As I sit here at work and host an event, I realize that while I’ve posted a lot about events, I’ve never really had a post with event planning tips! My job gives me lots of event opportunities. I plan and promote two to four small training sessions a month and a large gala each year. I help with other programs’ events, and I “host the building” for other events. Most recently, I handled food logistics and a meet and greet for a country festival in my hometown! There is something so rewarding about seeing an event from start to finish. So without any more rambling, here are my event planning tips, in no specific order.
- Budget – The budget sets the tone of event planning. (But it definitely doesn’t set the tone of the event!) Before I started my job at a non-profit, I planned a huge, week long event for $35,000! Now I’m pretty sure I don’t even spend that much on events in a year. The trick is to find where to save and where to splurge. Need balloons? Call and get quotes from multiple places. A three tier cake is nice, but it’s a good idea to look into cupcakes on a 3-tier stand and see if it’s more budget friendly on a tight budget! Real silver is elegant, but I’m a big fan of those disposable silverware products that look like actual silver. Personalized touches do make for a nice splurge.
- Pre-plan – I try to get as much pre-planning done as possible. I cannot stress this enough! If I’m planning a gala or large event, I like to have as much done the week before so that I can attend to little things (or a large crisis) that may pop up. If it’s a smaller event like a training session, I like to have everything finished the night before. It may seem silly, but the goal is to minimize your stress level so that you can actually enjoy what you’ve planned!
- RSVP’s – Some people may think that they are outdated, but I find them to be pretty necessary! You never want to be the hostess that runs out of food/wine. I always try to expect no-shows and unexpected guests, which usually even themselves out. (If you’re paranoid like me, plan for a couple of extra, regardless.) Also, if it is an event where tickets are to be purchased, be sure that your return policy is clearly outlined. You’d be amazed at how many people will show up at an event with an extra ticket and want their money back for it.
- Crowd Control – This weekend, I hosted the building for a small event for a family. I usually have no issues with people not being where they should be. I have been really fortunate to work with courteous crowds that are mostly adults. This weekend though, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be eve. ry. where. If possible, take precautions to block off parts the area that you don’t want people in. I’m lucky, because our building has a lot of “key holder only” areas. If you don’t have that advantage, try to advertise in a cute way not to go past that point. Remember, the more area you allow people to explore, the more that you will have to clean up!
- Rain plan – Indoors or outdoors, it’s great to think of a rain plan. If its an outdoor event, book a backup location. If it’s an indoor event, have an umbrella check along with the coat check, or at least an area where umbrellas and coats can dry off. Once I attended an event that was in a barn. A gentleman with an umbrella followed my family’s car as we were driving through the lot to park, and escorted us in with an umbrella! What a nice touch!
- Promotion – If it’s a professional event, send out a press release to all local media! This one probably seems like a no brainer, but definitely take advantage of social media! If you aren’t getting the results that you would like, pay to “boost” a Facebook post. We do this sometimes at work, and the results are worth the $5 – $25 you spend. For personal events, I like to post little “teasers” on social media. You could post about how excited you are about the personalized confetti that you ordered or share a picture of the little champagne bar that you set up. Do things to get people talking!
- Expect the unexpected – This is way too much TMI, but it seems like every time that I have an event, I always receive a nice little unexpected visit from my monthly visitor. Because of this, I keep a makeup bag full of necessities for this emergency in my car. If I’m wearing heels, I always bring a pair of flats, as well. It’s so much easier to run (literally) when you’ve not got a 4″ stick attached to your heel. One of the girls that I worked with always packed an extra outfit, just in case something weird happened. Whatever it is that freaks you out, take extra precautions in that area!
- Stay composed – When those unexpected things do happen, even if you are unprepared, keep your cool. There’s always going to be a little mishap somewhere, handle it with professionalism and your head held high. For the gala that I planned, there was a seating mishap. (i.e. I changed the seating arrangement, but the table cards didn’t reflect that.) I realized what had happened, apologized, corrected it immediately, and then moved on to the next thing. One of the biggest tips that I have is to monitor your alcohol consumption while working an event. If it’s a professional event, I will probably keep the same glass of chard in my hand for an hour. Only when the event has settled will I even contemplate having another drink.
- Clean up – Everyone thinks that cleaning up an event must be the worst part of an event, but in all reality, it’s usually the least time consuming. It helps to have a list of things that need to be returned to vendors. Turn on some music, take your shoes off, pull out that extra bottle of wine that you stashed, and you can just barrel right through it. And remember, you’re never too good to take the trash out 😉
- Say thank you – Be grateful to every single person that helped, and give credit where credit is due. Not only is it the right thing to do, but if you’re thankful, people are much more likely to work with you again!
So there are my event planning tips! If you’d like any tips on specific events, please let me know! I’m always looking for blog post inspiration!