Mistakes are a part of learning, but they can be especially expensive in event planning. A mistake could disrupt your budget, disappoint your guests, or damage your reputation.
Many mistakes are inevitable. You’ll need to make them once to truly learn their lessons. But you can minimize the impact of those mistakes by being aware of them and having plans in place to fix them quickly.
Here are the twelve mistakes you’ll definitely make at least once in your event planning career and how to get past them.
1. You’ll Fail to Create a Contingency Plan
What happens if the food never arrives? What happens if the venue floods the night before? What will you do if your keynote falls ill and can’t perform?
These kinds of unexpected events are rare, but they can ruin your event. If you don’t have plans in place to respond to emergencies, you could have trouble on your hands. At best, you’ll incur significant last-minute expenses. At worst, you may have to call off your event. You can’t see the future, but you can plan for the unexpected.An event planning mistake could disrupt your budget, disappoint your guests, or damage your reputation. Click To Tweet
How to fix it: If your event is easily rescheduled, set a “rain date” that you can use for unforeseen circumstances. If you can’t reschedule your event (like if thousands of people fly in to attend), you’ll need a contingency plan for every function (food, venue, music, speakers, etc.). In some cases, you may have to pay to have secondary vendors waiting to respond.
2. You’ll Forget to Double-Check
Imagine calling to check on a late catering delivery only to learn that the caterer lost your order, or showing up to the venue to learn that they accidentally double-booked the time slot. Disaster! Sadly, this is bound to happen at some point if you don’t check on your team and vendors to make sure they’re ready.
How to fix it: Double and triple checking is one of your most important functions. Don’t be afraid to confirm times, dates, invoice totals, and other details with your vendors multiple times. Make sure you have their promises in writing in case you need to defend yourself later.
3. You’ll Compete with Another Event
It’s important to check for competing events before you commit to a date for your event. You don’t want to host an IT convention, for instance, during the same weekend as another IT convention. This can seriously damage your attendance, especially if the other event is more popular.
How to fix it: Carefully research all of your main competitors before finalizing your date. If you’re worried about another event that hasn’t announced a date yet, reach out to them for more information. They might say, “We don’t know yet, but it’s definitely in August.” That will give you some direction. It also helps to tell them the date you’re considering because they don’t want to compete with you either.
4. You’ll Send an Email to the Wrong Address
This one won’t just happen once. It will happen a few times in your career and it will be embarrassing every time.
It usually happens like this: You’re frustrated with the venue (or any other service), so you air your frustration with someone on your team. Instead of sending it to your team member, you accidentally send it to the subject of your email. Yikes.
How to fix it: Apologize right away. Don’t pretend nothing happened and hope they miss it. Don’t blame it on hackers or your cousin who likes to prank. After sending your apology, start taking steps to find a new venue or vendor because they may cancel the deal.
5. You’ll Blow Your Budget
Money management is one of the hardest parts of being an event planner. Designing menus and choosing decor is often fun, but handling finances makes it a lot more complex. If you fail to budget properly, you may have to scale back on some features, ask your client for more money, or – worst of all – forgo your fee.
Where do most event budgets fall apart? Unexpected costs are the most common reason. This includes hidden fees, permit costs, extra charges for items not included, etc. Bad weather is another cause. A simple shower or snowfall at the wrong time can saddle you with more expenses.
How to fix it: There’s little you can do to fix a blown budget after the event. Don’t try anything drastic and silly like asking attendees to pay more. Take some time to analyze your budget and your expenses to determine where you went wrong and how you can prepare better in the future. Most importantly, add 10% to your future budgets to give yourself some room.
6. You Won’t Give Yourself Enough Time to Set Up
Guests are at the door, but you’re still unfolding tables. You haven’t opened the bar and your check-in team is still learning the process. You didn’t give yourself enough time to set up!
How to fix it: Consider how much time you need to set up your event and double it. Don’t plan anything else for the same day. Your goal is to have everything in place 30 minutes before the first guest arrives.
7. You’ll Try to Do it All Yourself
You may have planned some small events by yourself in the past, but there comes a point where you can’t do it alone. That point comes far sooner than most new event planners expect.
If you don’t bring in a team (or at least a helper), there’s a good chance you’ll forget to complete tasks, fail to market the event adequately, or waste money in the confusion.
How to fix it: The real challenge here isn’t budgeting for and hiring staff. The biggest obstacle is recognizing when you’re at the point where you need help. How do you know if you need help before you need it? Unfortunately, this only comes with experience.
8. You’ll Rely on Celebrity Speakers Too Much
Well-known speakers are fantastic tools to promote your event. If you can find someone popular for your event, they’ll open you to their entire audience. But if you rely on them too much, they can drain your budget. They can also lull you into a false sense of security so you fail to market your event properly.
How to fix it: First, decide how much you’re willing to spend on speakers and stick to that number. Let your budget determine the caliber of your speaker, not the other way around. Second, don’t rely on your speakers to handle your marketing. Work with them to support your efforts and promote on your own.
9. You’ll Forget to Make a Packing List
A packing list is a simple list of everything you need to bring to your venue. It includes supplies, tools, decor, signs, checklists, reminders, lights, and your important documents (like receipts in case the caterer tries to short you). Without a packing list, you’ll be woefully unorganized.
How to fix it: Create a packing list early in the event planning process. Add items to your list as soon as you think of them so nothing gets forgotten during planning. Then use the list as you pack items into your car or truck.
10. You’ll Fail to Order Enough Food
Frankly, this is every event planner’s nightmare but it happens at least once in every career. Food is a critical element of most events. If people don’t get to eat, they’ll talk about your failure for years – especially on social media.
How to fix it: If it happens during an event, your first step is to get on the phone and order emergency supplies, even if you can only find pizzas or sandwiches. Then apologize to your guests for the mistake. In the future, overestimate what you need so no one goes hungry.
11. You Screwed Up the Check-In Experience
Checking in arriving guests is one of the most complex parts of the entire event process. You need a clear system that’s easy for guest to understand and a talented team who understand your process well. But a poorly run check-in experience can sour your guests’ moods and portray your event in a poor light.
How to fix it: 1) Use event management software that streamlines the process. 2) Train your team beforehand with mock check-ins and impromptu registrations. 3) Hang around the check-in area during the busiest times for arrivals.
12. You’ll Wear the Wrong Shoes
Whether you’re the face of your event or just a behind-the-scenes planner, you’ll spend a majority of the event walking around. You’ll meet people, solve problems, help set up new spaces or features, etc. All those steps can do damage to your feet. You’ll pay a price if you wear new shoes or shoes without support.
How to fix it: Choose shoes made for walking. Heels are almost always a bad idea. Wear socks if you can to protect your feet from your shoes. If you plan to buy new shoes for an event, wear them a few times to break them in.
Everyone Makes Mistakes
No event planner is perfect. You’re bound to make mistakes, even if you’ve worked in the profession for years. What’s important is that you learn from your errors and take steps to prevent them from happening in the future. Look out for these common mistakes so they don’t ruin your events and disrupt your career.