5 Critical Event Planning Mistakes to Avoid

September 8, 2019 Erica Maurer

It's a good time to be an event planner. It's estimated that B2B events like conferences, tradeshows, and planned marketing meetings are on the rise. That means that anyone in the event space needs to bring their A-game to work.

Whether you're an event planning veteran or are new to the industry, it's always good to stay on top of the latest event planning tips. 

The event planning industry is changing, and if you want to stay relevant you need to know best practices. Attend events to see what industry professionals are doing and take the time to get some helpful advice from experts.

Sometimes the best way to learn best practices is to know what you shouldn't be doing so you can avoid making mistakes. We're going to take some time to explore some things that could potentially hurt the next event you plan.

The Top 5 Planning Mistakes That Can Ruin Events 

Let's face it, a lot can go wrong when you're planning an event.

Some mistakes that happen during an event are so small that only event staff would know something went wrong. They don't matter much to attendees because it doesn't hurt their experience.

Other mistakes have the potential to cause a lot of damage. They could end up costing you a lot of money or have the potential to ruin the event for people that attend. 

Whether you're planning a large conference for your industry or an intimate gathering for professionals, be sure to avoid these 5 potential event ruining mistakes.

Not Being Tech Ready 

Events and conferences require a lot of technology to go smoothly. You'll most likely be using TV screens, projectors, microphones, and adapters throughout the day.

It's important for your tech team to be on top of everything from the beginning. They should be testing equipment days and weeks before the event to make sure everything will run smoothly. 

If the venue you're using has a staff dedicated to A/V help, make sure they take the time to sync with your staff. You don't want to bring in any outside equipment that may not work with their current set up.

Also, be sure to keep in mind that your testing environment isn't going to be the same as your day of environment.

The room you're working in is going to be much louder the day of your event and will also be more crowded. Be sure to account for extra noise and people when you're doing your test. 

Not Checking the Calendar

Whether you're planning your event in a small town or a large city, it's always important to see what's happening around your preferred date. 

There's nothing worse than setting a date and putting down deposits only to learn that your event is running alongside another more popular event. This can be especially harmful when both events have the same audience. 

People can't be in two places at once. Hoping that people pick your event over the other isn't a good planning strategy. That's why it's important to try to avoid the situation as much as possible.

Take some time to check for any potential event conflicts before you settle on a date. Look at schedules for industry gatherings, take holidays into account, and also check the city or town's calendar you're planning on holding the event at.

Once you've settled on a date, don't hesitate to reach out to key people you want to attend. Sending out a "save the date" or "upcoming event" email can give key people the chance to prepare for the event. 

Not Having Enough Day of Help

We know that hiring planning help can be expensive and that you want to keep your event under budget. But not having enough help can cost you a lot more money in the long run. 

If you think you can save money by skimping on event help, take some time to think about this scenario:

Imagine going to an event and waiting 20 minutes to park because there was only one lot attendant, and they weren't doing a good job of directing traffic because they were too stressed.

After you finally manage to park, you walk into the venue and realize you have no idea what to do. There's only one person working registration, so most people are wandering around and looking for help.

Once the main event starts it's hard to concentrate on what's happening because of all the microphone feedback and display errors on the screen. Everyone around you is whispering and snickering about how strange the day has been.

After experiencing that, would you want to come back to the same event next year? Would you recommend it to your peers?

Day of help is essential for creating the right experience for attendees. When you skip hiring extra help, you're eliminating a big part of the event experience. 

Not Having a Contingency Plan 

You hope that everything will go well the day of your event, but somethings things can happen to even the most thorough event planners.

When we talk about a contingency plan, we're not referring to having a back-up speaker in case the keynote gets sick. We're talking about planning for the absolute worst-case scenario. 

Think about would happen if your registration system had a complete malfunction during the beginning of your event. How would your staff be able to check people in and accept payments?

What would happen if you aren't hitting your attendee registration numbers two weeks before the event? Do you have a back-up list of people to invite or a plan for a marketing push to get more people interested?

A big part of event planning is focusing on what to do if things don't go according to your plans. Take the time to map out any serious "what-ifs", and you won't have a disaster on your hands if things go sideways. 

