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Top 5 Event Planning Tips

Planning an event looks so easy when you have an event or meeting planner behind the event. It might seem glamorous to be an event planner, but it’s one of the hardest and stressful jobs out there. Don’t get me wrong… it’s also a lot of fun to create an experience that brings your client’s vision to life. Not only do you need to be able to see the big picture and overall vision, but you need to be able to roll up your sleeves and get into the details. Besides being an expert communicator and planner, there are 5 tips to keep in mind when planning an event.

Know your audience and always keep them in mind I know it may sound fundamental, but you should always keep your audience in mind when planning your event. It is very important to really know them. Step in their shoes and learn about their preferences, expectations, and price points. What I like to do is split them up into 2-3 groups. For example, if you’re organizing a food and beer pairing at a San Diego brewery then you could target these groups:

  • Primary target – beer enthusiasts in Greater San Diego

  • Secondary target – foodies in Greater San Diego

  • Tertiary target – beer enthusiasts and/or foodies in drive markets, such as Orange County, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and Mexico

Once you break them up into these groups, you can really drill it down even more by age, gender, behaviors, interests, etc. By doing this, you’ll be able to create an appealing experience, market to them, and convert them to attend your event.

Use technology If you aren’t that techy, learn to embrace technology since it can really help you plan and execute your event flawlessly. There are a variety of apps and software that can help you with anything from creativity to project management or communicating with your team to engaging with your guests. Here are a few of my faves:

  • Pinterest – this is a great place to get inspiration to create a memorable experience.

  • Asana – this is an awesome project management and communication tool.

  • Trello – this is a to do list on steroids.

  • Whova – this is an all-in-one event management software where you can manage your event in one place, from event agenda management and speaker management, event registration, name badge generation, onsite attendee check-in, live polling, event marketing to the mobile event app.

For more details on some of these apps and to learn about other productivity apps, check out my other blog here.

Prepare for anything and everything When you’re planning your event, the key is to plan, plan, plan and then plan some more. Events can change at the last minute due to weather, other competing events, traffic, etc. so it’s best to over prepare and be proactive. For example, when I was helping the US Olympic Committee with the 2004 Athens Olympic Games we had a workforce issue at the OAKA Stadium. The structure for the US Hospitality Center was somewhat finished, but the carpet was non-existent. It turns out that it was installed because the workforce was from another country were used to taking long breaks where they could take naps. This made it difficult to get things done, especially when things were already behind. We had to adjust the way we approached the situation and learned how to work with a different culture by monitoring them more, negotiating differently, and adjusting the working hours. Luckily, everything worked out, but who would’ve thought we had to deal with nap breaks. Dealing with the unknown and thinking on your feet is the most exciting part of this job and I love it! :)

Get organized Being organized is one of the keys to success for an event planner. If you’re organized and have a handle on the details, it’ll be easier for you to see the big picture and think out of the box. Plus, you’ll be less stressed. When I organize an event, I like to combine old school processes with modern, techy tools. I stay organized by creating an event binder, but also use event planning software and document storage.

My event binders consist of important details of the event in hard copy, notes, ideas, and contracts. You should ideally have a different binder for each event and the binder should include the following sections:

  • Itinerary/Agenda

  • Important Contacts

  • Guest List

  • Correspondence

  • Contracts

  • Catering

  • Security

  • Décor

  • Entertainment

  • Lodging/Rooming List

  • Arrivals/Departures

  • Activities

  • Gifts

  • Budget

  • Miscellaneous

As mentioned earlier, I like using the Asana, Trello, and Whova apps to help with event planning, project management, and team communication. As for document storage, I like to use Google Drive and Dropbox. These tools allow me to upload, store, and organize electronic documents from spreadsheets to invoices to floor plans. Plus, you can pull up these documents from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

In the end, everyone is different so you need to find a system that works for you. The most important thing to keep in mind is accessibility and readiness of information. If you can’t easily get to the information then the system won't work.

Stay relaxed and smile The best advice I have ever received is to remain calm and always have a smile on your face even when things don’t go as planned. If you show your emotions and freak out, it will have a negative effect on the event, your client, and their guests. I am such a perfectionist and very detail-oriented so when something goes wrong it stresses me out. I love to plan, plan, plan, but I have learned through the years to just smile and go with the flow since guests don’t know when something goes wrong. When there are issues, I look at the situation, all of my options and then determine which path has the least negative effect on my client and their guests. Whatever you do, always keep your client and their guests in mind, smile, work with your team, and everything will work out.


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