Planning Your Next Event
Planning an event is stressful. It involves planning, coordination, project management skills – and a lot of stress! In fact, being an event coordinator made it on the list as one of the top most stressful jobs in 2017.
Despite the challenges, pulling off a successful event is very rewarding! Whether you’re planning a conference, business meeting, corporate event, festival, fair, music event, college/university graduation or any other event, planning is key. Here are some tips of things to consider as you plan your next event.
Select the Date
Selecting the date of your event is important. The sooner you select and confirm your event’s date, the better. When choosing the date of your event, be sure to think about your audience and who will be attending. You will want to have at least one or two backup dates – just in case. (This is important just in case the venue you want doesn’t have availability on your preferred date.) If you’re planning a corporate event, be sure to take a survey of the participants/invitees and give them a list of the proposed dates and poll them on their availability. This will give you a good idea of the event attendees availability, so you can make an educated plan for the date.
Also, be sure to think about the seasons. For instance, look at your calendar and consider upcoming holidays, vacations during the summer season or other seasonal/weather issues (like blizzards or hurricanes) that may impact attendance.
Selecting the right location for your event is crucial. When you’re looking for a place to host your event, here are some things to consider:
– How many people will be at the event?
– Will the event be inside or outside?
– Do you need to have any special A/V equipment?
– Is wireless internet access available/needed?
– Is the location easy to get to for your attendees?
– What type of parking is available?
– Is it close to mass transit/public transportation?
– Is the venue close to hotels?
– What tourist attractions and restaurants are nearby?
– What other service amenities are needed?
When selecting a venue, the type of event you’re hosting will probably dictate what type of venue you select. For instance, if you’re having a large outdoor festival or concert, you’ll want to look for a venue that has good (and close) parking and easy access to public transportation. But if you’re having a corporate business event, you want to pick a location that’s close to your local airport and hotels. The easier it is to get to your event, the more likely it is that people will attend.
When selecting a venue, keep your budget in mind. All venues have different prices and charge differently. Some venues have unions, which means that you can be charged every time a union worker picks up a box or moves something for you. Some will charge you for projectors others will comp those types of items. Be sure you get an itemized list of everything that is included when you sign the contract with the venue.
When you have an event, food is typically on the menu! Depending on the venue you’ve selected, you may be restricted to use their food services or in some cases you may be able to bring in your own catered food. Find out all this beforehand. You also want to consider how you want the food to be served – will it be buffet style? Plated? Just snacks? Depending on the type of food served and style of food, that will impact how your table layout will be setup. (For instance, if you’re having a buffet-style dinner, you want to make sure there is enough room for the buffet tables and enough space for people to walk around and still get back to their table to sit down and eat.) If you’re hosting a smaller workshop, you still want to make sure that there’s enough room for people to walk around the tables comfortably.
When selecting food, also be sure to consider that many people have food preferences – vegetarians or people with other food allergies. It’s best to check with your attendees beforehand to see if they have any food preferences so you can ensure that you have special food accommodations available for specific people that have special food needs.
When you are looking at venues and planning on setting up your room(s), make sure that you can setup the room the way you envision. For instance, if you plan on having a main stage, will the attendees be sitting at round tables facing the stage or will they be sitting in a classroom style setting? What about lighting? Screens for PowerPoint presentations? Will there also be larger LED screens?
You want to make sure that your attendees are comfortable, so make sure that the room will comfortably accommodate all the people you anticipate at your event. Here are some guidelines:
Regular seating with a stage at the front:
– 50 people or less: approximately 12 square feet per person
– 300 people or less: approximately 11 square feet per person
– More than 300 people: approximately 10 square feet per person
Banquets with tables and buffets:
– 13 square feet per person
Classroom style setup:
– 50 people or less: approximately 22 square feet per person
– 300 people or less: approximately 20 square feet per person
– More than 300 people: approximately 18 square feet per person
Standing room events:
– Approximately 9 square feet per person
For all these estimates, remember to include extra space for food, exhibits, registration tables, drink tables and any other signage or tables that will be at the event.
A/V, Sound & Lighting
One of the things that makes an event stand out is the appearance and atmosphere at the event. The sounds, the lights, the stage, the presentation, the screen, etc. That means that A/V, sound and lighting is very important to the success of your event.
Here are some must-have A/V equipment to have at your event:
– Microphones – wireless, lavalier, podium
– Adjustable lighting and supplemental lighting if needed
– In-house or external sound system
– Portable sound system if needed
– Video cameras
– Screens – what size do you need and where do they need to be located?
– LED screens – if you have a large venue with a big crowd
Spreading the Word
Once you get the date, time and location set, it’s time to spread the word! If you’re planning a corporate event, chances are you have a list of invitees and sending out those invitations will be easy. If you’re planning a large-scale music event, you’ll have to put your marketing hat on and get going! Whatever type of event you’re planning, try as best you can to determine how many people you anticipate attending the event in advance. That way you’ll avoid any unexpected issues with the venue size or crowd control.
Staying on Track
Managing the planning and coordination of your event from the time you start planning to the day of the event is crucial. That means you’ll need to coordinate with invitees, outside vendors (like A/V and lighting professionals), the venue, caterers, your team and others. Make sure you use your project management skills and document everything! Keeping track of every conversation, every contract you sign, every email you send and receive, etc. will ensure that you can refer to later if needed.
Set up a separate folder on your computer that’s just for the event and keep a separate email folder as well that’s dedicated to the event. Make sure your calendar – whether it’s paper or electronic – documents milestones and due dates and that everyone on your team is aware of important dates well in advance.
Planning and execution are crucial to the success of any event. Hopefully, these tips will help make your next event a winner!