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Everything You Need to Learn How to Be an Event Planner

How to Be an Event Planner

 

Chances are, if you’re reading “Everything You Need to Learn How to Be an Event Planner”, you’ve either been handed a project that has some meeting or event components, you’ve decided that event planning might be an area of interest, or some variant that lead you to typing “event planning” in a search engine.

Welcome to a detailed look at the “behind the scenes” of a party, meeting, fundraiser, or other function.  Have you ever wondered how it all comes together so seamlessly?  Keep reading and I’ll reveal how to turn your event into an amazing success.

This event planning manual will guide you through tips and tricks that will help you set a solid foundation for the success of your event. You’ll discover how to:

  • Bring value to your client as a meeting planner
  • Understand meeting basics – room layout options, food and beverage orders and more
  • Create an event budget and project plan
  • Select, contract and work with a hotel or venue effectively
  • Communicate to all partners and to your attendees before, during and after the event
  • Manage the logistics that are critical to your events’ success.

Chapter 1:  Your Role as an Event Planner

What you’ll learn in this chapter:

As an event planner, you wear many hats.  It’s a job that morphs as the needs of the client changes, or if you’re planning your own event, it will change depending on what phase of the event you are in.

Some days it’s very strategic, and other times it’s extremely detail-oriented and meticulous as you work through the logistics.  I suppose that’s part of the variety and fun! No two events are the same and it’s been my experience that no matter what phase of the event you are in, clear communication and great documentation is imperative.

Both the vision of the event, as well as the details that support that vision, need to be communicated to either the hotel or venue that you are working with, the vendors you’re partnering with, and any team members you’ve hired or who are volunteering for you.    

Consider your project plan, and all the supporting documents that you create, as the roadmap that will lead the team to the finished product – your event!  This must be done effectively, leaving nothing to chance or interpretation, or the end result won’t run as smoothly as you’d like and you won’t achieve the result you imagined.

This training guides you through the important steps – leading you to event success.

Action Steps:

  • Identify your role or who the event planner is
  • Identify other team members, volunteers, and staff that are required for the event
  • Describe each role that is required pre, during, and post-event wrap up

Chapter 2:  Meeting Basics

Any time a group of people gather together, you can bet that it will take some coordination.  The larger the group, and the more complex the meeting or event, the more important the documentation and communication is. 

Some fundamental areas like audience demographics, or event objective, how to define the events’ success, and whom the key stakeholders or decision makers are become very important to understand BEFORE you begin the project.

Here’s what you’ll discover in this chapter:

  1. Why – How to determine the event objective
  2. Who – Who will attend the event
  3. What- How to define the events’ success
  4. Where – How to choose an event venue
  5. When – How to determine the event date

Why: How to determine your event objective

Why are you bringing people together?  If you’re working with a client, and you don’t know the answer, go back and ask. Understanding the big picture will help you make decisions when you get to the details. 

Here are a few reasons why the event might take place:

  • To generate money (fundraising event)
  • To learn a new skill or about a new product or service (educational event)
  • To sell something to a customers or potential customers (sales event)
  • To strengthen relationships (appreciation event)
  • To reward and recognize employees (incentive or team building event)

Whatever the reason, it’s important that you know the purpose of the event.

Who: How to identify your audience and who will attend your event?

  • Who is invited to your event?
  • What is the age range of your guests?
  • What kind of experience are your guests expecting?
  • Do your guests have any special needs or requirements?

 These might sound like basic questions, but they are important to understand.

What: How to set your goals and objectives to define your event’ success

This quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll that sums up the purpose of your event objective: 

Alice: “Where should I go?”

Cheshire Cat: “That depends on where you want to end up.”

Begin your event with the end goal in mind and build your event, each step of the way, to support that end goal. 

As you make decisions, drive yourself back to asking yourself why you are bringing your guests together in the first place. Make sure your decisions are aligned with this goal.

Often times, planners are driven by a budget and sometimes, the “right” decision for your audience or the event isn’t always an expensive one. But, it may require some creativity. 

As strange as it may sound, “Why are you planning this event?” is often a puzzling question for anyone planning an event.  The first response might be “because it’s an annual event and we do this every year.”

Unfortunately, that isn’t the best reason to plan an event or to show value. If, at first, you get an answer like this one, probe a little bit more by asking “what’s the purpose of this event?”

If you are in charge of the event, and don’t know the answer, or if you’re working with someone that doesn’t have the answer, pause for a few minutes to discuss, because it will be important in the upcoming stages of planning and further on when you are summarizing the event.

Understand who the key stakeholders and decision makers are and how they define success

Examples of key stakeholders are:

  • A board
  • A boss
  • A client

It’s very important that everyone defines success the same way.  It’s been my experience that this area can get clouded when many people are involved in planning an event. 

If possible, work to get a consolidated answer, something that is universally true for the team. This way, when the event is done, you can show how these goals have been met.

For example, if you are bringing a group of people together to acknowledge and recognize them:

  • Create communications that are meaningful and connect with them and make them feel honored
  • Be thoughtful in your selection of dates times and location to maximize your attendance
  • Think through their experience from the moment that they leave their home/office to the time they return to ensure a seamless and pleasant trip

Where: How to choose an event venue

Choosing an event venue is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the planning process. before choosing the right venue, it’s important to know how many people will attend and the event objective (why the event is happening).

What to know before choosing a venue:

  • The number of guests that will attend
  • Who the guests are (male, female, age)
  • Location and convenience for the guests
  • What time of year is the event and is weather a factor
  • How knowledgeable the venue staff is
  • What services the venue provides
  • Venue fees

When: When will your event take place?

After determining your event objective, create a shortlist of venues that align with your event goals and strategy. Choose a date that allows most guests to attend and doesn’t conflict with public holidays.

Here are a few dates to watch for:

  • Public holidays
  • School holidays
  • Dates with high competition
  • Days of the week that are busier

In summary, the discovery phase and the information you gather before the event begins is critical.  Make sure you have a good understanding of WHOM the event is for, WHAT the event is, WHY you’re having the event and the expectations of those involved.  After all, if you don’t know where you are going, how do you ever know if you got there?

Action Steps:

  • Create an attendee list: capture all relevant data
    • For smaller events, an Excel spreadsheet works well with first name, last name, email, phone number, address, special needs/dietary restrictions, and general notes
    • Add hotel information, emergency contact number, if applicable
  • Understand the purpose of the event
    • Design your invitation, event communications, and event content around the event’s purpose
  • Understand why you are bringing people together
    • Fundraising event: determine the amount to raise
    • Educational event: determine a pre and post- event benchmark and measure them to ensure the learning objectives were met
    • Sales event: capture sales at (or before and after, too) the event to measure the event’s viability

Chapter 3: Creating an Event Budget

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”  Yogi Berra

Once you’ve determined your event objective, it’s important to create an event budget, whether your event is big or small.   

