Avoid These Event Planning Pitfalls
No matter how much planning and organizing you do for a big meeting or event, something is sure to go wrong. Being prepared for the unexpected should be part of your event planning. Problems often occur when all the big pieces of the puzzle are under control, but the smaller tasks get overlooked. In other words, the devil is in the details. But don’t panic. Take our advice and be ready if you’re hit with any of these event pitfalls:
Hot or Cold: Whether your event is inside or out, consider temperature challenges that could arise. When selecting your venue, be sure to ask about the temperature. If the space can get very hot (especially with lots of people in attendance), you may want to rent additional fans or air conditioning units. For outdoor events, think about having heat lamps in case of chilly temperatures or for hot weather, industrial fans or even hand-held fans/spray bottles with your logo. In case of rain, have umbrellas at the ready for attendees.
Help Wanted: Being understaffed or undertrained for an event can leave you in a tailspin. Assign staff to particular tasks and meet with everyone before the event to brief them on what to do, where and when. Everyone should be in close communication with each other – you might set staffers up with walkie-talkies to ensure regular and effective communication. All staffers should understand the flow of the event and be able to answer basic questions, from “Where are the restrooms?” to “Who can provide more information?” And if they don’t know the answers, they should at least be professional, friendly and helpful. Staff members should be easily identifiable, by wearing a special badge, shirt or uniform.
Off to a Bad Start: Registration can be the first impression attendees have of your event, so it’s important to get it right. Ensure that your registration table is properly staffed to avoid long lines and annoyed attendees. Registration staff members should be friendly and welcoming – not overworked and disinterested.
Technical Difficulties: No doubt you’ve experienced technical difficulties first-hand – either as a host or attendee. Technology can make or break an event. So it’s certainly not an area to cut corners on. If you’re not an expert, hire someone who is to be available on-site. And don’t assume the supplier understands your specific needs. Before the event, review necessary audio/visual equipment including microphones, projectors, laptops, cables and screens, as well as wi-fi needs. Test presentations on the computer to be used before heading to the event and then once you’re there. Bring presentations on a USB drive as backup.
Running out of Food and Drink: The food and beverages served can be a highlight or downfall of an event. Having an understanding of your audience will help you determine the type and amount of food and drinks required. Let your vendor know ahead of time if you have a group of heavy eaters, for example. Or if possible, have your vendor at the ready to prepare more food quickly, if needed. Assign someone to make sure buffets and drink tables are replenished when they’re running low.
In Case of Emergency: It may be impossible to prepare for every type of unexpected emergency, but there are a few things you can do to help you be ready. In case of a medical emergency (heart attack, seizure, falls, etc.), make sure you know where the closest hospital is located. If you’re hosting a large event, you may even want to contract to have an ambulance on-site. For natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes, as well as issues like gas leaks and fires, make sure you have an evacuation plan. This could include easy access to exits and even charter buses to transport attendees. The key here is to have some kind of plan in place, to help provide calm in a potentially panic-stricken situation.
Assume Nothing: We all know what can happen when we assume something. Don’t take anything for granted when it comes to event planning and organization. For example, know your speakers, what they’ll be talking about, and the A/V equipment they’ll need. Don’t assume they’ll be entertaining speakers just because they’re experts on a subject. And of course, review all contracts for your event closely. Having everything in writing will make sure everyone’s on the same page, leaving less room for assumptions.