10 Biggest Mistakes Event Planners Make
One of the biggest parts of my job at the Entrepreneurs Club is overseeing event management. At the core of our club is the Get Togethers, which attract 100+ students every week and involve a C-level executive speaking, a hands on skill building activity, networking and feeding everyone in the room a free dinner. If we measured my stress levels there would definitely be a spike on Tuesdays at 6pm.
Event planning and execution is incredibly important, and most organizations need to be good at it in order to engage effectively with their customers. Here is my short list of the keys to putting on great events:
1. You need a hook
Maybe it is a high profile speaker, a fancy free dinner or a sexy venue. Either way, there needs to be something attached to the name or description of the event that immediately entices people to come. The events that my team put on focus on the speaker as the hook. My rule of the thumb is that for every event, I need to hit all 3 of the following requirements:
- A big name speaker or company
- An impressive number to attach to that speaker
- A speaker that is high energy and knows how to give great talks
For example, “Featuring the CEO of Au Bon Pain, a $250M casual cafe chain that was named one of the healthiest restaurants in America.”
2. Logistics need to be smooth
One of the biggest mistakes folks make is underestimating the amount of little details that go into the logistics of putting on a great event. What time will the speaker arrive? Will they know how to get from the parking garage to the room? How are the chairs being set up? All of these details must be taken into account. Ideally, there should be someone on your team with a “Director of Operations” title who takes on full responsibility (with an assistant) for all of these items.
3. Timing is everything
I break events down to the minute. That means I know what is happening at 6:05 and 6:07. You need to take into account delays like people coming in late, standing up to get food, etc. Don’t underestimate these because they can add up. Before each event, I create what I call a “Logistics Schedule” that breaks down minute by minute what is happening, who is responsible for it, etc and I share it with my team. For example:
6:00 - 6:05 - Greet members - Entire team
6:05 - 6:07 - Member of the week announcement - Matt
And so on. This way, there is never any confusion for where we are in the progress of the event or where we need to be going at any given period of time during the event.
4. You can’t do it alone
Event planning is not a one person job. If you want to do it well, it needs to be team based. That means one person is responsible for the technology/media in the room, another person gets the food, and another escorts the speaker. Make sure that everyone on the team understands exactly what their roles are and what the action items / deliverables are for them during the event.
5. A boring speaker means that YOU are boring
If your organization is putting on an event, then you and you alone are responsible for every detail, both the good and the bad, that happens at the event. If you bring in a speaker and they speak in a monotone voice, droning on about random nonsense that has nothing to do with your event, here’s what’s going to happen: the people in the audience will think to themselves, “wow, (your organization) sucks!” That’s right, they won’t say “wow, this speaker sucks!” You get blamed. This means that you need to be on top of everything that happens and exert tight control over who gets to speak to the people at your event.
6. Food is a necessity
Every good event has food, and it must be free for attendees (or at no additional cost if they paid a fee to attend the event). Few things warm the human soul more than free food. I’m not saying you need lobster… keep it simple. But feed your attendees and they will be shockingly happier.
7. There has to be engagement
People’s attention spans are surprisingly short. Esspecially if you are targeting a younger demographic (ie people in their 20s), guess again if you think they’ll enjoy sitting through a 60 minute speaker. No way. Every good event has to be broken up into different chunks of activities.
When I plan events, I use the rule that attendees are never doing the same thing for much longer than 20 minutes. We keep it exciting and shift focus. All of our Entrepreneurs Club activities start with food and networking, then go to a hands on skill building activity, then to a speaker, then to Q&A and finally back to networking. It’s a solid framework and it works.
8. Leverage the F**k Factor
Particularly for younger audiences, people start paying a lot more attention when whoever is speaking does something that they seemingly shouldn’t. This especially holds true with dropping an occasional F-bomb to the crowd. It generally goes hand in hand with ensuring that whoever is speaking, making announcements, etc is doing it with a ton of energy and enthusiasm.
9. I’d rather “do” than just “listen”
The best events are interactive. That means the attendees aren’t just sitting in chairs the entire time, but instead they become part of the event. Maybe they are creating some plan and pitching it to the group. Perhaps there is a competition involved where attendees break up into teams. Or maybe they just have to answer a question. Either way, people want to be involved, and it will keep their attention. Ultimately, this makes an event more fun.
