September 7, 2017

17 tips for organizing a successful event

Organizing an event requires attention to detail, advance planning, attention to detail, strong communications skills, attention to detail and ample follow-through — oh, and did we mention attention to detail?

Nothing in event planning matters more than paying attention to the little things. Have you timed speakers to the minute? Are PowerPoint slides properly configured and checked for typos? Have you communicated with the venue or caterer about all food options, including any vegetarian or gluten-free requests? Do you have an accurate budget? If you’re organizing an awards presentation, did someone remember to pick up the trophies or plaques? Have names been spelled properly?

If an event organizer is lucky, any awards function, conference, seminar or social gathering will proceed smoothly, without anyone calling attention to the event flow. But get one little detail wrong, and word will spread like a norovirus on a cruise ship.

So how can an event planner prepare for the best and prevent the worst? Here are some tips for ensuring that your event is remembered for how smoothly it went, not any inadvertent glitches:

1. Hire an event planner. The Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado have many skilled and talented event planners, and hiring them can save you time, money and heartache. They know the region’s venues and are familiar with various vendors, from audio-visual companies to caterers to trophy companies. They can handle all aspects of an event, from concept to registration to decor. If you’re new to event planning, it’s best to consult a professional.

2. Determine the purpose of your event early on. What do you hope to accomplish? Understand this upfront, and it will help drive the overall process. If you don’t understand the purpose of your planned event, you might as well cancel while you’re ahead.

3. Conduct a needs assessment. Write down what you are looking for in terms of time frame, facility, food, parking, transportation, trophies or plaques,registration system, marketing, audio-visual services and other needs, so it’s all clearly laid out.

4. Plan way ahead. Large-scale events such as conferences or awards banquets should be planned at least a year in advance, especially when it comes to locking in a venue. Smaller events can be organized a couple of months in advance.

5. Create a master checklist, preferably in a shared spreadsheet that is constantly updated by different team members, with new items added and old ones checked off as they’re accomplished. Be sure to assign specific tasks to members of your team, with strict deadlines. Review the checklist on a regular basis so that you don’t fall behind or miss an important deadline.

6. Examine all options for your event venue. The Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado boast some incredible facilities for events large and small. Whether you’re planning a conference for hundreds, a massive event for thousands or a more-intimate gathering, performing walk-throughs and checking references prior to selecting a venue is essential. And don’t be afraid to consider the unusual: A building with unfinished office space can be a fun, edgy venue, though it could come with additional challenges, such as electricity, Internet access, etc.

7. You’ve planned an event, but what if no one comes? This is where marketing comes in. Consider whether you need printed invitations, which remain a viable way to get information to a specific, targeted audience. Email invitations also can be very effective, but be careful to comply with all spam laws. Social media can help build a buzz around your event, but only if you have a strong event website, with online registration that works. Consider radio advertising or print advertising in local publications, and reach out to community organizations with online calendars, such as chambers of commerce, nonprofits, trade organizations, daily newspapers and business journals.

8. Communicate with attendees. Online registration should include an emailed receipt and confirmation of their RSVP. Follow up occasionally as the event date approaches with any supplementary information on parking, speaker changes, attire, etc.

9. Be prepared for no-shows and walk-ups. Things happen, and people who RSVP might have to cancel without giving you advance notice. Be prepared for questions about your refund policy. At the same time, people procrastinate or simply forget to register. If possible, have enough seating and food on hand to accommodate a limited number of walk-ups. But remember: There’s nothing wrong with saying you’re SOLD OUT!

10. Have advance conference calls with speakers, especially for any panel discussions. Be sure that they understand what is expected of them in terms of presentation, PowerPoints, timing, etc. Panel participants should complement one another, not repeat one another, and they should have a clear understanding of the audience and any potential Q&A session.

11. Ensure that all attendees can see and hear the speakers. It might cost a little extra, but an additional screen with a live video feed of speakers can make a huge difference. If everyone in the audience can’t see and hear, what’s the point in them attending?

12. Have a dry run for all speakers. This can be done a couple of hours before the event or even the night before for larger events. It will give speakers and panelists a chance to see the venue, test the A/V and get comfortable with the event flow.

13. Have cell-phone numbers for all speakers and vendors programmed into your phone, and make sure they have your contact information. If they hit traffic on Interstate 25 or U.S. Highway 36, they’ll want a way to get ahold of you.

14. Pay attention to the food, both in quantity and quality. Poor food choices — or not having enough — will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. But be aware that hotels typically will increase a food order by 5 percent. So don’t order more food than you need. (This is where an experienced event planner can help advise you.)

15. Get competing bids, and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. When it comes to venues or vendors, work hard to get the best price possible. It doesn’t hurt to question a price quote, and getting competing bids will only help your bottom line and tell you whether a particular vendor is out of line.

16. Once the event is underway, be prepared for the unexpected, and act quickly to resolve any issues.

17. Finally — and you knew this was coming — don’t forget the details.

Organizing an event requires attention to detail, advance planning, attention to detail, strong communications skills, attention to detail and ample follow-through — oh, and did we mention attention to detail?

Nothing in event planning matters more than paying attention to the little things. Have you timed speakers to the minute? Are PowerPoint slides properly configured and checked for typos? Have you communicated with the venue or caterer about all food options, including any vegetarian or gluten-free requests? Do you have an accurate budget? If you’re organizing an awards presentation, did someone remember to pick up the…

Related Content