Planning an event is about a lot of factors all working in the right way to produce the best event experience possible. Whether you’re just a newbie or a long-time event planner, you’ll find that there’s much to do and prepare for. Of course, a lot of unexpected things happen, no matter how prepared you are. As the event planner, however, your job is to do what you can to make the event experience something your attendees will never forget.
Even if you are running about like a headless chicken, trying to get things done as you’re planning an event, there are three things that are often overlooked by event planners that have to do with the following:
- People (event attendees)
Check out these three tips to help you create a better event experience:
1. Assigning the right people to the right roles
Let’s say you’re planning an event and you’ve got several volunteers who are working before and during the event. How do you know who to assign to what task? Do you let them go through an application? Do you assess them and see where their strengths lie? Or do you (heaven forbid!) write their names on slips of paper, toss them into a bottle, and assign them as they are drawn out?
Instead of randomly putting people where you need them, why not check first to make sure that they are in the right roles? For those you are assigning to help out with logistics preparations, are they knowledgeable in dealing with vendors? Are they patient and detailed? Can they be trusted to facilitate the ingress and egress of the event? Do the people you are assigning to the ushers and registration teams have a pleasant, respectful manner that will add to creating an enjoyable experience for the attendees? Are the people in your tech team knowledgeable on what to do in case something goes wrong (like the speaker’s keynote malfunctioning just 5 minutes before he goes up to talk)?
When it comes to assigning roles, we find it helpful if we check out the experiences of our volunteers most of the time, but it also helps if we ask them to take the DISC personality test. This lets us know if they are dominant (D), influential (I), conscientious (C), or steady (S). It’s an unconventional part of the volunteer process, but it has helped us a lot. While it doesn’t determine how a person will respond precisely, it tells you a lot about how they handle pressure and what they are comfortable doing.
Let’s say you’ll be having an event that requires a presentation or handouts. You’ll want a conscientious person checking the PowerPoint or Keynote files or proofreading the material. C or conscientious people pay a lot of attention to detail and will double and triple check things for you.
In your ushering team, you want someone who is pleasant but who is firm enough as well so they can easily handle the attendees who are a little stubborn and insist on getting their way. Assigning someone dominant can help you a lot when the lines get long and the people get rowdy.
This process of sifting through your database of volunteers might seem long-winded and tiresome, but once you get used to it, you’ll find that it will solve a lot of future problems early on. Assigning people to the right roles so that everything will flow smoothly on the event day is all part of building a better event experience.
2. Sandbagging the budget
According to Will Kenton:
“Sandbagging is a strategy of lower the expectations of a company or an individual’s strengths and core competencies, in order to produce relatively greater-than-anticipated results.”
Sandbagging in events happens when you plot the highest possible expenses and the lowest possible income and still come out with a revenue.
It takes some practice, but when you plan for your event and as you create your budget proposal, include all the possible expenses you can think of so that you get the highest possible expense. Don’t miss out on anything that might seem trivial but, when added up, will end up costing as much as the major expenses. You might have to re-allocate your budget when that happens and let me tell you that that’s not a fun thing to do.
As soon as you’ve created a sheet of possible expenses, come up with figures for possible income that will let you earn something from the event. Be as conservative as possible. Sandbag where you can.
- What if our event can handle 500 people but only 100 show up?
- Will I earn anything from there?
- What is the minimum number of people that must attend so I can have revenue?
When you sandbag your events, you’ll find yourself taking better care of your spending and, if you guard your finances and market your event properly, you’ll most likely end up with results and revenues that are greater than what you expected.
You might be wondering what budgets and sandbagging have to do with the event experience. The answer is: everything!
If you have freebies and gifts for your attendees and speakers, you’ll need a budget for that. If you’re hiring catering and want the food to be delicious (and food contributes greatly to the event experience!), you’ll need to make sure that you won’t go overboard with trying to please the people’s palates at the risk of your final numbers appearing big, bold, and red. If you want a great event experience, you need to look at every area of your event, volunteers, budgets, and all.
3. Recovering well
Let’s say you’ve planned things for a year and ironed out as many details as possible. You’ve done your marketing well, your budgets look great, and so many people have signed up and are excited about the event. When the event day happens, you go off to the venue, pumped up and energised…only to have things going wrong. Either a student whose name was not on the list suddenly showed up at the graduation or the fancy backdrop of a party fell on one of the attendees. As outlandish as they may seem, these are actual event experiences that I’ve witnessed.
In situations like this, you must recover well. Never mind that you’ve checked with people’s attendance countless times before the event. Never mind that you had signs and verbal announcements saying that people were not allowed to pick the flowers from the backdrop. What a person wants right then and there is sympathy and, as the event planner, even if there are countless things that don’t go your way and are also our of your control, you can always take charge of what happens next.
If it’s something that you’ve overlooked, apologise genuinely and find a way to make up for it. If the blunder happened in the middle of a conference or seminar, you might want to throw in some freebies that will make the attendee feel special. If it’s a graduation, you can put up a mini ceremony for the student who was left out after the main one has wrapped up.
As the event planner, it’s your duty to protect the company or organisation where you work (even if you’re working for yourself). Reaching out in kindness to people who might have been wronged or been on the receiving end of a system failure, whether within your control or not, goes a long way. It doesn’t matter if it was the attendee’s fault or your mistakes. What’s important is that you recover well, set things to right again, and learn from them so it never happens again. Even if you had a little booboo during the event, the attendees you gave special attention to will remember this event experience and appreciate you for it.