10. Follow up
Think carefully about the objective of your event. Was it to sell something? Or perhaps you were driving deeper engagement with your customers? Either way, there needs to be a follow up or call to action for attendees. Maybe it is an email sent out after the event with something to check out. Either way, make sure you circle back with your attendees and get their opinions on the event. Ask them what you could have done better and thank them profusely for their feedback.
Written by: La Toya Stirrup, E.I.C of SpeakMovement
Going into business with a family member is a thought most people tend to steer away from, but two ladies in South Florida have embraced the idea and are loving the collaboration. Meet Nashira and Glinda Scott. They are the mother/daughter team behindCreative Expressions FL, a new company looking to bring style and innovative ideas to event planning. I recently interviewed these fantastic ladies to learn more about their passion for event planning and how they leverage their relationship to offer creative solutions.
What inspired you to start an event planning company?
Nashira: Our inspiration came from our desire to plan events, which is something we love to do and have been doing for years for family and friends.
Glinda: After so many years of putting on events for family and friends, we decided to start our own business. It’s a joy to work at doing something you love.
What do you like most about helping others to plan events?
Nashira: The finale! We love to see the reaction on our clients’ faces. The smiles, the sighs of relief, the thank you’s, and the satisfaction!! It makes us overjoyed to see other people happy from something that we helped create.
Glinda: Our motto is “We make your dreams: memories to last.” There’s nothing like taking someone’s dream and making it a reality. The joy on our client’s face makes it all worth it.
Event planning is a highly saturated industry. What separates your company from others?
We offer event “Planning with a Purpose,” where we partner with community organizations and offer our talents in the form of volunteering as well as planning events wherein a portion of the proceeds are donated. We give back to our community. We can help our clients bring awareness to any health initiative that may be close to their heart. In the midst of working with the community, we offer a myriad of other services for birthdays, wedding, etc.
When someone leaves an event designed by Creative Expressions FL, what do you hope they walk away saying?
Nashira: ”This event was well organized and well orchestrated. They left no stone unturned. I will definitely be recommending their company for future business.”
Glinda: “They paid attention to every detail, they went above and beyond what we could have ever hoped for and they did it all within our budget. What you have done is everything we imagined it would be and more.”
What challenges and advantages do you find in being a mother/daughter team?
Nashira: The challenges are deciding whose name goes first on the business card! lol
Glinda: The advantages of being a mother/daughter team are that we work well together. We have the same vision and we can trust each other’s judgment and know each other’s work ethic.
You recently hosted a wedding expo. Talk to us about that event.
The bridal showcase expo was our first annual expo event. We were very excited about being able to work with the various vendors. We offered our brides an opportunity to visit each booth in order to get ideas and assist with the planning of their wedding. We were able to donate to charity and offer many prizes.
Since starting your event planning business, what has been your most memorable moment?
Our most memorable moment is seeing the face of our clients when they first see the venue. The joy you see on their face makes our job even more worthwhile.
Looking to the future, describe (or name) your dream client.
Nashira: Our dream client would be, anyone who has heard so much about our company, and has seen our work. They will come to us very excited, with their vision in mind, give us their proposal, and trust us to do the rest!!
Glinda: Our dream client would be Mr. Barack Obama. We would love to put on a gala for the President of the United States!
In your opinion, what makes a great event planner?
Nashira: A great event planner is well organized, creative, passionate, resourceful, and eager to meet the needs and wants of their client. A great event planner has no limits!
Glinda: A great event planner is one who pays close attention to detail. One who goes above and beyond to ensure that the client has a memorable event. Also, one who can stay within the budget.
The holidays are right around the corner. Do you have any ideas or tips for planning the perfect holiday party?
Nashira: When planning a holiday party offer a little personalization. Making your guests feel special with a personalized gift, made especially for them, will help set the tone.
Glinda: When planning the perfect holiday party remember you can keep it simple and it will still be an elegant affair. Ask for assistance from family and/or friends. Or contact us!
What’s next for Creative Expressions FL? Any events on the horizon?
We are forging relationships with various health organizations and community based organizations to plan several events to benefit them. We have a 30th birthday party and are making preparations for our 1 year anniversary celebration as a corporation.