Picture it like the roadmap for your event.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this chapter

  • How to create a simple event budget – we’ve included an event budget to make it even easier for you
  • The difference between fixed and variable costs
  • The line items that are most important to include in your budget

Where Do I Start?

Using a simple excel spreadsheet is a great way to track your expenses.  If you are generating revenue from your event, some minor modifications can be made to estimate and eventually reconcile your profits. 

If you’re working for a client, or company, chances are at the end of the event, the key stakeholders will want to know how much it will cost.  If you’re planning your own event, you’ll want to know this information because when your event is successful, you may want to plan it again!

Always start with knowing how much money you have to spend – Then you will be able to make decisions accordingly.  If you happen to be working with a “flexible” budget, then creating a line item budget estimate is just as important- so you have, or you can give your client an overall understanding of how much something will cost.

The cost of planning an event often surprises people, as it tends to cost more than many expect.

TipService fees or tax can be easily overlooked and when working with a hotel, these charges can change a budget significantly!

  • Some costs are variable – that means that they will change (increase or decrease) depending on the number of people you have in attendance
  • Some costs are fixed – meaning they are what they are and they won’t change if your numbers are greater or smaller than you expect

Example of a Variable Cost– guest rooms at a hotel is a variable cost; the more people that you have that require a sleeping room, the more money it will cost. 

Example of a Fixed Cost– audio/visual can be an example of a fixed cost; if you require a laptop, LCD projector and screen in the room for a training, it won’t change if you have 10 people or 35 people, you still need to provide the same equipment.

Basic line items in a simple budget:

  • Transportation
    • Are your guests flying?
    • Are you providing shuttles?
    • Will you be reimbursing for mileage? For cab fares?
  • Hotel/Venue
    • Do you have guest/sleeping rooms?
    • Is there a resort fee?
    • Is there a fee for parking?
    • Are there meeting room rental fees?
  • Food and Beverage
    • What and how often are you feeding the guests?
    • Will you be serving alcohol at the event?
  • Production and Audio/Visual
    • What equipment do you need to accomplish your learning objectives or event goals?
    • Do you need Wi-Fi?
    • Multimedia?
    • Is Staging required?
  • Miscellaneous
    • What other vendors or items does the event require?
      • Décor items?
      • Facilitator/presenter/ trainer?
      • Photographer/entertainment/DJ
      • Security
      • Registration site fees
      • Website build
      • Social media

Action Step:

  • Use a budget template to drop in the information you require for your event
  • Highlight the areas that are to be determined or unknown
  • Talk with all involved parties to fill in the blanks

Remember: This is the financial roadmap of your event. When in doubt, refer to your budget! 

Chapter 4:  Creating an Event Checklist

A goal without a plan is just a wish.  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Planning an event doesn’t have to be a daunting task and we’ve simplified your process by adding an event checklist to ensure all the necessary items are completed and nothing is overlooked.

Here’s what you’ll discover in this chapter:

  • The purpose of creating a checklist for your event
  • How to create a basic event checklist

A checklist is a way to identify the necessary event tasks, enforce organization and assign deadlines to ensure that enough time is allotted for task completion. It can also help you identify the resources and people you need for your event and determine what tasks can run concurrently to shorten your planning cycle.

Where do I start?

Excel works well to create a basic checklist and can be shared in Google Docs with your team.

We’ve included a workback schedule – or checklist – in this program, but here are the basics if you want to create your own. 

  • Create columns for each of the following:
    • Task
    • Start Date
    • End Date
    • Resource
    • Notes
  • Begin creating different sections that your event might include:
    • Budget planning
    • Theme development
    • Hotel – rooming list creation
    • Production
    • Food and beverage
    • Travel
    • Transportation
    • Registration
    • Signage
    • Communications
    • Event materials
    • Gifts
    • Wearables
    • On-site documents
    • Post-event documents
  • Assign Dates for each task
  • Assign a resource or specific person to manage each task
  • Note progress/status as you are working the plan

Action Steps:

  • Create a checklist for your event
  • Review the plan with your team for input
  • Work the plan!

Chapter 5:  Event Venue Selection

Here’s what you’ll discover in this Chapter:

  • The importance of picking the right venue
  • Weighing your venue options
  • Why a site visit is important and what to look for

Location, location, location! 

There are lots of options to consider when choosing the right venue for your event and it’s critical to ensuring your events’ success.  Your planning can be perfect, but if the physical space doesn’t support the goals of the event it may be difficult to pull off a flawless event. 

What do you look for when choosing a venue?

  • In your initial planning meeting, understand some of the basics of the event:
    • How many people will attend?
    • Could this number grow or shrink significantly?
    • Who will the audience be?
    • Where are they coming from?
    • Will they fly?
    • What airports need to be considered?
    • Will they drive?
    • Will they need to spend the night?
    • What will they be doing at the event?
    • Will they be interacting socially?
    • Will they be in a learning environment?
    • Will they always stay together as a group?
    • Do they need to break into sub-groups?
    • Will they have free time that will either be hosted or not?
    • What time of year will the event/meeting occur?
    • What is the weather like in the potential cities being considered?
    • Will they be doing team building or any type of activity that requires additional or unconventional space?
    • Is the venue union based? 
    • Are there any industry or political limitations?
    • What kind of insurance coverage do you require for the event?

Make a list – and then cut it in half

Once you’ve decided on the factors that need to be considered for your event, you can begin eliminating properties and strategically narrowing down your options. 

Make sure you are comparing apples to apples

This process can be done formally or informally by creating a document or organizing your notes in a way in which you can compare one property to another in even terms.

After you ask for a Request for Proposal (RFP) from the venue, it will typically outline the terms of the venue, the rate they are offering and other negotiable areas that you can discuss with them in future conversations. 

Request For Proposal (RFP)

What to consider when requesting an RFP

  • Clearly understand if your dates and locations are flexible
    • Do the rates vary depending on the dates you choose?
    • If you’re willing and able to consider a venue during “non-peak” times you might be able to capitalize on a lower rate, but sometimes this means less than optimal weather or less desirable dates
    • You need to understand and navigate the priorities of your stakeholders and event attendees
    • Begin contacting venues to find out what is available
    • Occasionally, in order to reserve the space that fits your needs and budget, alternative dates may be required
  • Have all of your event specifications ready
    • Approximate size of group
    • Space requirements
    • Potential dates and alternative dates, if applicable
    • Time of your event (build in time for set-up and tear-down if required)
    • General production requirements
    • If you require guest rooms, break out rooms, or meeting space.

All of these factors will be considered by the venue’s event contact.  The more information you provide them, the more likely they can help you and find alternatives to fit your needs.

Generally speaking, people don’t want to sell you something they can’t deliver on. So the venue representative is invested in making sure the fit between your event needs and their venue space is a good one.

