Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ten Tips for Making Your Event a Success

As my time is slowly winding down as the summer development events intern at The Franklin Institute, I am very happy to say that the event that I cried blood, sweat and tears over was a huge success last week. Throughout my internship, I learned a great deal about event planning and all of the hard work and time that is invested into a successful event. I had the wonderful opportunity to develop a great set of key skills that include conceptual design, vendor negotiations, budget proposals and event presentations.

So, as a way of reflecting on my experience this summer, I thought I would share with everyone I great article from The Buzz Bin I came across that lists 10 tips for making any event a successful one.

1. Start Early: There is no such thing as having too much time to plan an event. For large-scale events, start planning four to five months in advance. For smaller events, one to two months is reasonable. Try to finalize all major contracts (venue and vendors) a full month before the event date.

2. Create a Retroplanning Document: Start with the day of the event, and create a detailed list backtracking every task that needs to happen, assigning each a firm deadline and responsible team member. Some deadlines may change, but use it as the master reference for your team, everyone checking things off as they get accomplished.

3. Negotiate with Vendors: Everything is negotiable – even when they tell you it’s not. Before a conversation with a vendor, make a list of everything you need from them, determine your budget and then give them a number that is 5 – 10% lower. There are always unforeseen costs (post-event taxes, service fees, etc), so allow some wiggle room. Go through the proposal with a fine-tooth comb and tell them which sections of the estimate are too high. Vendors are up against dozens of competitors and will almost always give you a discount to win your business.

4. Divide and Conquer: Assign portions of the event to each team member. If everyone has ownership of a piece of the puzzle (set-up, registration, catering), details are less likely to slip through the cracks and team members will feel more involved.

5. Make it Social: Events are a great way to harness your client’s social media presence. Leave a sign-in sheet for guests’ twitter handles. Create a custom hashtag for the event and encourage attendees to tweet about it. Post pictures of the event on the company blog or Facebook page and allow guests to tag themselves.

6. Create an Event Bible: You can plan for months and months, but the day-of will almost always be hectic. Put together a simple binder with all of your vendor contracts, extra copies of the floor plan, and a cheat sheet of contact information for easy reference.

7. Have a Plan B for EVERYTHING: Something will be late, something won’t arrive at all, and something will most certainly go very, very wrong. Anticipate which aspects will more significantly affect your event and create backup plans for each.

8. Do a Mental Walk-Through before The Real One: About two weeks before the event, mentally walk through every minute of the event, from set-up to break down. You’ll be surprised how many last minute tasks you catch. Then schedule the final venue walk-through a week before the event, and you’ll be prepared with all the last-minute details.

9. Take Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures: Pictures are the best way to illustrate an event’s success. If there’s budget, hire a photographer and create a specific shot list (a shot of the full room, a focus on branding, etc.). If not, assign a team member to the task and equip them with a high-quality camera. For many clients, if there’s not a picture of it for the recap, it didn’t happen.

10. Send the Recap out ASAP: It’s natural to want to shift down a few gears when the event is over. You’re tired, it’s over and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. But get in early the next day to put together the post-event brief. Arrange for your photographer to send you a few choice photos that you can upload immediately. While your client is still buzzing from a well-executed event, send them a beautiful recap touting all of the successes. And then once you’ve press send, collapse and sleep for days.


I know that during my time at The Franklin Institute, each and every one of these tips were utilized in one way or another. Planning an event can be incredibly stressful and time consuming, however with a great set of organizational skills and a keen eye for detail anyone can create an amazing and memorable event.

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any of your own to add? Let us know!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was a great post! I definitely agree with the part about creating a document breaking down everything that needs to be done for an event. I always make a to-do list, but have never created a document for each event. I am going to start doing this for everything I do from now on!

Even though this is very helpful, going through the event in advance is not something I have done before. This is yet another thing I will be doing in the future to make sure I cover all details.

Niki Ianni said...

I'm really glad you liked it! I thought the tips were absolutely spot-on and I have lived by them all summer.

One of the most useful tips that I found was super beneficial was going through the event backwards to make sure I had covered every last detail. Going backwards forces you to recall every small detail to make sure all things are taken care of or assigned to a staff member. With my last event there were a bunch of little things to worry about so going through the process backwards made sure that I didn't leave anything or anyone out!