t pack your schedule too tightly

Rarely do events stick exactly to time, despite the very strictest of timing systems!

Inevitably speakers will over run or take too many questions. Attendees will be making the most of the networking opportunities during the breaks and be reluctant to return to their seats on time. Having enough spare time (float) built in your timetable allows you to have an element of flexibility.

7.      Surround yourself with a good team

The old mantra too many cooks spoil the broth is still very true. Sometimes it is better to have a small team of helpers who know what they need to do and are happy to get on with things than a large team running around like headless chickens.

As the organiser be clear with what you expect from your team. Play to your team’s strengths and think about when and where you expect assistance to be required.

8.      Be prepared for things to go wrong

What will you do if a speaker gets stuck on a train and can’t make their slot? What unusual request might your guests make (and trust me you’ll get some strange ones) and how can you be prepared for these? What happens if there’s not enough food or guests who haven’t RSVP’d arrive? Do you have a backup if equipment fails?

No matter how much planning and thought you put in, things will and do go wrong. The important thing in these situations is to keep your cool and behave rationally to find a solution and fast! Most problems are resolvable, even if they feel like a major disaster at the time. Nine times out of ten, even at the most disastrous events, if you keep calm and find solutions your guests should be none the wiser.

9.      Learn from your triumphs and your mistakes

After any event ensure you have the opportunity to hold a review. This gives you the opportunity to look at the event from hindsight and see what went well and what didn’t. If you collect feedback from your attendees, make sure you analyse it objectively.

Use your experience and take note of the things that went well and not so well to improve your planning and organisation skills for the next event. The only way you can get better at anything is to learn from your mistakes. Like most things, the best event planners are those who take the time to learn from their experiences.

10.Enjoy it

There is nothing worse for guests than watching a host in a state of panic, so relax and go with the flow as much as you can. The day of an event is usually the most stressful, but equally it’s the day you have least control over.

For me there is nothing better than the day of an event, I love the thrill and the pressure of it. Make sure you take a moment during the rush to appreciate it and be proud of what you’ve achieved.

The steps above should help steer you in the right direction if you do have an event coming up. But if it all seems a bit daunting, Limeslade can help. If you would like any advice or help on planning and marketing a successful event, get in touch to see how we can help you. We have many years experience organising events all over the world, and are always happy to have a chat to see if we can point you in the right direction.