As a professional with five years of event-planning experience, I can say that even now, if I had to manage an event, I’d be highly stressed and anxious about the outcomes. So I understand how you must be feeling—you’ve never done anything like this before, but for some reason your manager asked you to handle the entire logistic operations of an event.
I don’t envy you and I’m not here to calm you down, and tell you everything will be just fine. It won’t, at least not if you ignore the initial prep work.
And even if you don’t have time (if the event is just a few weeks away), you’ll have to take some time to envision the entire planning process and understand what you’re getting yourself into.
But don’t panic.
I’m here to help, walk you through a quick preassessment, and highlight all the things you need to understand before starting planning your first event.
Why is planning an event so difficult?
Here’s the thing: You are definitely not the only one freaking out about this task. Even the most seasoned planners experience stress and worries when it comes to managing a new event.
Reason #1. It requires an entire set of skills
From production to promotion, and from email marketing to attendee engagement, a planner is always that person that is multi-talented and has a great set of different skills. Managing an event is not a single task—it’s a million little tasks rolled into one.
You’ll be expected to perform different assignments, showing multilateral skills. Being a planner is difficult, especially because you have to be so much more than just a planner.
Reason #2. The details kill it
Another thing that makes planning events a real nightmare is the need to have a clear mind and a sharp focus at all times. It’s incredibly easy to get lost because of so many details and dots you must connect. You not only have to remember lots of little things, but also know how to manage the information efficiently.
Reason #3. Lots of things can go wrong
Since planning an event is a multilayered and multidimensional endeavor, there are too many things that might (and sometimes will) go south. You can’t control absolutely everything, so be ready for things to not go as planned. Don’t take it personally or panic—even experienced planners have this problem.
Reason #4. Managing an event means managing other people’s work
Will you engage the services of an event supplier? Will you work with different company teams to create the event website or promote it online? Will you hire language interpreters?
Even if you’re planning the entire event by yourself (which is crazy), you still have to coordinate other people’s tasks, which means you have to trust and depend on them. That alone can cause enough stress for you to need a year-long vacation.
Reason #5. There’s no guaranteed success
No matter how hard you worked to plan the perfect event or how well you managed to remember all the little details, there’s no guarantee that your event will be a success. Having so many things that could go wrong and dealing with the inevitable uncertainty factor called life, your KPIs and ROI depend greatly on your attendees’ experience.
So what you do then? Curling up under the blanket and crying for days is not a sustainable option (although we all want to do it from time to time).
What you need, apart from good planning tools (please tell me you realize how important these are!), is to consider a few basic rules.
Rule #1. Always look at things from your attendees’ perspective
One of the things planning newbies don’t realize is that they’re planning the event for other people, not for themselves. Everything you do, decide, and plan must be first seen through the eyes of an attendee.
Let’s take the event online registration form as an example. You may think you’ve designed a brilliant Google Form. However, your potential guests might find it difficult to register for your event. First, they can’t find the “Register” button on the event or company website. Second, there are some questions on the form they don’t understand, whether it’s the wording or not knowing why the information is needed.
Third, maybe you made the payment procedure a bit difficult, instead of providing attendees with an easy payment platform (there are so many tools that integrate PayPal, Strip, and the possibility to pay with any card).
Obviously, you can’t read your attendees’ minds, but you must foresee what their needs might be, predict the struggles they might have, and work toward providing them easy solutions.
So rule number one, as a planner newbie, is always put yourself in your guests’ shoes. Will they find it easy to navigate the event? Will they have a satisfactory experience? Will they understand what they are expected to do? Always ask yourself these questions, and make sure you do everything you can to minimize their struggles or challenges.
Rule #2. Make it simple
I get it. You want to plan an awesome event and have lots of ideas about how to increase attendance, engage your guests during your event, get the best speakers, and provide unique brand experiences.
Although it’s good to be resourceful and come up with great ideas, as a newbie, the secret to your success is to keep everything as simple as possible. Try not to overcomplicate things or engage your guests in dynamics that will require weeks of planning and logistic struggles.
Since you don’t have the expertise or planning knowledge, you shouldn’t make your life more difficult by trying to deliver more than is asked. You can go all out with your great ideas when you plan future events. However, for your first event, simplicity is your friend.
Rule #3. Tell the world about your event
What if you spend all this time planning every little detail, but you wind up only having a few guests? Events work the same way your brand’s blog does. What’s the point of your company publishing articles and observations weekly if nobody promotes them? How will people know these blog posts exist unless they’re promoted?
The same rules apply with planning an event: What’s the point of planning something only a handful of people will discover and enjoy? Event planning comes together with event promotion.
It’s not enough to market the event through your company’s social media platforms. You also have to build a marketing strategy perfectly aligned with your event’s goals. Who is the event audience? What’s the end purpose? Where is your target group hanging out? What type of messages do you want to deliver? How do you get people interested in your event? The answer to these questions is the key to a successful event marketing campaign.
Rule #4. Be available for your team and always touch base with them
Planning an event requires teamwork (which, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen). Considering this aspect, know that your team’s success depends on your willingness to be available and answer their questions (and actually listen to what they have to say). Apart from that, even if you hate meetings, it’s important to check in with them and discuss all the logistic or marketing challenges that come up on the way.
Rule #5. The event agenda is your guide
One trick I’ve learned as a planner is that you can structure everything around the event agenda. For example, let’s say you have a meeting about catering. Instead of trying to keep up with all the details, you can just take the event agenda and look at all the dynamics that will require food and beverage.
Also, you can indicate how many people will be attending each break, lunch, or cocktail. Apart from that, you can decide if there will be any beverage or snacks during the event activities. Walk your catering provider through the entire program and discuss all the necessary information. Do the same thing for your audiovisual services resource, your volunteers, your team, etc.
Call to action
Don’t worry: Although planning an event can be difficult and complicated, it’s also a great opportunity to grow and learn things that only a few know. Moreover, to help you hit the ground running, we’ve put together a roadmap on how to plan an event with no planning experience.
You can download it for free by clicking on this button.
By using this roadmap, you’ll better visualize all the challenges you’ll have to overcome. Plus, you’ll have a specific structure that will guide your actions. Enjoy it and let us know how everything goes in the comments.