Those who have been familiar with the process of event project management would understand how challenging planning, managing, and hosting an event will be.
There are many moving parts involved in planning an event, and you have to constantly pay attention to the tiniest details to ensure success. Not to mention, even the smallest event will have its own unpredictabilities, and an event planner needs to always be on the lookout for potential setbacks so they can tackle the situation as soon as possible.
This guide will discuss all you need to know about event project management and will cover all the different elements of planning an event, including but not limited to:
- The concept of event project management
- Key challenges you’ll need to consider when planning and managing an event
- Key elements in planning an event based on project management principles
- The step-by-step guide to planning and managing a successful event.
Without further ado, let us begin right away.
Event Project Management: The Concept
What actually is “event project management” or just “event management?”
Event project management refers to all the efforts involved in planning, managing, and running an event to:
- Attract as many target attendees as possible
- Ensuring your guests have a good experience when attending your event
- Delivering value to your sponsors and partners
- If it’s a for-profit event, ensuring the event has a good ROI
In practice, the event project management process will need to consider various elements: budgeting, scheduling, securing sponsorships, confirming speakers/talents/presenters, coordinating travel arrangements and accommodations, catering, and more.
This is why although attending an event always seems fun, behind the scenes, it actually requires a lot of work and great teamwork before guests can have fun during the event.
Key Challenges and Considerations When Managing an Event
To successfully and effectively execute event project management, we have to understand the challenges we’ll potentially face on the journey. This is why knowing these most common event planning challenges and their solutions is very important in ensuring success.
Budgeting is the most challenging aspect of event planning, and there are several layers to the challenge:
- Ensuring you don’t overspend so the event is not profitable, and at the same time ensuring you don’t underspend, so you sacrifice the event’s quality.
- Ensuring you and your team stay on budget throughout the event planning and execution
As mentioned above, event planning is full of uncertainties, and a lot of things will change or unexpectedly come up along the way. It’s also important to plan for redundancies (plan Bs) when estimating your event budget.
If you’ve hosted previous events, evaluate and compare budgets of previous events so you can identify what you can do better this time. However, if this is your very first event, you’ll need to do a bit more research. If necessary, ask around to other companies (even competitors) who have hosted events in the past and if possible, ask to see data.
Another common and serious problem when hosting an event is understaffing (and sometimes, overstaffing).
The thing is, identifying how many volunteers and staff members you’ll need to have can be quite difficult, and it might not be obvious until the D-day when it’s already too late.
A good approach is to estimate how many staff members and volunteers you’d need if only 25% of your target attendees showed up, then also estimate the number you would need if 75% of the attendees showed. The median between these two numbers will typically be the ideal number of staff members to hire, but you should still consider planning for redundancies.
3. Not Having Plan Bs and Plan Cs
When planning an event, it’s crucial to plan for redundancies, ideally for every major element of your event:
- What will you do if your keynote speaker fails to show up?
- What will you do if the venue suddenly becomes unavailable?
- What’s your backup plan for bad weather?
- Can you move your schedule around if one of your speakers is stuck in traffic?
Albeit expensive, it’s always best to have a second venue as a plan B, ideally one that lets you book last minute and is located fairly close to the original venue.
4. Track Every Change Along The Way
Many elements of the event will change throughout the planning process: schedule changes, budget changes, even changes to keynote speakers and venue.
With that being said, it’s crucial to track all changes that happen and follow up with relevant stakeholders that may be affected by each change. This would require a centralized communication hub that is accessible to all relevant stakeholders so everyone can keep track of changes and maintain accountability.
Without an established system to keep track and communicate changes, a lot of things can go wrong during the event planning and execution process.
Especially important for in-person (physical) events, having more attendees than what your venue can hold can lead to major issues and potential legal repercussions.
Establish a clear system so you can anticipate the number of attendees that will show up, whether via online registrations or by selling early-bird tickets. Also, you can monitor the buzz around your event on social media.
If, for example, you are getting more social media mentions than you expected, it’s probably time to adjust your plans accordingly to accommodate more attendees.
6. Not Keeping Your Attendees Engaged
You’ve planned the perfect event: the perfect venue, the best speakers you can get, and you’ve attracted enough attendees.
All of those are great, but if you can’t keep your attendees engaged throughout the event, then your event is doomed to a failure.
In today’s digital age, we have to maximize attendee engagement in four different aspects:
- The event’s content: speakers, presentations, entertainment, exhibitions, and so on
- How attendees can interact with sponsors in fun and authentic ways
- Ensuring optimal event logistics (i.e., ensuring food and drinks are sufficient and available on time) to keep attendees happy
- Establishing positive online engagements surrounding your event before, during, and after the event (i.e., responding to social media comments, running contests on social media, etc.)