Make sure the venue’s terms are consistent between each property, to ensure you are making the best venue selection for your event.

A site visit is more than just a tour

In the event world, visiting potential event locations are called site visits. If possible, see your short list of venue options, and see your selected venue before you sign a contract.

Site Visits

Steps to take during a site visit

  • Meet with the venue staff
  • View the venue – inside and outside
  • Try the food
  • Observe other meetings or events in progress
  • Walk the space and see how far points are from each other (outlets, stage to first row of chairs, etc.)
  • See what the local area is like
  • Drive the airport route if that is a piece of your event
  • Physically see and do as much as you can to experience the location as your attendees will
  • Think about the number of people that attend your event
  • Think about the set-up that will be required for your event
  • Consider if the attendees will move from one space to another
  • What will be done in the space? Business? Networking? Teambuilding?
  • If it’s an outdoor event, what is your weather back up plan in case it’s too hot, too cold, too windy or raining? These are elements you can’t control but do need to plan for.

Walk through all elements that are known at the time and make sure you and your venue contact feel comfortable that it’s a good fit for your event/meeting.

If you have a production partner, take them with you or plan to go back with them so they can weigh-in on the technical and “back of the house” aspects that they will need to be considered when managing their specific piece of your event. 

Through this exercise, potential issues and questions will arise for you.  This will be critical for your planning and contingency planning in later steps of the event planning process. 

Remember your experience by:

  • Taking detailed notes
  • Taking pictures
  • Do all that you can to document the experience in a way that will help you in your communication to others and in your planning

Typically, your pre-event site visits are limited, so use the time wisely because you may not be back again before your event. 

One of the reasons event planners find it so hard to secure the right event venue is because they don’t know the right questions to ask.

For best results, follow this checklist:

  • Who is your target audience and what is the guest list size? Before creating a short-list of event venues to look at, know who will attend your event and how many people you’ll invite. You’ll want to make sure that your venue can accommodate your expected guest list and is suitable for the audience. If your event venue is too big for your event, use a hotel partition or a decorative partition to recreate the space size. If your event is by invite only, request that your attendees RSVP by clearly printing it on the invitation. But, be aware that many people don’t respond so you may have to follow up with a phone call. RSVP is a French acronym that means “please respond.”
  • Know how to cater to your target audience. Knowing the demographics of your audience is vital to the selection of your event venue. For example, know the average income of your attendees, what their likes or dislikes are, what they are accustomed to, etc. If your audience is a group of CEO’s, then your venue should reflect their tastes and needs.
  • What is convenient for your guests? Selecting an event venue in proximity to where your guests live or work often reflects on the number of people that will attend. Something to consider is alcohol consumption and transportation. You don’t want attendees to drink and drive so have free transportation options available after the event, so they can get home safely or ensure taxis are ready when people leave the venue.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and adjust your needs accordingly. For example, if you’re organizing an event and it’s supposed to rain then have umbrellas or tents available for outdoor events.
  • Venue knowledge and experience. Before you decide to hire a venue for your event, ask them for a list of events they’ve planned, ask to see pictures of those events so you can see the various layout options, and ask for references. You might want to speak to some of the staff as well, so you know what expertise they have and how accommodating and friendly they are. Find out the ratio of servers to guests, what they’ll wear during your event, and whether or not they can or will work over-time if needed. You’ll also want to know what the event venue will take care of and what you have to prepare for, i.e. decorating, set-up, tear-down. The more behind-the-scenes information you have, the better! Walk around the outside of the venue, too, and check for possible noise issues, where neighbors are located, if decorating is required outside the venue, possible hazards, where the fire exits are located, and parking or drop-off points for limousines, buses, or taxis.
  • What other services do the venue provide? Before hiring a venue, get a list of other services they provide, like:
  • Parking. Do they have their own parking facility or is there space nearby that can be used? Can you negotiate a better rate for your event?
  • Security. Depending on the type and size of your event, you may need to hire security. For large scale festivals where the city/township is involved in planning, then you’re often required to have police, fire fighters and/or paramedics. Also make sure the venue has fire extinguishers, working fire alarms, first-aid kits, and power backup. Know where the emergency exits are and have an emergency plan in place.
  • Cell Phone Reception Don’t overlook this because you may need to rent two-way radios to communicate with your staff.
  • Restrictions. Venues often have unstated restrictions that include, but are not limited to: decorating (inquire about posting on walls), photography/videographer, alcohol sales, bringing in outside food like cakes, and bringing in outside caterers.
  • Additional Services to consider. Many venues provide additional services like:
    • Catering
    • Floral arrangements
    • Audio-visual services
    • Staging and lighting
    • Decor for event production
    • Ticketing
    • Transportation
    • Sight-seeing tours for the guests.
  • What are the venue fees? Prior to choosing your venue, ask for a list of items the fee covers. Based on this checklist, you’ll want to know:
    • What is the event venue fee and are taxes included? Negotiate the fee so you get the best rate available.
    • What else is included in the venue fee? Dance floor, tables, chairs, linens, security, parking, and liability coverage, what is the corkage fee and is the liquor license valid and up-to-date?
    • What is not included in the venue fee?
    • What is the price range for a served meal or buffet, and cost per person?
    • If hotel rooms are required, what is the cost per night?
    • What are the bartending and bar set-up fees?
    • What forms of payments are available and what is the payment schedule?
    • What is the refund and cancellation policy?

Tip: Narrow your event venue search, then prior to the event, use the venue as a guest to evaluate the property, staff, and operations.

Awarding the venue

Once you’ve documented your site visits you will be able to review your notes and compare your options.  Then, refer to your budget to make sure each venue make sense financially before choosing the right option for your event.

Once you’ve narrowed your options to two or three venues, ask the venues for the contract and see which presents better terms and where they’re willing to negotiate.

Once the decision is made, let the selected venue know that they’ve been awarded the event and notify the venues that you didn’t choose, but took the time to work with you – you never know when you will need their services in the future.

Action Steps:

  • Make a list of the critical pieces of your event
  • Research potential event venues
  • Set a deadline and collect all information
  • Analyze the results
  • Talk with potential locations on the phone or schedule site visits
  • Review the RFPs
  • Choose your venue!

Chapter 6:  Event Contract Basics

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge. Thomas Berger 

You’ve arrived at the “event contract stage” and have a first draft of a contract sitting on your desk.

Now what?

Here’s what you’ll discover in this chapter:

  • The various parts of a venue contract
  • Tips and what to watch out for
  • Common negotiation points

A common feeling is that the sales person of the venue is trying to rush you through the contracting process; often times with the threat of someone else wanting the dates or space that you’ve selected. This is a time to SLOW DOWN and make sure every element that you need for your event is documented. 

Contracts can be complicated, so read them very carefully. It’s not good enough to have a “verbal agreement” so make sure everything that you discuss is in writing.  Be ready to have a few versions of your contract before it’s “final.”

