Ranked as the 6th most stressful job in America in 2019, event planners don’t have it easy.
This is because no matter the level of your event planning expertise, Murphy’s Law always holds true: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”, which is an unfortunate reality for event planners everywhere (even if they've got their conference planning checklist memorized).
Understanding this fact is the first step to becoming a great event planner. The second step can be accomplished by constantly refining your techniques in all of the areas that are most crucial to reacting to Murphy’s Law.
Top event planning tips:
Foster professional relationships of mutual respect
Have the right mix of tools and software
Perform your due diligence before you start planning
Say 'no' when you need to
Be aware of and accommodate your guests’ dietary needs
Define goals and objectives upfront
Plan with transparency
Strategize your media plan early
Loop in your content team to generate buzz and excitement
Implement a system to track client touch points
Set clear expectations
Industry-approved event planning tips to help you succeed
Learning new ways to perform better is the best way to ensure a prosperous career, and there’s always room to pick up a thing or two from those who have discovered great ways to make the job just a little bit easier and less stressful!
To help you with this, I asked six event planners to share their favorite tips they use to keep them organized, productive and best of all, sane!
Here’s what they had to say:
1. Foster professional relationships of mutual respect
“Event Planners are selfless givers and it’s important to not forget that your professionalism is critical to the success of an event. As an experienced Event Manager, I try to find clients that respect my work and have the desire to build long term partnerships.
We’ve all had a demanding client, or two, or twelve, but any client relationship that causes you to sacrifice quality and productivity should be further examined. Assessing professional relationships can be tricky, but a successful Event Planner always knows that their strengths and mutual respect are what builds a reliable book of business. By valuing yourself and your work, you can create the best experience possible for your guests. From the initial event meeting to the launch of a corporate holiday party, I make sure that my client knows they are being managed with the highest level of professionalism and that my professional experience is of value to them.”
“It's so important to find the right mix of tools and software that you can use in the cloud to keep everything organized. By properly utilizing these tools, you can effectively share information in real-time with your clients and always have a back-up of all your information on the go.
My top productivity tools are:
Airtable: It's like Excel on steroids. I use it as a hub to keep track of an event's inventory, project plans, budgets, task list, files, contracts, and more. It also gives you the ability to grant clients the power to edit the document or you can keep it as read-only access. Clients love being able to have everything in one place with updates in real-time.
Timeline Genius: Timeline Genius is just amazing. You can dynamically create your run of show for the day, export timelines personalized by vendors and easily share with clients to make comments and edits. It saves so much time! It also has modules to include reminders, images, vendor and client contact lists, and more. This never leaves our hands on the day of the event, and we always get compliments on it from our vendors and clients.
All Seated: This tool is great for floor plans and seating charts. It also has VR compatibilities!
TIP: Curious to know more about all the software possibilities you can utilize? Take a look at the best event management platforms on the market!
These tools save so much of your valuable time and reduce stress. This way you have a hub for all the little details and you are able to access it from anywhere and easily share it with the necessary parties. Using the right software and tools also builds trust with clients, because they can see that you’re keeping their valuable information organized and you always have the necessary information at your fingertips.”
“As an event planner, you must conduct thorough research in every aspect of your event. This can be anything from understanding how the power is connected in the venue, developing a security plan in case of a threat or an emergency, and event understanding the noise restrictions and having all of the necessary permits in place. You are the leader of the event and must always have a thorough plan for logistics and on-site management.”
“There are times when the event or client just isn't the right fit, or it could just not be your area of expertise, and that’s okay. If that’s the case, you can always partner with another company or bring on additional talent that can properly execute that event with you. You should never force it.”
- Greg Jenkins
5. Be aware of and accommodate your guests’ dietary needs
“I used to plan events as part of my job at DreamWorks Animation, and the two biggest hassles I had were knowing what everyone could eat given their dietary restrictions and trying to minimize food waste.
