How to Avoid Common Event Planning Pitfalls
By: Faith Klaus, CEO
Smashingly Events, LLC
What are some of the more common, avoidable pitfalls that corporate event planners can avoid?
Smashingly Events has provided a check list of questions to ask yourself as a planner. If you can honestly answer these questions, and feel confident that you have covered your bases, we believe the likelihood of having a successful event will be increased significantly.
Event Professionals – Ask Yourselves These Questions
Do You Know Your Client? At Smashingly Events, we sit down with every corporate client to understand the following:
- What are you trying to accomplish with this event? Businesses do not just have an event for the sake of having an event. Having worked on Wall Street for over 25 years, we at Smashingly Events, we know that clients want an Return on their Investment [ROI], and we, as event planners, must have a laser beam focus on what the client’s end game is for the event.
For example, the event might be a team building event for their employees, or a marketing event for the products they produce, or a client appreciation party or, a conference that requires soup to nuts planning including meetings, receptions, speakers and the works. As an event planner, you better understand what the client needs and what the client wants or you are sure to fail.
- Who will be attending? At Smashingly Events we ask for a clear understanding of who the audience at the event will be. Knowing the composition of the audience – ages, genders, etc. – will help you focus on planning an event that will be appropriate for the group, and give you a better chance for success.
- What is the budget? In many cases, the client may not know. I have found that most corporate clients have a dollar figure in mind. It is up to you as the event planner to make sure you have a clear understanding of what things generally cost and, whether what the client is asking for is realistic.
- What is the client expecting from you, the event professional? At Smashingly Events, we love it when a client gives us a general overview of what they want and lets us run with it. Meaning, we come up with an overview presentation and budget that meets their expectations, we obtain client approval and then, we move forward with contracting directly with the vendors and coordinate the entire show, billing the client as we make deposits and payments. However, that might not be what the client wants. How involved does the client want to be in the planning process? How many update meetings or calls do they expect between now and the event? How will the billing process work at your corporation? As you build a solid reputation with the client, you will have a better understanding of how the client works and what the client expects. Get that repeat business!
- Who is the decision maker at the corporation? It will be important to know what individual or team you go to in order to obtain approvals for event-related decisions. Often, you will have to have a decision that is made quickly so that you don’t lose that keynote speaker to another event or that great venue.
So you think you know what the client wants, now what?
Do you have a plan? If you have gotten to this question, you hopefully have already put together a presentation for the client with what you plan on accomplishing. At Smashingly Events, when we present to a client, we provide a detailed overview of what they can expect from us. For example, if it is a client reception, we provide a detailed presentation on venue, theme, décor, entertainment, food and cost. Once the client approves the event, we send them a contract that highlights exactly what they can expect from us and in turn, the payment schedule.
Do you have the right team working with you on the event? At Smashingly Events, we travel all over the country to put together events. This means, that at each site, we have to assemble the “A” team of vendors as our teammates to put together the event, or it is doomed from the start.
How do you find the “A” list vendor team? First, because we have traveled extensively all over the world, we have a list of great venues and locations for events already in our portfolio. Second, we belong to the National Association of Catering and Events [NACE], so if we need a verification that a vendor is of sound quality, we check whether they are a member of their local NACE chapter. Third, we often contact the luxurious hotels in the area for their preferred vendor list. Fourth, once we have picked out our venue, we ask them for their preferred vendor list as well. Suddenly, you start to notice a pattern. Most of the quality vendors are on all of the lists or at least some of the lists. Then we start to interview vendors. We send them our presentation of what we are looking for and have them compete on price and service. We look up all of their credentials and reviews from other clients. We often call other clients to check on the quality of service for vendors.
Without assembling the best team of vendors to work with you, you are sure to fail. You cannot put together an entire event without having the right production, lighting, props, entertainment, florist, photographers and other teammates. Once you have your team in place, you can begin contracting with each of them for the job you need them to do.
Go All-In On The Theme – At Smashingly Events, when we choose a theme for an event, we go with it 100%. Meaning, the décor, food and entertainment must reflect the theme of the event. We pair the food with the décor. The entertainment must match the event’s theme and what you are trying to reflect in the event. Have you ever gone to an event and wondered, what is the theme? The last thing you want your clients asking is, what am I doing here?
Know Your Audience – We take the time to understand what the composition of the audience is going to be. The last thing you want to do is have a dance band, when generally, the audience there is coming for a corporate conference and probably has no interest in dancing. If there are going to be children and families there, you want to have entertainment that is age appropriate. You want the event to have something for everyone. Without understanding who the audience is, you will not succeed.
Not Ordering Enough Food – This point is pretty obvious. Often, if you are having it at a hotel or restaurant, they will be able to add food at a fairly quick clip. We like to over compensate on the food end. The time of day that you have an event will dictate what the guests are expecting. An event from 5 pm until 8 pm will have the expectation that dinner will be provided. An event that starts at 8 pm for example, can likely offer appetizers and drinks.
The Wrong Flow – At Smashingly Events, we work with the venue and our vendors to lay out the event using software products, to make sure everyone on the team knows where every prop, flower, bar, etc. is going to go for the event. It is very important that you understand how the event will flow. Having a bar in the back of the room open at the beginning of the event will make guests move through the room to see what there is to do at the beginning. Having food stations mixed in with entertainment will make sure that guests don’t just get food, eat and leave. They are actually immersed in the event when the layout of the event is right.
Do You Have a Proper Run of Show? As the event planner, you are the operations manager for your vendor team. You are responsible for properly communicating the layout of the event and the run of show, all the way from set up to tear down. At Smashingly Events, we meet with our vendor teams multiple times and have numerous phone and email communication so that there are no major misunderstandings along the way. If you are not organized and a stickler for details, event planning is not the right career for you.
Not Having a Clear Understanding of the Budget – At Smashingly Events, having come from a financial background, we are all about the P&L of the event. No matter how appealing that extra piece of entertainment, prop or floral arrangement is, you must stick with the budget. This is a business after all and if you do not understand the numbers and how to lay out and maintain a budget, then you will not be in business for very long.
Do a Proper Follow Up – After each event, we have a meeting with the client to reflect on the event. What could we have done better? What did the client like? Is there the potential for follow up business? We also write thank you notes to the vendors and follow up with them on their thoughts around the event. You must continue to grow and learn from each event. Without follow up, you will never know what you can do better and what business you might be missing in the future.
We hope that you found this helpful. If you have any questions or anything that we can help you with, please feel free to contact us at smashinglyevents.com
CEO: Smashingly Events, LLC