7. Not Paying Attention to Nuances Related to The Venue’s Location
What if, on the day of the event, there is another event in the area causing traffic jams en route to your venue? What if there won’t be enough parking space for your attendees?
Also, are there any local regulations you’ll have to abide by?
It’s crucial to perform enough research regarding the local area of your event venue, and here are some things you can do:
- Figure out other events in the neighborhood, city, and region that are near the date of your event. Nowadays, you can simply search on Google events or other event calendar platforms for this purpose. Gather as much information as you can about them; there may be valuable insights you can use.
- Identify any zoning laws and other relevant regulations that may apply to your event.
- Ask around to other event organizers and companies you know that have hosted events in your venue or the local area. Again, they might have valuable insights you can use for planning your vent.
This list is obviously not exhaustive, and there may be other challenges and issues you’ll face during the event planning process. However, these seven are among the most common (and dangerous ones). By knowing the solutions to these problems, you are basically ready to overcome most event planning challenges.
Key Elements to Event Project Management
It’s crucial to develop a master plan for your event as early as possible in the event planning stage that covers these crucial elements:
It’s crucial to understand the purpose of hosting the event (i.e., why you plan to host the event in the first place?) and the event goals.
You should be as clear as possible when defining your event goals while following the SMART goals principle:
- Specific: ideally, you should be able to easily explain the event’s objective(s) to a fifth-grader. For example, instead of having “generate more leads” as your event goal, you should say “generate 200 more leads in a month after the event.”
- Measurable: you should be able to assign KPIs to the objective and measure your event’s performance against these objectives by monitoring relevant metrics.
- Attainable: realistic. If your goals aren’t attainable, it can hurt your team’s morale and can be counterproductive.
- Relevant: relevant to your organization’s overall business objectives
- Time-bound: you should be able to assign a timeline to the specific goal.
Once you’ve defined your event goals, you can then move on to:
- Identifying target audience: who’s the best target audience that can help you achieve your event’s objectives? For example, if the goal of the event is to attract new customers, then your target audience should be those who haven’t purchased your product (or your client’s product) and yet is a good fit for the product.
- Event content: your content (including the talent/speaker you’re going to invite) should attract and engage your target audience while staying relevant to your event’s goals.
Establish a system to measure your event’s performance against these goals. Unless you can measure your objectives, you won’t be able to determine the value and impact of your event.
Again, budgeting is often the most challenging aspect of planning an event, and yet how effectively you can establish and keep a budget can literally make or break your event’s success.
Your budget plan should be comprehensive and detailed enough to help you:
- Track and control expenses
- Save time (i.e., you don’t have to adjust your budget over and over again)
- Help you in making better decisions throughout the event planning process
- Demonstrate the ROI of your event to stakeholders and sponsors
A key consideration when planning an event budget is that the earlier you can establish your event budget, the better you’ll be able to control your expenses. As early as possible in the event planning cycle, you should have at least a rough estimation of the cost of:
- Venue rental (for in-person events)
- A/V equipment, including event live-streaming platform
- Catering/food and beverage costs
- Speaker/talent/presenter/entertainer fees (including travel and accommodation costs)
- Marketing and promotion costs
- Other crucial expenses according to your event’s needs
Do your research homework when estimating the cost for each element. If you’ve hosted previous events, you can check historical pricing data from previous events (take inflation into account), but whenever possible, you should call suppliers and vendors for a quote, so you can get a clearer pricing estimation.
Another important consideration is that the most affordable vendor is not always the best option. Instead, make sure to choose vendors that really cater to your event’s needs and are easy to work with. Don’t forget to include cost components that are often overlooked, like tax fees.
Next, remember that budgeting doesn’t really stop after you’ve estimated your costs, but another crucial aspect of budgeting is tracking expenses, including making adjustments due to expenses that are cheaper or more expensive than what you’ve estimated. This is where having an advanced event management platform can significantly help you in easily tracking your expenses and generating budget reports as needed.
3. Marketing Plan
No matter how well you’ve planned your event: the perfect venue, the best keynote speaker in town, the best entertainer, it won’t create any impact for your business unless you can attract enough attendees.
How you market and promote your event is very important. Yet, with so many events being hosted every single day, as well as the noises of the social media age, getting the words out and generating buzz for your event can be easier said than done.
Above anything else, however, successful marketing lies in how well you understand who your target attendees are:
- Their demographic data
- Their pain points (what problem will your event solve for your target attendees?)
- What social media channels are the target audience active in
- What time of day are they online?
The better you understand your target audience, the better you can custom-tailor an effective event marketing strategy to attract them by using the most relevant marketing channels where you can effectively reach them.
