What qualifies as a big event? There’s no exact tipping point where an ordinary business event becomes a major organizational chore.
But it’s safe to say that if you’re expecting more than 100 attendees, many aspects of your event will become more challenging. Your venue, your PA system, and your marketing campaigns are only a few of the items on your event planning checklist that you must upsize.
In general, however, a few simple principles will help you stage a successful (and pain-free) event or conference.
Here are 7 tips to help you organize your big event.
1. It’s never too early to start planning a large event.
Does your event seem impossibly far off? If so, it’s probably the perfect time to start planning. The earlier you start, the happier you — and your organization — will be.
An early start not only gives you a wider selection of venues to rent, but also insures that your presenters and attendees haven’t completely filled in their calendars yet. Similarly, travel arrangements and equipment rentals are far more flexible the earlier you book them.
One caveat — if you’re booking an event far in advance, it’s far too easy to forget holidays and scheduled vacations. Scrutinize your calendar and avoid surprises.
2. Keep your event focused.
As events grow, it’s easy for them to spiral out of control and wander off topic. Without a central organizing theme, your attendees will walk away wondering what all the fuss was about.
Inspire your audience by focusing on a single theme. Do you want to solve a single problem, or explore multiple aspects of a broad topic? Either way, choosing a theme that encompasses your event’s content will engage your attendees and help your speakers stay on point.
3. Expand your team.
As your event grows, so should your staff. The best way to cope with mushrooming responsibilities and details is to create specialized teams to address each issue, and to organize them under appropriate umbrellas.
The promotions team that handled everything from event programs to advertising for your last conference, for example, may now find that there’s too much on their plate. Divide up their workload among smaller sub-teams, recruiting new team members as needed.
Don’t neglect to create or hire a dedicated team for setting up the event venue and to clean up afterwards, unless the venue is providing one.
4. Budget wisely.
Don’t set aside too little or too much money. Too little money means cutting corners down the road, most likely at a time when you’ll need your resources elsewhere.
Conversely, too much money means you’ll likely find your budget is slashed next time.
Before planning anything else, convene your teams and go over your needs with a fine-toothed comb to determine exactly what you need and how much it will cost.
5. Carefully estimate your venue size.
If your conference is invitation-only, renting a venue is easy — simply determine how many people you’re inviting and plan accordingly. If there are a few empty seats due to no-shows, it’s an easy matter to fill them with complementary tickets and press passes.
But if your event is open to the public, new problems arise. A sellout could be a coup from a marketing standpoint, but if too many people are left out in the cold, it could create bad blood for your next event. On the other hand, nothing kills the excitement of an event faster than a half-empty auditorium.
Plan accordingly. How much press will you generate? If you expect a big buzz, then rent a bigger venue, but consider performance of past events — and what other events could compete for your audience — before signing off on that huge auditorium.
6. Build relationships with sponsors.
A large event has the potential to generate a large amount of publicity. If your event is big enough to draw media attention, then corporate sponsors will benefit from the exposure and the free advertising — and you’ll benefit from their financial and material support.
Your marketing team should focus not only on the usual mailing list and advertisements, but also on generating corporate interest.
Once you’ve landed the sponsor, your relationship doesn’t stop there. Negotiate with your sponsors to provide support, and you’ll benefit from their media visibility — not to mention their advertising budgets.
7. Prepare your venue beforehand.
Your setup team (mentioned above) should arrive well before the event to test out audio equipment and conference microphone systems. Is all the equipment in place? Is everything working? Chances are, there’s something that needs attention.
While you’re at it, check everything else. Are there enough chairs? Is there enough parking? Is the venue clean.
Most venues will require that you leave the space in the condition that you received it. Don’t neglect to schedule a cleanup crew.
Enjoy the big event!
The day of your event is here, and your thorough planning has paid off! Now take a deep breath, keep a cool head, and congratulate yourself on organizing the big event.
What tips do you have for organizing big events? Let us know in the comments!