Not Checking-In with Key People 

Contracts with caterers and venues can help legally protect you and hold people responsible for providing services. Unfortunately, many event planners find that contracts can't prevent problems from happening.

The contract you signed can help you sue your caterer if they don't serve the right food or bring supplies. But it can't physically serve your guests food and set up tables and chairs the day of the event.

This is why it's important to stay in contact with key service providers and people throughout the planning stages. You don't want a simple miscommunication to drastically affect the day of your event.

Never assume things when you're planning an event. Confirm that venders have your signed contracts and that you're on schedule with deposits. Be explicit about what time you expect equipment to arrive at the venue.

Remember, venders are just as busy as you are. They book multiple events and could be working on a handful of ones that are similar to yours. It's very easy to accidentally misfile a contract or put the wrong date or time on the calendar.

Don't put the onus of checking in on the venders. Be proactive about confirming dates and times and be clear about your expectations for their services. 

Our Top Must-Follow Event Planning Tips

We just covered a lot of what not to do when you're planning an event, so let's go into the opposite, more positive, direction.

Now that you know what not to do when you're planning your event, we're going to focus on some universal event planning best practices.

Remember, different industries and crowds can have varying expectations about what a successful event means to them. It's important to consider those nuances when you're planning everything.

Regardless of what you're planning, if you follow these tips, you'll be setting yourself up for success.

Be Organized 

In order for an event to be successful, a lot of things need to be considered. Think of an event as a machine with a lot of moving parts. If one thing goes wrong, the entire thing can be negatively affected.

Once you figure out basic things like the venue and catering, you need to figure out how much help you need coordinating the space and managing food distribution.

You need to figure out your ideal audience and guest list and think about the best way to handle outreach. Marketing needs to be considered, and you also need to plan PR for before and after the event. 

The easiest way to ensure that you're staying on top of everything is to start with outstanding organization.

Be sure to schedule regular meetings with all involved event staff to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Encourage open communication, and make it easy for the right people to know when something goes wrong.

Also, take some time to check in with yourself during the event process. Make to-do lists and plan out your week so that you aren't missing anything important.

Don't Get Hung Up on Details

As an event planner, a lot of your day revolves around thinking of small details that can make or break events. It's okay to think about certain things, but there are others that won't matter much in the long run.

Having the right wording and branding on your invitations is important. But you shouldn't lose sleep over having to order a slightly less thick stock of paper to save on the budget.

When you spend time worry about truly small details, you end up devoting too much time and energy to things that won't really affect the event.

Devote your focus to the details that really count towards the overall event experience. Consider everything else an extra "nice to have", and not an essential detail.

Always Consider Your Budget 

Sometimes a budget can be flexible and can adapt to whatever you need. Other times it's very rigid and needs to be adhered to at all costs. Regardless of what kind of budget you have, it's important to always keep it top of mind.

Take time to check-in with each team to make sure that you're staying within your set budget. Remember, sometimes a budget isn't just about money. You also need to consider how many hours you're putting into work and if certain employees need to have their hours reduced or increased to meet goals.

Your budget may not be flexible, but you should still try to be as flexible as you can with details surrounding it. Be prepared to cut funds from certain non-important areas if it means you can create a better experience for critical things.

Gather Feedback 

If you want to grow as an event planner, you should be utilizing an often-overlooked planning resource to improve yourself: the attendees themselves.

Event attendees are going to have a lot of valuable feedback on the entire event experience. Be sure to find a way to get their opinion so you can see how people viewed the event.

Take some time to think about what matters the most to you. Do you want to learn more about how guests liked the registration and ticketing process, or are you interested in seeing if your event programming was engaging enough?

Once you know what you want to learn, you can create a post-event survey that can gather the right data and talking points from attendees.

Timing is everything when you're trying to gather event feedback. Don't wait too long after the event to reach out to people. Some will send surveys and emails as quickly as 24 hours after the event has passed.

Your Turn

When you follow the right event planning tips, you can create an engaging and successful experience for attendees.

Are you hungry for more planning content after reading this post? If you've already purchased tickets for The Event Planner Expo, you should spend some time exploring our blog to get more planning advice from pros.

Are you looking for a venue that will stand out during your next event? We have some tips on how you can use unconventional venues for your next conference or trade show.


 

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