Tip:  If you don’t know, ask.  There are no dumb questions, and what you don’t know can and probably will bite you later.

Depending on your event type, your contract may have some or all of these elements. 

Parts of an Event Contract

Parts of a basic contract, and some simple explanations: 

  • Concessions – sleeping room and catering only concessions are the “extra things” that you might receive or ask for. For Example, discounted parking, 10% discount on food and beverage, 15% discount on A/V, or Internet access in the meeting room.
  • Guest Room Block (if applicable) – this section outlines the type of room, the dates, the number of rooms and the rate.
  • Room Reservation Process -this section specifies if your guests will be calling in to make their own reservation, or if the meeting organizer will provide a “rooming list” by a specified date.
  • Attrition Clause (guest rooms) – this section will state what percentage of guest rooms you can drop (and a deadline date) that you would not be financially penalized for.
  • Hotel Non-Performance or Overbooking this section is the “walk clause” and discusses the situation where the hotel overbooks the number of guest rooms and how they might accommodate some of their hotel guests at another local property and what accommodations they provide.
  • Function Information/Event Agenda – This section details the date, start/end times, room name, function type, room set-up and number of attendees, and typically outlines the service charge and tax rates.

Tip: This is a very important section so be meticulous in when putting your event contracts together. If it doesn’t show it, you don’t have it no matter what you discussed with the venue organizer!

  • F & B Minimum or Room Rental Rate (no guest rooms) – this section details how much you’re required to spend on food & beverage and/or the fee for meeting space.
  • Parking – if the venue charges for parking it will specify the amount here. This is a great item to negotiate for your event attendees at a reduced rate or free.
  • Cancellation Clause – This section details any cancellation penalty. A percentage will be shown if you have guest rooms and/or if you have food & beverage requirements.  Many hotels will allow a “sliding scale,” for example, more than 180 days from the event, 90-180 days, or 0-90 days away from the event. In other words, the closer you are to your event the higher your penalty may be to cancel. 
  • Force Majeure This is the “Acts of God” clause. It outlines scenarios that occur due to God, war, government regulation, disasters, acts of strikes and you might see verbiage around pest infestations. Essentially, due to these types of things neither party would be financially responsible for cancellation.
  • Billing Procedures and Deposit Schedule this section discusses if the bill will be paid by credit card or the terms of payment via check. Also, if any deposits are due, it’ll outline how much is due and the payment deadlines.
  • Insurance – This section talks about each party maintaining insurance. Property, general liability, business, workers compensation, employers, etc. If you or the venue requests a certificate of insurance, it must be produced.
  • ADA – this clause notes that each party uses good faith to ensure each complies with its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (this clause may vary or be omitted when working internationally).
  • Confidentiality – if dealing with confidential or sensitive information, the clause would protect you/your company from any potential “leaks” or duplication of the information.

Event Contract Negotiation and Clauses

If at all possible, negotiate on the phone not email. 

It’s very easy to say no on email so it’s best to negotiate in person or on the phone.

Tip: There are a few common areas that venues are often willing to negotiate.  Focus your negotiation efforts in areas that will benefit your event. For example, if you have a lot of Audio/Visual that will be needed ask for a discount in that area. 

Some areas that the venue may be able to work with you/ negotiation points:

  • Discount meeting rental space
  • Discounted parking
  • Discount on food & beverage
  • Discount on audio/visual
  • Ask for a credit to be applied for a future event in case of cancellation

You can’t get it if you don’t ask!

Tip:  most of the rates that are specified in the contract are without “ ++”- meaning they are calculated BEFORE service charge and tax. When you are dropping these rates into your budget, make sure you account for service charge and tax.

Once you’ve talked to the venue representative, and all terms have been agreed on, you will be asked to sign the document.  Ask the venue for a countersigned copy for your files.

Chapter 7:  Event Details and Development

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”   John Wooden 

Once the contract has been signed, typically, you are transitioned from Sales to the Convention Service Manager (CSM) or Venue Representative to work the details of the event.  Now the fun really begins…

Here’s what you’ll discover in this chapter:

  • Room Set-up
  • Choosing your Menu
  • Audio/Visual Basics
  • Rooming Lists
  • BEO’s (Banquet Event Order)
  • Pre/Post event conferences

Room Set-up

The people that manage the space that you’re considering are your allies when discussing your event.  They have a lot of knowledge and experience in managing meetings and events in this specific area. Use their expertise! Listen to what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for other events.

Consider the elements that your group or program has that might be unique

  • How do you manage them in the space?
  • Does your venue contact have questions or concerns about what you’re proposing?

I love using unconventional space when the meeting calls for creativity.  Perhaps it’s turning a Presidential Suite into a casual meeting space or hosting a reception in a unique setting at a hotel instead of a traditional room. 

The actual physical set-up of a room is very important. It helps to set the tone before the meeting or event even begins. Some set-ups are formal or very casual; some lend themselves to presentation and others for social gatherings.  Understanding what kind of event is taking place will help you decide on the best set-up for your event.

  • Classroom – a more formal set-up for a learning environment
  • Theatre – chairs only and used when the participants are listening or watching, but don’t need to take notes
  • Banquet – for small group discussions or meals
  • Crescent – more casual than classroom and still allows for note taking and forward-facing viewing
  • U-shape – formal or informal, this set-up is usually best for a group of 50 or less
  • Hollow Square – formal or informal, it’s great for verbal presentations with no visual presentations
  • Conference – usually used when there’s a lot of discussion and for 20 people or less
  • Reception – used for social gatherings and is standing room only

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.  George Bernard Shaw

Food and Beverage

When ordering food and beverage for your event, never again will you think about food the same as when you are planning meals for others. 

Pay close attention to this area in your initial planning meetings. What is seemingly a simple question will be critical in your planning. Will you be feeding your attendees?  If yes, how frequently and in what way? 

Something like feeding a group (either big or small) needs to be carefully considered.  It can become one of the very critical elements of your program.

  • Does your event revolve around food like a gala dinner?
  • Does the audience or content of the meeting reflect being healthy? If yes, your food selection should as well. 
  • Will they be eating in the meeting space or in another room?
  • How much time is allotted for meals or breaks?
  • Will they be standing or sitting when they eat?
  • Will they be inside or outside or both?
  • What dietary restrictions do you need to be aware of? How will you capture the special dietary needs of your attendees?

Whatever your answers are, thoughtfully planning the right kind of food to fit the needs of your event and your budget are important.

For example, if the time in the agenda only allows for a “working lunch,” where people will need to eat while taking notes and continuing to listen to a presentation, don’t pick hard-to-eat or messy menu items that will be troublesome for the attendee to eat while working.

Tip:  if your budget doesn’t allow for much Food/Beverage, plan the event at a non-mealtime so the attendees don’t expect food to be served.

