It’s All In The Planning!

What do successful Conferences/Meetings/Conventions/Exhibitions/Seminars have in common?…..

It’s all in the planning!

Here is a handy guide to the most important considerations in Event Planning.

Event Planning

Budget

The first and foremost important detail. The basic framework from which to sculpt your event. It helps you stay on the right path. Expenses can come from a wide array of sources once you think about all of the components involved with staging an Event. Once you have a vision of the event and an estimate of how much money you have to work with it is time to structure the budget, remembering that they are “working drafts” that are likely to change as more details come in.

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Find the Perfect Venue

Choosing the right venue for your event is extremely important where ever in the world you are planning for it to take place. Sourcing the right venue will ensure optimum attendance whether the objective of the event is promotional, educational or incentivising.

Location: The location is one of the most important factors when you are choosing a venue. Think about where your guests will be travelling from and which mode of transport they are likely to use. Research if the venue is close to airports, train stations, motorway links, has adequate parking and evaluate what is important.

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Facilities: Consider if the venue has facilities that will compliment or add value to your event. For example; some venues have meeting rooms with built in audio-visual equipment and spa facilities so these items do not need to be added at an additional cost. Depending on the industry you work within ensure the venue is compliant with regulations etc..

Size / Capacity: Identify a venue that can comfortably accommodate the capacity of your event. Ensure the venue is flexible and has experience to cater for your required event setup. Should you require accommodation check the venue will allow you to book the required number of bedrooms in proportion to the venue maximum capacity. It is important to carry out a site visit to view venue(s) before contracting to ensure the venue is as described and is suitable.

Catering:

What is the profile of the guests being invited to the event?

  • The professional level of your guest.
  • The frequency your guest attends similar events.
  • The location where guests reside.
  • The ethnic background of your guests.

Understand the profile of your guest, this allows you to begin considering what menu options to offer.

  • Older groups of attendees may prefer a milder menu.
  • Attendees concerned about health may prefer more seafood and vetables options.
  • Younger or middle-aged attendees may prefer spicier, more adventurous meals.

Sometimes the clock will be the greatest guide to determining hte menu for an event. Some examples:

  • Box lunches are best if you have 30 minutes or on the go.
  • Plated meals usually requires at least 1.5 hours.
  • Buffets may be finished in about 1 hour.
  • Cocktail receptions require a minimum of 1 hour before dinner.
  • Working breakfasts or lunches should incorporate menu items that can hold up for longer periods of time than others.

Before any event, it is critical to find out if any of the guests have a special need so that the catering manager can address those needs prior to the event. Considerations include:

  • Food allergies
  • Religious requirements
  • Dietary restrictions
  • Ethnic preferences

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TimeScale

In an ideal world with plenty of lead time…

1 Year From Event – Define goals, event schedule, external schedules, define budget
8 Months From Event – Make sure venue, speakers, topics are defined and revisit goals
6 Months From Event – Revisit budget, refine messaging and purpose, reconfirm with all participants
4 Months From Event – Finalize invitation strategy (mail, online, calls, other outreach)
2 Months From Event – Begin invitations and external messaging as appropriate
1 Month From Event – Confirm attendee list, continue outreach as necessary.
1 Week Post Event – Discuss success / failures of event and if goals were met. Document all and develop success plan for next time. Begin any outreach follow up needed.

After an event, it is very important to regroup with your organisation’s planning team and assess how the event actually went. Were your goals met? Gather everyone’s opinion of the event, and then form action items for next time where you can improve.

Take 5-10 minutes after the event and make some notes on what worked and what didn’t. Perhaps, you need to a better way to check guests in or improved audio / visuals. Or perhaps the speaker was so engaging that you might want to enlist them again at another event.  By simply documenting your successes and failures, you’ll be better able to plan for next time. Documenting is a key component that many skip and can help transform your event year after year.  When next year comes, you already have your list and don’t have to remember a thing. This will ensure continued success and growth year over year.

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Do you need a Speaker?

Hiring a guest speaker or presenter may increase attendance at your next event, and will be sure to add value. Many companies will hire speakers to set a new tone and empower their employees. Some events will include speakers so their audiences are inspired to raise awareness, donate, or drive sales. Or, speakers are sometimes used to educate their audiences on new skills, or industry topics.

Get references & testimonials. Be sure you are confident in this speaker. Ask for testimonials, and follow up with references they have provided you. Check online for reviews. Remember that this speaker is representing your company and your event, so it is very important that they give a good impression.

– Negotiate the details. Be sure to know the details ahead of time from the speaker.

– Plan the logistics. Will the speaker plan their own travel to the event, will their assistant, or will you be required to?

– Ask to see their presentation ahead of time. You don’t want to be embarrassed when your speaker includes a slide that is offensive to your audience, or is inappropriate.

– Ask for a bio. Not only for the purpose of introducing the speaker at the event, but also so you know more about who you’re investing in.

– Book in advance. The more popular the speaker, the further out they are booked. Be sure to contact them as soon as you know you have an interest in hiring them for an upcoming event.

– Match the speaker to the audience. Be sure that you’re hiring the right person for the right audience. Put yourself in your attendees’ shoes, and ask yourself if you’d be interested in hearing this person speak if you were attending this event.  Also be sure that the speaker’s presentation matches up with the goal of the event.

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Keep a track of changes to the scope of the event.

Problem: As with most real-life scenarios, most events will have changes in plans and scope before the big day. Failure to keep a track of the smallest change can mean an out of control budget, or an impossible timeline.

Solution: Following a formal ‘change tracking process’ is a simple but extremely effective way to keep changes documented, communicated and under control. The individual requesting the change (e.g. additional seating capacity or change in the food service) needs to explain the specific changes and the event manager needs to determine how that request will impact the budget, timeline and communicate it to all other stakeholders involved.

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Lack of an agreed upon plan increases the risk that tasks related to the event will fall through the cracks, that the event will have last minute issues,  fall short on budget and ultimately miss a major objective.

A well defined and agreed upon event plan helps planners tackle every task efficiently and raises the appropriate level of awareness of all the activities involved in the execution of an event. Having baseline of repeatable processes for scoping, scheduling, allocating resources and communicating with stakeholders removes a lot of the guesswork associated with events.

With everything planned a smooth and successful event will follow.

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