The first thing that usually comes to mind when people think of an event planner, is that this generally refers to weddings. Although weddings are the most common events that the average person attends each year, event planning itself covers a wide range of activities. This includes coordinating business meetings and seminars, conferences, online webinars, academic presentations, fundraisers, family gatherings, and political rallies. Events are a great way to bring the right people together in the right place, at the right time. It is a controlled environment where a specific activity is facilitated by a trained team of professionals.
Pitfalls to Avoid in Building a Strong Event
Whether you are new to the industry or are an established company that is looking to grow your event planning business, here are some pitfalls to avoid in building a strong event.
Misunderstanding Your Client’s Needs
The first step in planning a successful event is to meet with your clients and make sure you take detailed notes on what exactly they want, and what they’ll expect from you. The last thing you want to do is deliver an event that your client didn’t expect. If you are planning an event for a larger audience rather than one company or client, you can still make sure that this step is not missed. Ideas for this can be sending out a survey, getting feedback from previous events, or contacting loyal attendees/ sponsors for your event to see what adds value to them when attending events.
Choosing a Bad Venue or Unreliable Vendor
Your event is only as good as the services that you deliver. You must ensure that every outside vendor that you work with is trustworthy, reliable, professional, and takes their role in your event seriously. If you have a great venue with an outside food vendor that doesn’t live up to the set expectations, you will take the blame. If you have a vendor that does not show up, you will take the blame. If the venue or hotel staff are unprofessional or difficult for attendees to work with, you will take the blame. It’s your responsibility as an event planner to review each vendor and venue to ensure you and your client’s expectations will be met or, better yet, exceeded.
Your vendors and temporary staff are part of your team, and coordination and competence among team members is very important if you want to avoid unforced errors. When beginning your project, make sure each member of your team understands their role during the event. Make sure to set clear expectations of what you want them to focus on at the event, what their responsibilities are, and who to turn to if issues arise that could affect the overall production of the event. Open the lines of communication between team members so that everyone is on the same page and understands their responsibilities. A great way to make sure that all of these boxes get checked is by creating a playbook that includes job duties, timelines, processes, and contact information with points of contacts for all staff, coordinators, vendors, etc.
Accurate estimates and budgeting for events are critical if your business is to survive in a competitive market. Take the time to double check your vendor and venue costs to ensure you haven’t missed any of the important details throughout the planning process. Inaccurate estimates can be costly, both financially, and to your brand. If you continuously come in with estimates that are lower than the actual cost of the event, your clients will begin to lose confidence in your ability to accurately plan an event, or worse, possibly think you are passing the cost of your failures on to them. If your expenses spiral out of control, you’ll end up over budget, either eating the extra costs or explaining to your clients why they owe more after the event is over.
Poor Customer Communication
One of the biggest pitfalls to avoid when planning an event is poor communication with your clients or staff. A lack of communication can lead to a bad experience and be considered extremely poor customer service. Dedicated, constant communication with your team, clients, vendors, staff, attendees, or sponsors is what will truly ensure a successful event. Problems will always arise at events, but it’s the way that you deal with these issues which determines if you’re providing the level of customer service your clients expect.
How to grow a successful event planning business
A helpful policy to have when beginning the planning stage of an event is to always have a “crisis management” strategy. This is where you identify the things that could go wrong and areas that may need special attention during an event. A common phrase used in event planning is “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” Preparing for unforeseen circumstances will allow you to quickly address problem areas and make corrections before they become a true issue, and before your attendees or clients can even know that an error has occurred.
Here are some event planning tips that will help prepare you for success.
Have a plan
Build a plan and make sure you stay on task. Write out your timeline for event preparation, execution, and clean up; create written processes for event logistics; put together checklists of what needs to get accomplished; and write out specific role responsibilities for each person that will be working on the event.
Maintaining and broadcasting a positive attitude will calm your staff and keep your clients feeling confident in your ability to deliver. Being the friendly, helpful, consistent presence at the event provides peace of mind to all involved in the event.
Consult with experts
If you come across a portion of an event that you may not fully understand, don’t be afraid to consult an expert. Getting advice on certain aspects of your job doesn’t show weakness, but rather courage, humbleness, and the willingness to learn.
Deliver on your promises
Perform on your guarantees. Stick to your plan and make sure that all the deliverables you promised are provided as expected.
Think on the fly
To stay ahead of the curve, you need to think quickly and be prepared to adjust your plan to make the event a success. Again, plan for the best, prepare for the worst – having a plan B and C ready to pull out of your back pocket if need be.
Build a reliable team
Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Create an eager, talented, kind, and competent team, and you will be on your way to success.
Develop a bond with customers
Build a strong pipeline of clients and pay attention to their needs. Reach out to them and ensure they feel they are involved in the planning, or execution of the event, and are happy with your strategy or plan. Address any areas where they think there is a shortfall and present a backup plan, if necessary.
The event planning industry can be very rewarding, but it can also be incredibly stressful since there is a large margin for error to occur. Businesses and individuals hire event planners because they want to hand off this process to an experienced planner that knows how to plan, execute, and reflect for future events going forward.
If you take the time to strategically develop a great plan, build a strong team, communicate well with your clients to ensure they are kept “in-the-loop” on your progression, keep your costs down, plan for contingencies, and build a robust marketing brand, your business will flourish, creating a network of customers that will keep you busy for years to come.