Many people are following specialized diet plans, like: 

  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Gluten Free
  • Non-diary
  • Pescatarian (no meat, fish only)

It’s easiest to ask your attendees if they have any special dietary needs during the registration process.

Be very careful, not to build menus from your own tastes. Be sensitive to the information that you’ve received about the group as well as any recommendations from the catering manager, and of course keep your budget in mind (don’t forget to include service charges and taxes when calculating your estimates).

Tip:  Never serve alcohol without some type of snack or food item.

Something to think about: sodas and bottled water are money generating items for venues so if you’re budget is tight, consider having pitchers of water, lemonade and iced tea instead. 

Audio/Visual and Production Basics

Chances are if you have any type of speaking, teaching, showcasing or learning happening at your event, you will require some type of Audio/Visual or “AV.”  This could range from a simple microphone to a fully-produced and highly technical event.

Often times your Convention and Services Manager will introduce you to an “in-house” company that the venue uses, and you may need a separate contract with the A/V company to secure your AV needs. 

Some Common AV Equipment:

  • Projection
    • LCD projector
    • Tripod or Fast fold screens with the necessary dress kits
    • Perfect Cue Remote for advancing PPT slides as needed
    • Converters/switchers
    • Cabling
    • Monitors
  • Audio
    • Microphones – Lavaliere, handheld, headset, podium (wired or wireless)
    • Audio from laptops as needed
    • Speakers
    • Mixers
  • Lighting/Scenic
    • Stage Wash
    • LED lighting
    • Pipe and drape or drape panel + uplights
    • Control of house lights
  • Other
    • Polycom (speaker phone)
    • Flipcharts
    • Easels
    • Bottled waters
    • Lecterns
    • Furniture
  • Labor/Staff
    • Technician set-up and strike time
    • Event operation

Often you can reserve these in “packages” where they combine a commonly used set-up.  If you have a highly technical or produced event, your production company will handle most of these elements on your behalf.

Tip:  Prices vary from property to property and printed pricing rarely includes service charges and taxes.

Guest Rooms/Accommodations

If your guests are spending the night, pay close attention to their accommodation needs. As discussed in the chapter on contract basics, there is typically a clause that discusses how the guest room reservations will be made and paid for.

Two options for reservations: 

If Guests are making their own reservations:

  • You need to communicate the instructions and hotel specifics like address, telephone number and possibly an on-site contact to your guests.
  • Before your event, the hotel’s meeting organizer can provide room reports to show you the number of reservations made by your attendees.

If you are creating a rooming list:

  • The hotel will provide a deadline to submit the rooming information.
  • It will usually specify in the contract how many rooms you are financially obligated to reserve and how many you can drop without penalty (attrition).
  • Create a spreadsheet (Excel works great) with the following columns:
    • First name
    • Last name
    • Email
    • Phone
    • Arrival date
    • Departure date
    • Guest (occupancy number)
    • Room type (smoking/non-smoking; king or queen beds)
    • Special accommodations
    • Billing notes (will the room be paid by the individual or added to the master account)
    • Confirmation number (once submitted the hotel will produce these for you)

Creation and Review of BEO’s

The Catering Service Manager (CSM) or your venue contact creates the Banquet Event Order (BEO) or Event Order. It is considered the “marching orders” for the team of people working on your event, and it is a very important document for the overall success of your event.

Common elements that might be included in a BEO:

  • How your event will be posted at the venue for your guest’s reference
  • The date, time, type of function, location, expected number of guests of each piece of your event
  • The menu (in detail)
  • Any notes/requests that you have given to your contact
  • Color of linens
  • Specific set-ups of all rooms and meals
  • Usually a reference if the A/V that will be provided, which may be detailed on its own rental agreement document

All the information that you exchange with your CSM will be used to create the BEO.  Once they create and send it to you, you need to review it VERY CAREFULLY and make any notes for clarification that you feel are missing. You typically will be asked to sign these documents and return them to the venue within a specific time.

Sometimes it’s useful to have a phone conversation with your CSM to review the BEO prior to the start of your event so you can make sure any issues are resolved before you arrive onsite.

In more complex events that have a lot of moving parts you may be asked if you want a “pre-con” or pre-conference meeting which is a formal meeting with the heads of all of the departments at the venue, and it’s a time where they can introduce themselves to you and review the BEO’s together.

You may also request to have a post-conference meeting if the event was fairly complex, and if you’ll be repeating the event again with the same venue at another time.  It’s a great way to debrief and make notes about what went right and what could be improved for the next event. 

Action Steps:

  • Decide what room set-up works best for your event
  • Determine if you will have food and beverage at your event- build in a question about dietary needs into your event registration or communication
  • Create an agenda for the event that is in line with the event’s purpose
  • Determine if Audio/Visual is required and if you will need to hire a production company or use the venue’s onsite team
  • Create a rooming list if you have overnight needs for your guests and manage it closely
  • Work closely with your venue representative to create a banquet event order and review it carefully prior to your event.

Chapter 8:  The Meeting Content

In this chapter we’ll cover the content of your meeting. This is the reason that your guests are coming together.  If you’re involved in creating the agenda or gathering all of the different pieces like the presentations, videos or speaker’s notes be prepared to make revisions.

What you’ll learn in this chapter:

  • The fundamentals of gathering presentations and other visual elements

If there’s a stage involved for a gala event, an educational event, a sales meeting, or a product launch, you’ll require some type of microphone(s), music and/or laptop hook up.  Based on the event information and details, you’ll need to create an agenda or script to follow.  An event script is a detailed, minute-by-minute outline of your event’s agenda and will allow the event lead and your team to know what is happening and when.

Some important things to note in this area are:

  • Understand how presentations, videos or anything visual will be shown:
    • What format will you be working in (Hi-Def vs. Standard Definition, 4×3 vs. 16×9)
    • What type and size of screens will it be projected on (rear projection vs. front projection and what is the aspect ratio of the screen(s), 4×3 vs 16×9)
    • If you’re working with a production team, how will these materials be transferred to them (via email, DropBox, DVD, Basecamp, flash drive, etc.)
  • Have a realistic deadline for materials (and build in time for people to be late)!
  • Allow time for a few revisions
    • And have a plan for those that need to make a change the day of the event
  • Encourage the presenters to rehearse or at least spend a few minutes with the technical team where they can discuss getting “mic’d”, introductions, and any special portion of their presentation.

Your key stakeholders have a vested interest in the content so make sure you’re working in collaboration with them, if possible.

Action Steps:

  • Begin creating an agenda in your initial planning meetings. This goes back to understanding the purpose of the event.
  • If you’re planning a social event, still create an event script of how the guests will move through the event (with timing).

