Planning a conference or event is no easy task, as any professional event planner will quickly admit.
Still, many event planners underestimate the amount of time and work needed to plan a successful event, and often make common mistakes along the way.
Event planning mistakes can lead to annoyed audiences, alienated speakers, a drained budget and a loss of credibility that can affect your ability to plan future events.
How can event planners ensure their event planning checklists are fool-proof?
Here are 10 common mistakes event planners kick themselves for – with our 10 tips to help avoid them.
1. Trying To Do It All Yourself
A typical event planning checklist often includes scheduling, financial planning, registration and event promotion – and these don’t even include running the event itself.
No matter how capable of an event planner you are or how small your event may be, your event will suffer if you try to tackle it alone – at the very least it will give you a massive headache.
Tip: A well-selected committee will help make sure the details of your event plan get covered and potential missteps will be avoided. Your committee should include a registrar, publicist, treasurer, travel agent and speaker liaison.
2. Competing With Yourself
Having back-to-back events (or too many in a year) is a common mistake event planners make, and can lead to a potential PR disaster.
Competing for resources is only one part of the picture – you’re also competing for audiences, speakers, advertising and press.
Tip: Create a shared calendar for everyone in your organization (including those who may be planning their own events) and you’ll avoid the unpleasant surprises of competing meetings, events or vacations. If you have more than one big event scheduled in the year, be sure to leave plenty of space around them – three to four months per event is recommended.
3. Over-Reliance On Celebrity Speakers
Everyone wants star speakers at the conference they’re attending. Big headlining names can pack the hall and energize an audience – but they can also drain your budget very quickly.
Worse, many speakers will simply breeze into your event, give their talk and leave without mingling with the audience. One-on-one contact is a trait that separates good events from great events.
Tip: Spend your money carefully. Before you drop big bucks on a well-known celebrity speaker, pack your program with dynamic, lesser-known speakers first. Additionally, make sure to research your star speaker’s reputation, career and professional connections to make sure he or she suits your client or organization’s event.
4. Leaving Promotions Until The Last Minute
The more you put off promoting and marketing your event, the less time people will have to schedule to attend it.
Most media outlets require several weeks or months of prior notice before publishing a news item or advertisement about an event or conference.
Tip: As discussed in Tip 2 above, you’ll need to allocate at least three to four months lead time to effectively get the word out about your event, especially if you’re relying on magazines, journals or other deadline-driven print media to reach to your target audience.
5. Underestimating The Size Of Your Event
Big crowds can create big problems, especially if your event space isn’t big enough.
Do you have enough space to fit your audience?
Will you be able to control the registration of large groups of people?
Can you feed and accommodate all of your attendees?
Moreover, will you be able to manage the flow of people in and out of the event space?
Tip: Figure out how many attendees your event will draw. Research similar events in your industry, especially events at which speakers you want to invite have recently spoken. Did they draw big crowds?
Furthermore, make sure the person handling accommodations and your event’s registrar are communicating and collaborating effectively. Remember: if your event grows too large it will quickly eat up your budget, so be sure to allocate enough resources to ensure everything flows smoothly as planned.
6. Miscalculating The Size Of Your Venue
Picking the wrong room can be as problematic as letting your event grow beyond your capacity to manage it.
There’s nothing more depressing than standing in front of a half-empty conference hall – for attendees, speakers and organizers alike.
Likewise, if your event space becomes overcrowded, your attendees will likely have a difficult time enjoying the event.
Tip: It’s not just about the size of your crowd; be sure to take into account how your room will be set up. Will your audience be in theater seats or tables? Calculate the size of your venue as closely as you can.
7. Not Letting Your Speakers – Or Audience – Be Heard
Both your speakers and attendees should be able to communicate effectively with one another during your event.
Oftentimes, event planners underestimate the importance of professional A/V equipment and the critical role it plays during events.
Tip: Be sure to create a detailed list of all A/V equipment your speakers and attendees will need to have a productive and engaging event.
This list will likely include a PA system, microphones, connections and cables, overhead projectors, loudspeakers, monitors, receivers and transmitters.
Moreover, find out what A/V equipment your venue will supply for your event. If your venue cannot provide something, make sure to find a vendor that you can rent equipment from. Try finding a company that is located near your venue in case you need on-site help setting up or installing your equipment.
8. Leaving Equipment Rentals Until The Last Minute
Are you renting A/V equipment?
Just as your audience needs time to make room for your event in their schedules, the vendor supplying your audio and visual gear needs time to assemble your equipment, transport it to your venue, set it up and make sure it’s working properly. A 24-hour notice is not enough!
Tip: Typically, you should allow at least two weeks to ensure everything you need is in stock and ready to ship. This also allows you to find a backup rental company in case your first choice is unable to supply what you need.
9. Scheduling The Wrong Speakers At The Wrong Times
Each day of your event should flow from topic to topic, and also from speaker to speaker.
If you schedule a popular, well-known speaker in the beginning of your event program, you may see your audience size dwindle as soon as the speaker is finished with his or her presentation.
Tip: Although you will often need to shuffle the schedule to make allowances for each speaker’s schedule, always try to put the most popular speakers last. Pay attention to the morning and post-lunch time slots too – which speakers will get the audience in the door on time and grab their attention?
10. Not Thanking Your Participants
Chances are you’d like to plan a bigger and better event next year.
To do this, it’s crucial to maintain a great relationship with your speaker alumni as well as advertisers, journalists, attendees and venue staff.
Tip: Keep track of everyone who supports or participates in your event. Make sure to record names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses during your event.
Afterwards, send brief thank you notes to all that attended or helped build your event. You’ll be surprised at how this one small step can help lay the foundation for next year’s event planning.
Do you have any event planning horror stories, or any great tips to avoid event disasters? Share them with us in the comments section below.