As I have worked on more and more events, I have realized there are a bunch of small things that anyone who does not regularly work on events will forget to do or not realize they have to do. Even for someone who works on events frequently, there are a bunch of things that may fall to the back of my mind. Over time, I have learned (somewhat the hard way) to make sure they do not slip through the cracks. But for all of you who are first-time event planners, let’s go over some things that you will be grateful you know before your next event.
1) Ask the printer to put your name badges in alphabetical order. You may think this is really silly, but imagine if you received hundreds of name badges that you pre-printed, and they were completely mixed up. It doesn’t matter if you alphabetized them before you sent them to the printer. You MUST ask for them to be that way when they are delivered.
2) Put signage everywhere – including the really obvious locations. As the event planner, you know your conference better than anyone. You know the short cuts to get from one room to the other. You could basically go from session to session in your sleep if you had to. But for most people, it may be the first time in a particular venue, and you need to put signage EVERYWHERE. That means on multiple floors, at the top and bottom of the escalators, near the elevators, and outside of doors. Do a walk through of the venue, and put signs along every path along the route. You may think it is overkill, and that means that you put the correct amount of signage.
3) Order giveaways weeks in advance to avoid rush charges. Events get expensive. We know that. So avoid paying extra fees as much as you can. Even though there may be more important things to think about then what giveaway you are going to give out, think about it as soon as possible because it takes a lot of time to order materials and personalize them. Leave yourself at least 3 weeks for basic giveaways, and even more time if they are a bit more unique (you never know what is only produced internationally!)
4) Get on people’s schedules as soon as you can. Everyone’s schedule books up fast. And not everyone can rearrange their schedule because of an event. Do you need your executives on the event? Book them first because executives often cannot rearrange their schedules last minute. Do you need assistance from other people in your company to setup or breakdown? Make sure you block off their schedules. Do you need to set up information sessions to inform your company about the event? Get on their calendars a few weeks in advance too!
5) Ask the hotel or venue if you can set up early and test EVERYTHING. Sometimes a venue will let you in early if they do not have another event blocked off the day/night before. Setting up the night before (or the day before if you are lucky) will allow you to fix a lot of mistakes that may not be fixable when your event starts. Test your presentations on the presentation screens before your event begins. If you have any custom fonts, make sure they are working on the venue screens. Test the wireless. Test the sound. Test anything you can think of!
6) Find out if there are charges for shipping what you need to the location and condense, if possible. Most venues have drayage fees that charge the event planners extra for shipping and/or storing supplies before the event. Find out what these fees are (they are often per pound), and figure out if you need to ship everything or if you can condense multiple boxes.
7) Get extra staff for registration, directions, timing, etc. It is always helpful to have more people helping out at your event than you expect. Plan carefully for registration as that is the attendees’ first impression of your event. Have a lot of people running registration to avoid long lines. In addition to your directional signage, have floaters helping people from session to session or even when they first walk in the door. Have people dedicated to making sure the speakers stay on time for their sessions.
8) Communicate the final agenda weeks in advance to attendees. Have your agenda ready to promote to attendees and potential attendees 2-3 months before your event. Not only will it allow you to promote to new attendees, but it will answer many questions from your current attendees. People who sign up for events want to know what they will get out of it and how to prove its value to their boss. The agenda will be your best tool to assist in this question.
9) Give the venue some personality – spice it up with your brand! A hotel or convention center can be somewhat bland before you bring in some aspects of your brand. Think past putting your logo all over the place, and think about your brand colors and personality. How can you bring your company’s culture to an event? How can you spice up a room to give your attendees a feel for your event?
10) Create a project plan. The first thing you should do before beginning any work on an event is create a project plan. The plan should include every small detail you need to do from signing contracts to sending in name badges and printing signs. No matter how big or small the task, it should be on your project plan. Even better, you can use it for multiple events in the future.
What other details do people typically forget when planning events?