Quick Tips:

  • It’s important that those who need to rehearse understand the difference between a sound check and an actual content review or rehearsal.
    • Sound checks are typically an opportunity for the presenter to see what it’s like on stage with the lights and the mic on. During a sound check, they ask questions like what the house lights will be set to and where they wait prior to coming onstage. They might ask where the lectern will be placed, and they’ll want to see their slides up on the screen and make sure their confidence monitor is working, if they’re using one. They’ll also want to hear themselves speak to hear what the mic sounds like in the room.
    • A content rehearsal is more involved. It consists of reviewing the slides on the screens, blocking out exactly where the presenter should be standing for specific keywords or parts of the presentation and it may involve rehearsing a panel with another executive or VIP guest. It can also be a good opportunity for an executive or presenter to become comfortable with the stage, the lights, and the pressure of memorizing their slides and notes.
  • It’s important for you to manage those expectations ahead of time.
    • A sound check can take 10 minutes while a rehearsal can last for more than 90 minutes
    • Going into your event, find out what the presenter or executive wants to accomplish during their sound check or rehearsal and allow enough time in your rehearsal schedule.

Chapter 9:  Vendor Selection and Management

Understanding the big picture and vision of an event or meeting is very important . As the event manager, you can assemble the most efficient, best suited and ultimately the most successful event team.  Communication to all parties involved typically falls to the event manager.  So, learning to “play the middle” and communicate clearly and effectively will help ensure all of the pieces come together behind the scenes so event participants have a seamless experience.

The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.  Sydney J. Harris

 What you’ll learn in this chapter:

  • The importance of clear communication in events
  • Working with a production team vs. an in-house A/V company
  • Working with speaker bureaus
  • Hiring entertainment
  • Working with team building company’s

There are many different vendors that you may need to engage with to pull your event or meeting together. 

When deciding which event vendors to work with:

  • Think about the goal of your meeting/event and what elements you need to achieve
  • Think about the roles of your vendors
    • Will they be interacting with your attendees?
    • Will they be behind the scenes?
    • What personality traits are you looking for from them? Friendly? Technical? Detail oriented? Outgoing?
  • Make sure whomever you hire reflects these traits.

I have built great alliances with my professional network and through years of partnership have developed trusted relationships, however, I am equally aware of their limitations.  I may hire someone for a technical function that they excel at, but I wouldn’t put them in front of a client or event attendees because they don’t exhibit the interpersonal skills that are required for the event to be seamless.

Tip: Know the strengths and weaknesses of the people you hire and don’t try to multi-task roles.

If you’re putting together an event that is education based with many trainers, you may consider working with a speaker bureau: a company that “houses” many speakers, trainers and entertainers. 

Working With Speakers Bureaus

Some benefits of working with a speaker bureau:

  • They have contracted rates with the speakers they represent so you, as a client, can simply “shop” for the right fit for your event
  • You can choose a speaker by category (trainer, entertainment, etc.) and browse topics that they cover
  • A speaker bureau representative is able to help you choose the best fit for your event based on content and individual personalities
  • You can vet through bios and video quite easily to help you determine your top candidates.

Often times, you can schedule a “speaker call” so you (and your client) can talk to the candidates and ensure that the goals and objectives of the meeting will be best represented and are understood.

Tip:  Think of it like the process of recruiting, interviewing and hiring a new employee. It provides an opportunity to check the “fit” and ultimately hire the speaker that’s best for your event.

Another type of vendor that is common to partner with is an event production company. This is the team that will handle your production needs for the event, including:

  • Staging decor
  • Audio/Visual
  • Multimedia

If you’re creating an event that will require a stage, a keynote speaker or multiple presenters, presentation elements, or microphones, you’ll deliver a polished event if you hire the right event production team vs. tackling this area alone (if you don’t have any experience in this area).

This might be an area that you become comfortable with over time, but consider a production company an extension of your own team. Trust and “being on the same page” is really important between you and the production team. 

Event Production

Benefits of working with a production team:

  • The creation of the “production schedule” that will clearly and very specifically detail every minute of how the meeting/event runs from a production perspective
  • If you’re hiring speakers, trainers or entertainment, all of their technical requirements will be managed by the production company
  • They will assist with diagramming the room and proper set-up of the space to accomplish the event goals
  • A polished, well executed event.

Their job is technical in nature and your job is to understand the elements that they are covering and communicating that information with the venue/hotel and other vendors involved so everyone is working together toward the same goal. Clear communication is important!

What if I don’t require a third-party production company for my event?

Sometimes, your event won’t require a big production. You won’t need a stage, there aren’t a lot of moving parts and sometimes a small group of people needs to be in a room together with very limited Audio/Visual requirements.  In times like this, you might work directly with an “in house” Audio/Visual company.  They may assist you with a simple meeting set-up and can also provide an onsite tech to assist if you feel it’s needed.  This team is generally an extension of the venue/hotel, but often times you will need a separate contract for them. 

Another example of a vendor you might require would be a team building company. 

Why would you want to do team building?

  • To have a team of people learn to work together more effectively
  • To build relationships
  • To break down barriers
  • To do a charitable activity
  • To have fun!

Team building companies offer a variety of options to accomplish the event’s objectives. They can work with you virtually or can be hired for a few hours or to create a multi-day session that focuses on your goals. This can be done through varying team-based adventures or activities. For example:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Ropes courses
  • Cooking activities
  • Teamwork for charity

Whatever shape your event takes, you can extend your capabilities by hiring the right team of vendors.

Action Steps:

  • Consider your agenda, purpose and event budget then determine what supplemental vendors you require.
  • Before hiring vendors, get referrals from people you know.
  • If you don’t have contacts or referrals, research local companies and ask them for a list of clients and types of events they’ve worked with.

Chapter 10:  Event Registration

Gathering information on your event attendees is an important function in your planning process.  How you accomplish this will probably depend on the size of your event.

In this chapter you’ll learn:

  • Manuel vs. Automated Registration
  • Reporting
  • Attendee Management

Registration or data collection can be as simple as collecting RSVP responses on an excel spreadsheet or computer program, or a very complicated and detailed process where a large amount of data is received for each attendee. It will just depend on the scope of your event, number of attendees, and what kind of reports you need to support your event process.

The information you collect on your guests can be used for a variety of reasons:

To know:

  • Who your guests are (attendee list)
  • Your total event numbers to prepare materials or gifts
  • How to set your room
  • How much food to order

For reports on:

  • Attendee list
  • Guest rooms/Rooming list
  • Travel or transportation manifests
  • Communications – before, during and after the event
  • Name badges
  • Personal information – food sensitivities, special needs, emergency contact info. Etc.

If you are tracking your attendees manually, consider creating a spreadsheet that collects the following basic info:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Special Accommodations
  • Status/Notes

I think keeping one “master spreadsheet” is a good idea. One that shows who declined and accepted your invite, so that you never delete data and you have all your notes documented.

As your numbers grow, you might find that this is a very time consuming and detailed process and you may choose to use an automated event registration process. With some research you will find a variety of companies that offer online registration tools. If you are charging for your event, an online registration system is required to process payments in a secure environment. With this type of system, your attendees can enter their information by clicking on a link that directs them to a website and allows you to pull data reports as you need them.

