Event Planners: Keep the Stress Away When Planning Your Live Events
If you’re an event planner, you know how stressful your job can be. Planning, organizing and keeping your event on track is a challenging feat. Whether it’s technology or managing your time, here are some helpful tips to make your event planning more productive and stress-free.
Create a Budget For Your Event — And Stick To It!
This sounds easy, right? Not many event planners like jumping into spreadsheets with financial information and crunching numbers, but creating (and sticking to) a budget is the number one step to avoiding a common event disaster: going over budget.
First, gather as much information as you can about the costs of your live event, like quotes, contracts and other agreements from vendors, shipping companies, advertising and promotional expenses, etc. Make sure to include any taxes, credit card fees, or any other expected charges that may not be included up-front, but that you expect in the end. Remember, contracts can be negotiated — so don’t hesitate to ask for the details so you get the best deal and receive the goods and services that you need to make your event a success.
Not all budgets are created equal! If you’re working with a smaller budget, find local or technology solutions that can make your life easier and ones that are more affordable. It’s also recommended to work on a contingency budget. Try to keep between 10-20% of your initial budget in an account for any emergency expenses that were not initially accounted for. (Hey, stuff happens!)
Set a Realistic Timeline
There is absolutely nothing more rewarding than seeing your event come together! To see the magic happen, you need a realistic idea of how long each part of planning your event is going to take, including setting up your marketing plan, turnaround time for marketing materials, recruiting volunteers, getting the AV services scheduled, setting up the day of the event — and everything else that goes into putting your event together.
Ask questions to each of your vendors and get advice from others who have done this type of event in the past. A realistic timeline is critical to your success (the key word here is realistic). If you’re not a “big picture” person, set smaller, more manageable goals and timelines throughout the planning stages. Those smaller goals will add up to the big picture in the end.
Organize Your Time And Ideas
You can organize yourself in many ways, depending on the type of event planner you are and what your schedule allows for. It’s important to work smarter — not harder. The more efficiently you work, the stronger your event becomes. Your efficiency while planning your event helps reduce stress throughout the project. If you plan your days ahead of time or schedule meetings that involve similar concepts/ideas and team members on the same day, you may be less flustered when you’re trying to bring all your ideas together. To avoid stressful last-minute changes, it’s helpful to set a deadline for your sponsors, vendors, exhibitors and other event contacts.
It’s also important to consider your workspace. Are you working in a cluttered environment? If so, this may prevent you from getting your ideas across or quickly finding the information that you need (you know it’s in that pile…somewhere!).
Choose a Reputable and Reliable Venue
When choosing the venue for your event, don’t just pick the first one you find. You want to select a venue that is going to work for your number of guests, your theme or decor, your event flow and activities and one that is going to accommodate all your needs. It’s easy to find one that fits your specs on paper, but what is it really like? Will the lighting work? Will the internet connection be good enough for live streaming? Can you bring in your event caterer? Is there adequate parking for attendees? Are there hotels and restaurants close by? There are many little things to think about when you book your venue before you stress about them later (like the day before the event!).
It’s ideal to find a venue that offers in-house services, like tables, linens and catering, but don’t feel pressured to use them. They may or may not fit your budget. It’s important to discuss these options before you sign on the dotted line. If you have another vendor that meets your needs and is willing to work with your chosen venue, connect everyone together by scheduling a meeting with all involved so you all can talk logistics. Just be sure that your plan comes together with everyone working as a team. Remember, as the event planner, you are ultimately responsible for everything coming together — so stay involved to make sure things are coordinated smoothly.
Utilize Your Resources, Including Volunteers
When it comes to pulling off a successful event, it’s all about who and what you know! Use your resources wisely. If your brother is a web developer, ask him to build your website. If a sponsor is a printing company, ask them to cut you a deal on print materials. If you have experience in using a certain online ticketing service that you know works well, use it. Don’t waste time researching something new when you have something that you know works! Whether your resources are a digital service, a local shop or a trusted friend, ask questions and collaborate to get the best results and reduce the chaos.
You can’t do any event alone — it takes a village! Did you budget to hire staff for your event or do you have some extra money available in your budget? Consider hiring vendors that offer multiple services as a “one-stop shop” to lessen your stress on the communication side of things. It’s much easier to work with one vendor to handle multiple aspects of your event than having to work with multiple people for each and every project related to your event. For instance, many event management companies offer AV services in addition to content management, marketing and other event services. There are plenty of options for you to explore that will save you time, energy and headaches.
If you don’t have a budget to hire an outside service to help with your event management and need volunteers for your event to run smoothly, do not wait to sign them up. When you have enough volunteers signed up, sign up a few more. You can never have too much help! Having extra assistance allows you to cover someone who ends up being sick the day of the event or allows your volunteers to have more frequent breaks. You may also want to designate one specific volunteer to be your official assistant. They can be a lifesaver when something small comes up that you are unable to tend to.
Keep Everyone Involved In Your Event Informed
As mentioned earlier, you can’t produce an event alone. Be sure to develop a clear communication plan between yourself, your team and your vendors. Whether you use group chat, email, a shared folder of documents online, an online project management tool or some other method to collaborate, these types of tools will keep your communication lines open and ongoing throughout the event planning process.
EVENT PLANNER PRO TIP: There are low-cost or free online collaboration and project management tools, such as Trello or Google Keep, that will make keeping your team informed much more streamlined. You may want to consider these tools to keep your ideas and communication lines clear.
Create And Automate Your Marketing Pieces
One of the most common and inexpensive ways to market your event is through social media. If your message is interesting and compelling, people will spread social media posts like wildfire. Develop creative content, like a catchy logo or slogan, fun videos or come up with a funny hashtag and share, share, share it with the world (well, the internet).
When you’ve got your social media marketing content ready to go, set it up through an automated scheduler. It is a low-cost way to save yourself time and energy. It’s easy to set a reminder on your phone to post that picture to Instagram or Facebook, but what if you skipped the step of reminding yourself and just posted it for the day and time you want it to go live? Using an automated social media scheduling tool is so easy and convenient! Automating your posts also keeps your brand and message consistent. The data you can collect through using some automated services is golden when it comes to planning ahead for future marketing, sales and event operations. Spend less time fretting and trying to remember the little marketing things. You’ll know that the free or low-cost strategic marketing service is working for you.
EVENT PLANNER PRO TIP: Don’t forget to find an email service to send email reminder blasts to your attendees who have registered for your event. Some of these types of services are even FREE!
Develop a Backup Plan
When you have a plan in place for something that might go wrong, it gives you peace of mind. Spend a few extra hours coming up with contingency plans and backup contacts for each of your services, just in case. You can’t control the weather or anticipate a specific technology failure, but you can come up with plans to alleviate the stress of situations and other issues that can pop up.
EVENT PLANNER PRO TIP: Consider all insurance options for your event in case of a major emergency. A minimum $1 million in general liability insurance is typically required for events in the United States, but it may be more in some states or specific event instances. Also, talk to your vendors about contract cancellations, including fees or any potentially lost deposits if something drastic happens that causes you to cancel or reschedule the event.
You’re within your budget, your volunteers are ready to go, your backup plans are in place and your attendees are excited about your event. You’re all set, but you’re still stressing out the night before…Stop. Pause. Don’t drive yourself crazy by worrying about all of the things that could go wrong. What is the worst that can happen? And honestly: is it really going to happen? Statistically, it’s not likely.
Take a moment to relax and be proud of the event you created. Your hard work and dedication as an event professional will pay off. Enjoy a good night’s sleep, take a deep breath and be proud of your hard work!