“Event planning is one of those things,” says Caitlin Contreras, Event Coordinator at Innovatis Group, “that many people think they could do professionally. The trick is to intentionally make it look easy, so anyone thinks they could do it.”
Because associations are inherently social organizations, events are a critical component of success; from location to programming to vendors, each element involved can make or break a member’s overall impression. That’s why it’s important to have a team of event professionals at the ready to ensure every event goes as smoothly as possible, and even more important that those event professionals keep in mind a few key tips for event success.
Mutual respect is perhaps the most critical features of an event professional’s relationship with a venue. It’s second only to thorough, consistent communication, which Contreras notes is one of the deciding factors in the Innovatis Group Events Team’s decision to renew a contract the following year.
There are lots of moving pieces at play when planning an event for thousands of people, so it’s important to keep a bird’s eye view of everything in motion to make sure it all falls into place. This means managing relationships with volunteer leaders, speakers, attendees, vendors, sponsors, etc. and making sure everyone has what they need.
Even when you check something off your “to-do” list, it’s not actually finished until that element is completed onsite. Planning food and beverage, securing facilities, etc. are things you can take care of ahead of time, but they’re not truly done until the last trash bag is cleared after the event is over. Further, following up post-event with debriefs, invoices, etc. can take several weeks to totally wrap up, so the timeline actually extends well past the event date.
Expect the best, but prepare for the worst. It’s a mantra you hear frequently in high-stakes situations; it’s important to be optimistic, but it’s equally (or perhaps even more) important to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Anxiety can (sometimes) be useful for anticipating what exactly that worst-case scenario might be. Additionally, agility and creativity are the most important qualities for being able to move past the initial shock of something you weren’t expecting so you can jump into action when your worst-case scenario inevitably becomes reality.
After you’ve done all of the prep work, established a reliable relationship with the venue and vendors, and expected the unexpected, the most important thing to remember while onsite is to remain calm. According to Caitlin Allison, another Events Coordinator at Innovatis, “There could be pure chaos happening behind the scenes, but no one attending the event should ever be aware of that. At the end of the event you can dive into why something happened, but in the moment you need to handle it without raising the fire alarm so to speak.” Reviewing the circumstances and airing grievances are both best saved for post-event follow up. In the moment, it’s most important to take a deep breath and do what needs to be done.
And that’s the point. If everyone knew in the moment that the house was burning, people would recognize how challenging this job can be, but the event would lose its appeal. Event planning can often be a thankless job that makes you feel taken for granted, but there is gratification in knowing you handle each event to the very best of your ability.
Indeed, event planning is perhaps one of the highest-stakes, highest-pressure responsibilities of any association staff member. And the kicker? It’s up to each and every event professional to make their job seem like anyone can do it. If you’re looking to have your events managed by a team of professionals, look no further than Innovatis Group. Contact us today to learn how we can help you reach your goals!