When you don't accommodate your guests' dietary needs, three things happen. They leave hungry and often dissatisfied, no matter how good the event was, and you or your catering staff will throw away a lot of food, which means you're quite literally throwing away your money. Instead of a lose-lose-lose, ask for your guests' dietary needs in advance. Your catering staff will be happy. You'll have less food waste, and you'll save money instead.
Use party planning tools like Siitch to streamline the process and solve these problems. It will de-stress the event by summarizing guests' dietary needs so hosts know exactly what to buy, what NOT to buy, and lets them ask custom questions in advance. It helps hosts save time and money, but the bigger goal is saving the planet. By not only catering to guests' needs, we're empowering hosts with the simple knowledge that when they plan smartly, they can also save the world from food waste.”
“When you are given the assignment to organize an event, make sure to ask the right question to figure out what the end goals of the conference are for your executive team. Tailor your approach to the event goal, whether it’s to generate leads, build influential relationships, grow the brand, or for recruiting top talent. Never lose sight of this.”
“As you organize the goals, objectives, and build the deliverable timeline, make sure your marketing team and key stakeholders have insight into your planning. Aligning the internal stakeholders from the start can help you develop a branded, unified experience for all the attendees. If it’s a significant event, regularly organize check-ins with the attendees to make sure each of the deliverables from booth design to media promotion is on track.”
- Anne Fairfield-Sonn
8. Strategize your media plan early
“Work closely with your public relations team to create an earned media plan. Identify key spokespeople who will be attending the event, structure their talking points, and reach out early to the conference organizers for a media list. Connecting early with attending media increases your chances of being included within full feature stories or roundups about the event.”
- Anne Fairfield-Sonn
9. Loop in your content team to generate buzz and excitement
“Work with your content team for owned media promotion of the event. Tap key company leaders to help develop content for the website, blogs, and social media channels. These can be testimonials on why to attend or thought leadership teasers of what speakers will share at the conference. Space out the distribution of content to promote the event for a couple of weeks to generate a buzz.”
10. Implement a system to track client touch points
“I developed systems and processes within the enterprise edition of Salesforce. We run our business completely on this platform and have created a proprietary system which we enhance almost weekly.
The moment a client touches base with an inquiry they're entered into our system. Every exchange is cataloged in that event so that anyone on our team can see a clear and complete picture of what's happened so far. Once the event details are sorted, the system sends the contract to the client and a myriad of automation kick in and advancing emails go out on a certain time sequence keeping the client and all vendors in the loop and on the same page with the exact updated information.
The key to having this work is to make Salesforce mandatory for all employees to learn and use. This is the #1 reason we have the success we do for the volume of events we enjoy.”
“Set expectations with the client to ensure a successful outcome. We like to try to have ALL event details nailed down 30 days before the event, with no major changes or additions allowed two weeks prior to the event. This allows for excellent communication between us and all vendors to ensure that everything is planned and executed as best as it can be.”
- Natasha Miller
12. Learn the workings of other industries
While an event planner is not required to know the specific operational details of how other industries function, it is important to have an idea of the general workings which will make your job much easier. For example, when calling other companies and vendors, be as specific as possible about your needs. A good understanding of how to estimate the number of square footage needed for tables, tents, and other rentals always helps. Also, you should have some understanding of generator wattage, heating and air conditioning BTUs, and more! Knowing this will guarantee a higher probability of your event going off flawlessly.
If you can take one thing from the advice shared from your peers in this article, it’s that when you’re able to accomplish your job more efficiently, you have extra time to pay closer attention to the little details (as well as the essential conference planning checklist items) that will ultimately help you get ahead in your career. There’s no doubt that your job as an event planner will stay hectic, but these tips will help you find your special method to the event industry madness.
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Hannah is a former content marketing associate at G2. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Journalism. In her free time, Hannah enjoys running with her dog, Teddy, traveling to new and exciting places, and capturing the beautiful places she travels to with her DSLR camera. (she/her/hers)