Action Steps:

  • Assess your event and potential numbers. Is it too big to handle manually?
  • Determine the type of reporting you will need:
    • Name badges
    • Rooming list
    • Attendee list
    • Travel manifests
    • Special needs/accommodations
    • Communications
  • Build a registration system (manually or automated) that captures the right information from your attendees to support the reports you need.

Chapter 11:  Event Communication

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw

As the event planner, it’s your job to communicate with all parties involved in your event. This sounds like an easy job, but it takes a well thought out plan to make sure that it’s done well.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this chapter:     

  • Creating a communications plan – who do you need to talk to?
  • Common ways to communicate
  • Don’t forget to listen

What to communicate: 

  • Milestone updates for your key stakeholders
  • Logistical information with your venue and vendors
  • Event information with your event attendees

Many times, email communication or phone calls will suffice when updating your stakeholders and other internal team members. 

When working with venue and vendors, different communication documents might be used:

  • Contracts and Agreements
  • Event Orders
  • Production schedules (Run of Show, Show flows, etc.)
  • Pre-event questionnaires

Depending on your event, the way you communicate with your attendees will differ. 

Here are some examples of various attendee communications:

  • Save the date
  • Invitations – electronic or paper
  • Confirmation
  • Travel communication
  • Management itinerary
  • Travel itineraries
  • “Know before you go”
  • Welcome note – check in
  • Agenda
  • Pre-event survey
  • Post-event survey

For clear communication, learn to take meticulous notes, and if you can’t, have someone attend meetings with you that can. 

  • Document phone conversations in writing
  • Recap meetings with action items with due dates (in writing)
  • Cross-reference your notes when reviewing contracts and event orders (and keep older revisions)
  • Stay ahead of questions with your event attendees by communicating important information, and providing reminders

Often the most important element in communication is not what you’re saying, but listening to what the other person has to say. All the way through your event, it’s important to take the time to listen and really hear what’s being said. 

  • Listen to your stakeholders about why the event is happening and the critical elements in their opinion and make sure your planning is supporting that goal.
  • Listen to your team during the planning. If things aren’t working or are breaking down, understand why.
  • Listen to your team/vendors if there are concerns and create a contingency plan if necessary.
  • Listen to the pre-event questions that are coming from your attendees. Analyze if there’s been a gap in your planning or in your communication plan and amend where needed.
  • Listen to your team on site so you can quickly mitigate any potential issues.

Action Steps:

  • Create a communication plan that encompasses all groups that require communication (set deadline dates)
  • Create attendee communications early (including the post event survey) so they are ready for customization when you’re ready to send them
  • Save your communication tools as templates for future events
  • Take time to listen to those involved in planning the event.

Chapter 12:  On-Site Event Management

Execution is everything. Jeff Bridges

The event date will arrive and there are only two outcomes: 1) you’re ready 2) you’re not. Theoretically speaking, you plan the work, you work the plan and, on the day, or days of the event, you execute.  All contingency planning is done.  Every moment of the event should have been considered and planned prior to the event. The right team is in place, and communication has been clear so everyone that is on site has a function and role and most importantly knows what, how and when they are contributing. 

What you’ll learn in this chapter:

  • There’s no “Phase 2”- be ready!
    • Setting yourself up for success
    • The power of delegation – everyone should know their job
  • Contingency and Emergency Planning

Be Prepared

Everything that can be done in advance should be done, leaving the very minimum to be done on site. This way you are free to handle the inevitable things that occur that you can’t control, such as bad weather or a traffic accident that will delay your attendees, the presenter that has last minute changes to the presentation, a power outage at the venue, flight cancellations, a sick trainer, or any changes to the agenda.

Arrive early

This may require you to arrive days in advance of the start of the event (depending on size and scope). 

Meet with your team:

  • Your internal team
  • The hotel/venue team
  • Your vendor teams

 Walk through your event:

  • Walk through the event from start to finish one last time on paper with your core planning team (consider a pre-conference meeting)
  • Physically walk the event space from the perspective of your attendees and think about the space and what questions they will have, and how you can alleviate any sticking points.
  • Make sure your team(s) is in place and comfortable. LISTEN to any concerns they have and address them.
  • Try to understand the “journey” of your attendee from the moment they arrive to the moment they depart and ensure a smooth experience for them.

Staffing your on-site team

It’s important to consider what functions you need to fill and the personalities of those you hire or who volunteer so everyone is set up for success in their roles and ultimately for the event as a whole.

Examples of onsite roles/functions and suitable personality types: 

  • Registration – friendly, organized, knowledgeable – able to multi-task
  • Human Arrows – outgoing, friendly helpful people to guide people from one location to another.
  • Logistics – checking the room(s) for proper set-up, Food and Beverage, Audio/Visual, knowledge of event and familiarity with the Event Order documents. Someone who can actively work with the venue/hotel staff to keep the event/meeting moving forward properly, and who has knowledge of the event and is comfortable using the Event Order documents.
  • Technical/Production – running presentations, stage managing, able to follow the event script and direct the backstage elements.
  • Runners – people, who are available to run errands, handle issues as they arise or assist attendees.
  • Travel/Room Coordinator – working directly with the hotel/venue and attendees on any travel related issues.

Team Communication

Clearly communicate with your event team 

Depending on the size and scope of the event/meeting, this may require cell phones (or radios, depending on the location of your event) for staff or it might simply be briefing a small team on the agenda and showing them the space, they will be working in and answering any questions. 

If your team has questions during the event and you’re not available, provide them with the tools they need to be successful by appointing a go-to person or assistant, so they can direct attendees throughout the meeting/event and make decisions on your absence. The better you communicate with your team and transfer knowledge to them, the more successful they can be in their assigned role and the more successful your event will be – and your attendees will notice!

Be ready to work hard and execute

If your event is small or large, when you gather people together it requires work.

Often, as the planner you arrive first and leave last so make yourself available for your team, for the attendees, and for your key stakeholders.   

‘Close out’ the event on site: 

When the meeting/event concludes, make sure you know what’s expected in terms of ‘closing out’ with your venue and vendors.

  • Do you need to sign any paperwork?
  • Do you need to present a vendor with a check?
  • Who will you be in touch with in terms of financial reconciliation?

Post – event:

Make notes while they are fresh in your mind of what worked and what didn’t work. You might forget some smaller details that you will want to capture as a part of your post event reconciliation and summary. 

Emergency and Contingency Planning

These days, it’s the responsibility of the event planner to put back up plans and emergency plans into place as a part of the pre-event planning. 

Emergency Planning: 

The basic questions to ask yourself when planning for the unthinkable:

  • If something happened to a guest while at your event/meeting, what would you do?
  • How do you reach an attendee on event day if you need to notify them of a something critical?
  • Who do you notify on behalf of that attendee if there is an emergency situation?