Wedding in Aspen, Co
Mindy Weiss was the first event planner that I actually looked into researching. Funny enough, I actually discovered her through Twitter. A lot of the celebrities that I had been following had mentioned Mindy in their tweets at some point or another. Being curious as to who this was that could be a friend to so many celebrities, I later found that she was an Wedding/Event planner. Mindy has worked with a wide range of celebs from Katy Perry, Fergie and Josh Duhamel, Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum, Heidi Klum, Nicole Richie, and much more.
Beverly Hills Hotel
Mindy published a book (The Wedding Book: The Big Book for your Big Day) in 2008. The book took her 4 years to write. The New York Times named her one of the top 5 wedding planners in the US. Her services include: Weddings, Corporate Events, Bat/Bar Mitzvahs, Parties, and Destination Weddings and Events.
[all images are from Mindy’s portfolio on her website]
Alyssa over at the Small Business Bonfire recently posted an article titled “How To Promote Yourself Without Being A Jerk”. Alyssa makes several good points about promoting your small business with this being one of my favorite quotes:
You may have the best partner, PR agency and support system possible, but if you are not proactively advocating for yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to do it for you.
This article got me thinking a lot about how events can promote themselves to their audience because most events are businesses supporting the livelihood of real, hard-working people. Here’s my take on how Alyssa’s article translates into actionable steps for conferences, festivals and meetings.
Make Yourself Promotable
Alyssa’s first piece of advice is to focus on the quality of your product which will help increase your level of conviction when you’re promoting your product. For your event, this means getting a lot of things right like:
- Getting the best speakers, panelists, teachers and experts possible
- Choosing the best possible venue
- Making sure rooming and lodging are excellent
- Focusing on the little details that have a big impact on the perception of your event
Since there are so many things involved with planning a great event, I am a big advocate of simplifying your event. I know I’m going to sound like a GOP Presidential Candidate butyou need to make cuts: cut your number of topics, cut your number of sessions, cut your number of speakers, even cut your number of attendees. This will allow you to focus on the things that will help to make your conference or festival great.
Promote Others Constantly
Reciprocity without the expectation of anything in return is big in Alyssa’s book and I couldn’t agree more.
It irks me when I see people promoting themselves to the extreme, asking others to do the same for them, and offering not even a whisper of support in return…To take it even further, you need to not only promote others, but do it without an expectation of reciprocity. Yes, that’s right. You need to be reciprocal, but not expect it in return.
What this means for your conference is to promote your attendees without the expectation that they will register early or help you promote it to their network. The fact of the matter is that most people are busy and won’t pay attention until they absolutely have to. Ideas to help you promote others includes:
- Engaging your Speakers on social networks and promoting their sessions
- Promoting the benefits your Sponsors’ and Exhibitors’ provide attendees to promote to their customers and networks
- Connect attendees/vendors/sponsors/exhibitors who might be helpful to each other
- Re-tweeting attendee messages about your event
Be Confident, Not Cocky
Arrogance is one of things that pisses both Alyssa and me off. Don’t think just because your event is the “premier” event of a particular industry or subject area that people should care or automatically support you. Be humble, respect people’s time, energy and efforts and…
Always Be Gracious
A simple “thank you” can be one of the most powerful ways to earn respect and make your self-promotion efforts more tolerable.
You should always thank your attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and other supporters for helping to promote your conference. There are several ways you can do this including:
- Thanking users for re-tweeting your message
- Publicly thanking at your event
- Sending a note in the mail
- Including a thank-you note as an insert in the welcome bag
Ask For Help
One of the best ways to help promote your event is by giving your audience ownership: ask them for their help, support, feedback and ideas…and let them know you will be incorporating as much of their feedback as you can. Even if you don’t agree with their opinions, the very act of asking your audience’s opinion can buy you a bushel of goodwill!
Vote For Alyssa!
[Update: Apparently I’m a little late because Alyssa has already won! Congratulations!]
Tell Us On Facebook or in the comments below…
What are some non-jerk ways you promote your event? What jerk-style ways have you seen conference or festivals being promoted? What is the most annoying way you have seen or experienced a conference or festival being promoted?