Whether you’re planning a large event or a more intimate gathering, every event planner knows that the key to success is in the details. From choosing the perfect venue, picking guest speakers and organising the very best catering, creating an event that runs smoothly isn’t always easy (particularly when you’re working within a budget).
We know that the unexpected can happen, whether on the day or during the preparation phases. Whether you’re an experienced event planner or are organising an occasion for the first time, it’s not always simple to know how to plan an event successfully. To help ensure that your event runs as smoothly as possible, we’ve put together some common event planning mistakes to avoid.
1. Plan your numbers
If you’re planning an open event, it can be tricky to know how to prepare successfully. Without knowing the exact numbers, it can become impossible to arrange your venue, catering and other equipment. Equally, without a venue or date, it’s difficult to market your event to potential attendees.
If you’re wondering how to plan an event successfully in situations like this, it may be worth sending out placeholder marketing material to get an initial idea of numbers. Once you have gauged the level of interest, you can begin making concrete plans.
It’s also a good idea to be prepared to change your venue if the attendee numbers are higher or lower than expected.
2. Double (and triple) check the essentials
There are some aspects to your event that are essential and others that sit in the ‘nice to have’ camp. Your essentials, such as the venue, audiovisual equipment, and vendors, are must-haves for your event to go as planned.
It’s a good idea to keep track of exactly what has been agreed with your venue and vendors. Confirm details like arrival and set up times, quantities and costs. If appropriate, arrange to have contractual agreements in place to alleviate any potential mishaps. Keep in contact with your venue and vendors in the lead up to your event to ensure that things are progressing as you would expect.
It’s also a good idea to contact all suppliers a few days before the event to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
3. Factor in set-up time
If you’re wondering what not to do when planning an event, forgetting to allow enough set-up time should be near the top of your list. Some events require significant set-up time, particularly if there are décor changes, stalls or stages to prepare. Even smaller events will need some level of set-up, whether it’s to prepare the catering or to ensure that the audio-visual equipment is working as it should.
Once you’re sure of your requirements, try to estimate how long it will take you to prepare the venue. The venue itself may be able to provide some guidance from past events too. You may need to book your venue earlier than expected to provide enough preparation time before your guests arrive.
4. Check for other events nearby
If you’re hosting your event off-site, another thing to consider when planning an event is whether there are other events on nearby. There may be multiple conference rooms in your chosen venue, and neighbouring gatherings could impact yours (particularly if it’s likely that the neighbouring events are likely to be noisy).
Other events in the area, like sports matches or concerts, could have a bearing on local traffic, parking or public transport. It’s worth checking the calendar to see if these could make a difference to your conference or event. If necessary and possible, it may be a good idea to change your date.
5. Have a back-up plan
Not having a contingency plan in place is a common event planning mistake to avoid. Events and conferences are tricky things. Even with the best possible planning, things can go wrong on the day. That’s why it’s so important to have contingency plans in place, particularly for the event essentials, to ensure that your occasion can run as smoothly as possible.
For example, have you thought about what would happen if the venue has to cancel at the last minute? Or if the caters don’t turn up? Have you considered how bad weather or bad traffic could impact your event? It’s not easy to plan for these eventualities but having a back-up plan in place will help you deal with any crises on the day.
6. Ensure you have enough help
As an event planner, you can handle a lot of tasks and issues. From planning to problem-solving, your skills are in creating a memorable and successful event for your company or clients.
When thinking about how to plan an event successfully, it’s worth remembering that you can’t do everything. It’s simply not possible for you to register guests, set out the catering, serve food, organize the guest speakers, ensure that the audio-visual equipment is working and deal with any ad-hoc problems that occur on the day.
Having enough staff to assist you is an important thing to consider when planning an event. Identify areas where you’ll likely need extra assistance and be sure to book in your help well in advance.
7. Do a dry run with your clients
Whether you’re planning an event in-house or working with external clients, it’s important to do a dry run or walk-through with your bosses/clients in advance of your event.
Miscommunication or lack of clarity can be a significant problem that isn’t easily fixed at the last minute. By doing a walk-through of your event, you’ll be able to identify any potential areas that need to be clarified. Do a run through of the schedule, talk through menus and demonstrate seating plans to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
8. Test your tech
Failing to test your technology is at the top of the list of what not to do when planning an event. It will be a good idea to discuss your audio-visual requirements in detail with your venue to ensure that they know exactly what you need.
It’s also a good idea to check what type of connections the venue has to ensure that they will work with your laptop or storage device. If necessary, make sure that you have the right adapters or cables and test your tech before the event.
It’s usually worthwhile to identify who will be in charge of sorting the technology on the day. This could be handled by the venue but it’s best to have someone on your team to help too.
9. Make a packing list
With events of all sizes and types, a packing list is a must when putting together all of the things to consider when planning an event. While your vendors and venue may be handling a lot of the work, there will still be plenty of things you need to bring with you to ensure that your event is as successful as possible.
It’s a good idea to make your packing list well in advance and add to it as you think of items to bring with you. Double check your list on the day to make sure you don’t forget anything. This is even more important for items like your laptop, presentations and promotional materials.
10. Ask for feedback
After the completion of your event, be sure to have feedback plans in place. Your attendees are likely to value the opportunity to let you know what they thought of your event.
This type of connection with your attendees will also help you understand if there are any other common event planning mistakes to avoid for your next occasion. Your attendees may be able to provide valuable feedback on what worked and what didn’t on the ground.
Asking for feedback also gives you the opportunity to promote your next event or ask attendees if they would like you to keep in touch with other related materials.
Whether the event you’re planning is large or more intimate, we hope that our tips on common event planning mistakes to avoid has helped in your preparation process. From planning your numbers to putting together a plan b, there are plenty of ways to ensure that your event runs as smoothly as possible. For more information on putting together the perfect conference or event, read more on the Mercian Events blog.