Sometimes collecting attendee mobile contact information may be enough, or, print the information, if possible, and keep it with you for easy access, or have it in a mobile format that you can access without Wi-Fi.

Contingency Planning:

Sometimes, potential emergencies can be curtailed by contingency planning.  We’ve talked in previous chapters about some ways for you to mitigate potential issues:

  • Inquiring, planning for and communicating appropriately any physical limitations or food-based allergies.
  • Planning for “weather backups” when working in outdoor venues.
  • Never serve alcohol without food and do not over serve guests.
  • Staff your event appropriately (1 staff per 40/50 attendees).
  • Plan travel for presenters and entertainment thoughtfully, allowing extra time for the unforeseen travel delays.
  • Build in rehearsal time to test all equipment, if possible.
  • Have backups for all meeting materials.
  • Communicate well and continuously because this can flush out potential issues.

Action Steps:

  • Create an emergency contact report and make sure your on-site team knows you have the information if its needed.
  • Think “back up plan” throughout your logistical planning.
  • Staff your event appropriately and make sure every person’s role is clearly defined.
  • Create a detailed staffing document showing all job functions and assigning them to a specific person to manage while on site.
  • Create an “on site” file that keeps your most critical final documents: event orders, attendee lists, travel manifests, and your rooming list.

Chapter 13:  Post event

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. Albert Einstein

The event day came, it was a success, and it’s over. Now what? 

The attendees have gone, the décor has come down, and the dust has settled, but is your job complete?  Nope, not quite; there are a few items to complete to ‘close out’ an event properly.

What you’ll learn in this chapter:

  • Partner thank-you’s
  • Event Reconciliation
    • Surveys
    • ROI measurement/reporting
    • Budget reconciliation

Say Thank You!

It usually takes a group of people to make an event run successfully. In our busy world, it’s easy to move swiftly along to the next project, but it’s so important to pause and celebrate and acknowledge the work and accomplishments that have taken place. Make sure in the days that follow the event, that you reach out to your internal and external teams and thank them for their contributions. Consider sending a hand-written card or gift card to show your appreciation.

Event Reconciliation

Surveys:  In your communication plan, you might have noted that a post event survey would be administered. Usually, for best results, this should be sent to event attendees within three days of the event while it’s still fresh in their minds, and it’s still relevant and they’re willing to comment and offer feedback. Alternatively, you can ask that they fill out surveys on site and offer a prize for those that return them prior to leaving.

It’s best to prepare the survey before the event so it’s easy to hand out or talk about. If you’re using a web-based registration company, they might also have survey functionality. There are many online survey companies that allow you to use an existing template or customize your survey.

Every event won’t require a post event survey, but if yours does, be ready. The further from the event you leave it, the less relevant it will become.

Measuring Return on Investment (ROI) and Reporting

How do you know if your event was successful? Go back to the Meeting Basics chapter, and look at “The What” and “The Why” of the event

  • The What: the goals and objectives and defining success
  • The Why: the purpose of the event

Did you do what you set out to do? 

Create a summary document that demonstrates what the goal was and how you accomplished it.  For example:

  • If the goal was to generate money (fundraising, etc.) – What was the monetary goal? Did you meet or exceed the goal? How did this compare to previous efforts? 
  • If the goal was educational (to learn a new skill or learn about a new product or service), how did the attendees’ skill rate pre-event? How does it rate post-event?  How does it rate six months after the event?
  • If the goal was to increase sales, how much product was sold at the event? Did sales increase directly following the event? What about six months after the event?

This is the mechanism that shows your key stakeholders that you accomplished your event goals, whether or not the event was worth it, and should it be done again in the future. 

Also, note what worked well and what could be improved upon.

Budget Reconciliation

Depending upon your billing arrangements, and the scope of your event, you might already know your final expenditures by the time your event ends. Many times, it takes your venue and vendors a few days to reconcile and provide you final numbers. You should receive the final invoices within two weeks of the event.

Once you receive the final invoices from your venue and vendors, you can take those final numbers and drop them into the “actual” column in your budget. As you get more practiced in event estimation, you should see that your actual numbers are close to your estimate. Report what you actually spent in your event summary.

Action Steps:

  • Take the time to say thank you to those that helped in the event process.
  • Create and administer a post event survey.
  • Reconcile your event budget.
  • Create an event summary that reports on:
    • Survey results
    • Final budget numbers
    • Event goals, metrics and results
    • Successful points, and areas to improve upon

Chapter 14:  Why Hire an Event planner?

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”  Leonard Bernstein

If you find yourself wanting to learn how to be an event planner but wondering what clients look for in an event manager, this chapter is for you. 

What you’ll learn in this chapter:

  • Assessing client needs
  • Benefits
  • Questions to ask

Many clients realize that the scope of the event and the time required is more than they can take on, and sometimes they’ve completed an event and think “I’ll never do that again,” so they consider hiring an event planner.

Developing a relationship is essential to having long-term clients and problem-solving for the organization or family. Event planners are hired for their expertise and track record.

Why clients hire a professional event planner

  • Budget management
  • Experience in venue contracting
  • Minimize Stress
  • Save time
  • Tap into established vendor relationships
  • Work the details
  • Tips to save money without sacrificing quality
  • Improved overall event flow, look and feel
  • On site event management

Where do I start?

Experience and personality will be driving forces when selecting the best fit because you’re an extension of the client’s team or family. Clients want someone that reflects their qualities and style and someone who can understand the vision and translate it into an actionable, detailed plan. 

Common skill set/qualities of a great professional planner:

  • Detail oriented
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Professional demeanor
  • Organized
  • Creative
  • Good communication skills
  • Budget management skills
  • Project management skills

Assessing Client Needs

What do clients look for in an event planner?:

  • Experience, experience, experience – make sure you’ve done the same types of meetings and/or events that your clients need to produce
  • Understand how to prioritize
  • Know how to discuss contingency planning
  • Understand what you like most about event planning – this tells if you are a good fit for them

Being a professional event planner on your client’s team (permanently or in a consultative role) can be a great asset to them, especially since you save them time and you’re able to manage all of the event details.

Conclusion

Once you’ve been involved in the full planning process of an event, you probably will walk away with an appreciation of the work that goes on behind the scenes.

I hope this event planning manual has given you insight into the many aspects of planning an event, learn how to be an event planner, and has brought a deeper understanding of how to manage all logistics that are critical to event success:

  • Bring value to your client as a meeting planner
  • Understand meeting basics
  • Create an event budget and project plan
  • Select, contract and work with a hotel or venue effectively
  • Communicate to all partners and to your event attendees

Start with the vision: the reason why you are hosting the event and let all the other pieces be the roadmap to reach that vision. And most importantly….enjoy the process and have fun!

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.  Michael Jordan

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