Planning an event requires you to balance a lot of moving pieces. It’s tempting to start event planning as early as possible so you have time to get everything in place before the big day. But if you start too early, you risk wasting time and money, and creating more problems for yourself down the road.
We talk a lot about how you can successfully navigate the event planning process on our blog. In today’s post, however, we’d like to discuss the common signs that you shouldn’t start planning for your event.
1. You Don’t Have Confirmation
If you’re planning an event on behalf of someone else (like an employer or client), it can often take ages for the final green light to start planning. Some people struggle to pull the trigger and commit to the event.If you start too early, you risk wasting time and money, and creating more problems for yourself down the road. Click To Tweet
This is especially frustrating if you have a specific venue in mind. Every moment you delay is an opportunity for someone else to swing in and grab your preferred date. The best venues in the country often book years in advance. Some event planners will book a date with a venue to reserve it and then cancel if the event falls through, but you shouldn’t do this unless you can get your deposit back.
2. You Don’t Have a Budget Yet
Your event budget is one of the most critical pieces of information you need. There’s nothing you can do without it. If you start viewing venues, talking to caterers, or planning your marketing, there’s a good chance you’ll waste a bunch of time and possibly some money.
If it’s your responsibility to set the budget, do it right away. Don’t make a single preparation until you know what you expect to spend and the maximum you can spend on each element.
If someone else prepares the budget for you, confer with that person as soon as you can. Tell them plainly that there’s nothing you can do until this task is complete.
3. Stakeholders Have Vastly Different Expectations
One stakeholder wants a quiet, low-key networking event where guests can mingle and talk business. Another stakeholder wants an upbeat party with loud music and plenty of alcohol.
These types of differing expectations are quite common, especially if each stakeholder has their own goals for the event. But if you try to plan your event to please both sets of expectations, you’re bound to disappoint one of them – or both.
If you have multiple bosses with different requirements, you aren’t ready to start event planning. You’ll need to sit everyone down at a table and define one set of criteria for you to meet.
4. You Don’t Have Any Details in Your Brief
An event brief is an overview document that describes the type of event your employer or client expects you to throw. It includes dates, speakers/presenters you’d like to include, limitations/restrictions, and any other relevant details.
An event brief can be as simple as an index card with notes or as complex as a small book with charts, diagrams, and maps. It’s a tool to stay focused so your event doesn’t get too far from your original plans. But you need something before you get started, even if it’s just some notes about the ambiance or amenities.
Sit down with one of the event stakeholders. Ask them what kind of event they expect. You’ll use your skills to design something amazing, but they need to give you some direction otherwise you’re bound to create an event they don’t like.
5. You Don’t Know/Understand Your Audience
Who are you creating an event for? What do they like and dislike? What do they expect from an event like yours? What will make them race to register? What will exceed their expectations? Answers to these questions can make or break your event, but if you don’t know your audience, you won’t have the information you need.
If you don’t know your audience intimately, it’s important to have a thorough conversation with someone who does. Better yet, have a discussion with someone who’s part of that audience. Pick their brain to find out what they find valuable and pleasurable about events.
6. Your Client or Employer is Unresponsive
If the people who have a financial or professional stake in the event don’t respond to your emails and calls, there’s a good chance they’ll do the same when you need critical, time-sensitive questions answered during the event planning process.
Make sure whoever approves your decisions is willing to give you their time. You should have a direct manner of contacting them and an understanding that they’ll respond to you within at least 24 hours.
7. Your Client or Employer Doesn’t Understand How Long Event Planning Takes
It’s not unusual for employers and clients to come to you with unreasonable time expectations. They might give you two weeks to plan a company picnic, or a month to plan a conference with international guests.
Non-planners rarely understand how long it takes to do something simple, like get a quote from a vendor, tour a venue, or set up a room. Plus if you don’t give your guests enough time to fit you into their schedule, you’ll host an empty event.
If you think your client isn’t giving you enough time to plan your event, push back on the deadline. Tell them you (or any event planner) would need more time. Caution them that if they insist on rushing the process that it will affect the quality of the event.
8. You Don’t Have Any Resources for the Unexpected
No matter how much you prepare, there will always be something unexpected to deal with at the last minute (or several things, more likely). You can’t plan for things you don’t know will happen, but you can give yourself the right tools and resources to respond to those problems.
Here are a few ways you might help yourself solve unexpected problems:
- Keep a few hundred dollars in cash on hand in case you have to buy something.
- Have access to a vehicle in case you need to hit a store quickly.
- Pre-program the numbers of anyone who can help you (including your team, if you have one) into your phone.
- Create Plan Bs for as many event elements as possible. For instance, you should bring a CD/iPod full of music in case the DJ doesn’t show, or ask a backup speaker to be ready in case a scheduled speaker doesn’t show.
“When running events it’s the unexpected elements that seem to have the ability to blindside you, at the last minute, that cause the most frustrations,” says Keith White, head of PR at Dobell Menswear. “I’ve run a few events where this happened. You have to write down every possible scenario, well in advance of your event, so you can formulate a plan B.”
9. You Don’t Have an Engagement Strategy
If you want your guests to enjoy their experience and attend the next event, you’ll need a solid engagement strategy. Planning ways to keep your guests engaged is part of the planning process, but it often transcends the event itself, so it’s important to have a strategy before you begin checking out venues, tasting food, and designing invitations.
For example, if you decide to use a custom event app to engage your guests, you’ll need to know that early so you can include it on marketing materials. You’ll also want to introduce it to your client’s marketing team so they can include it in their campaigns.
Start Event Planning the Right Away
Make sure you’ve overcome these obstacles before you start event planning. By resolving each one, you’ll clear the way for a smooth, efficient event planning process that ultimately creates an incredible event. Good luck!