Here are some of the most important marketing channels you should consider when promoting your event:
- Event website
It can be a dedicated event website or an event page under your company’s website, but it’s important for the website page to be aesthetically pleasing, functional, and also informative.
Fortunately, nowadays, it’s much easier and more affordable to develop a well-designed and functional website. There are platforms like Wix or Squarespace that allow you to easily create a great-looking and mobile-friendly website with just a drag-and-drop approach, and if you’d like more versatility, there’s always the handy (and free) WordPress.
Nevertheless, don’t underestimate the importance of having a well-designed and functional website. Even if you’ve already built a strong social media presence, these social media handles are not sufficient replacements for your website.
- Social media
In this social media age, it’s only obvious that you should promote your event on social media. However, everybody is doing the same, and unless you are creative and consistent enough, you won’t be able to cut through all the noises.
Carefully evaluate which social media network(s) you should focus on based on your target audience’s profile. You should carefully curate engaging content and post consistently before, during, and after the event. Engage in conversations, collect feedback from your social media audience, and answer questions and complaints quickly.
Consider investing in paid social media promotions (i.e., Instagram Ad or LinkedIn’s paid promotion options), and leverage relevant social media influencers that have a similar target audience to your event.
- Content marketing
Content marketing should be a part of any event’s marketing strategy and should cover various types of content such as blog posts, videos, infographics, and press releases, among others. In this digital age, it’s crucial to combine different types of content effectively so you can generate awareness for your event.
Also, whenever possible, give your target attendees the opportunity to participate via User-Generated Content. For example, you can create social media contests where participants must post something related to your event, which can help in introducing your event to their followers.
After the event, you should also create attractive and engaging post-event content that reminds the attendees of their positive attendance experience. This will later help you in promoting future events.
- Email marketing
Especially important if you’ve hosted previous events in the past and would like to invite previous attendees to attend your new event. Also, email marketing is especially powerful for promoting B2B events, and emails remain very effective in driving registrations for these B2B events.
Advanced event management solutions, including Eventtia, offer integrated event marketing features, so you can quickly and easily send out automated email promotions and reminders to your target attendees.
4. Seamless and Easy Registration Process
Attracting potential attendees to your event is already difficult, and you wouldn’t want them to abandon the registration process just because it’s overly complex and difficult for them.
Instead, make sure it’s as easy as possible for them to register for your event anytime, anywhere, and from any device. Make sure information for different registration/ticket prices (if the event is not free) is readily available on your website and social media channels.
Online registration is simply a must these days, and fortunately, enabling online registration on your website today is as simple as integrating one of so many different event registration software solutions available.
5. Fast, seamless, and secure check-in
In this post-pandemic age, attendees are becoming more sensitive to health, safety, and security concerns during in-person events, and you’ll need to minimize contact as much as possible during onsite check-ins. You have to make sure your check-ins are as fast as streamlined as possible, or otherwise, it will significantly hurt your event’s overall experience.
It’s important to choose an event check-in solution that offers at least the following features:
- Contactless check-ins
- Paperless forms
- The ability to manage large crowds with ease
- Customizability (i.e., for branding purposes)
- Integrated secure and reliable payment system, including support for donations and raffle tickets
- Reporting and analytics features
It’s also worth noting that advanced event management solutions like Eventtia do offer integrated onsite check-in functions.
6. Facilitating effective teamwork
Unless you are going to do everything by yourself, a key aspect of hosting a successful event is great teamwork.
It’s important to make sure everyone in your team clearly understands their roles and responsibilities. Maintaining transparency and accountability between team members is crucial so you can make sure everyone in your team is on the same page.
List down every single task that is supposed to be done throughout the event planning process. Divide these tasks into several phases as necessary, and assign timelines to each of these tasks.
Assign these tasks to the team members as you see fit while considering the strengths and weaknesses of every team member.
Also, the strength of your team will depend on its leader. If you are not going to take the responsibility of the event manager/planner, then make sure to appoint one.
7. Monitoring progress
A key aspect of event project management is to track your progress towards tasks and deadlines.
You, as the event project manager, should continuously keep track of how much work is left and estimate whether the event can be executed within the agreed deadline (or whether adjustments will be needed).
Divide your event project into several phases or stages, and carefully track the progress of each task within each phase. This allows you to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies early so you can fix the issue faster.
Are You Ready To Plan Your Successful Event?
While planning and hosting an event can certainly be challenging, in the end, success is determined by how well you understand your target attendees’ pain points and needs and whether your event can be a valuable answer for their problems.
Your event project management efforts should be focused on one thing: how you can provide a better experience for your attendees, regardless of your event’s objectives, and by following the tips we’ve shared above, you are now ready to plan and host a successful event that will please your target attendees.