How to Plan Special Events – Part 2: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid

Earlier this week, we talked about how to plan special events and the 10 questions you should ask yourself to get started. Now, let’s talk about 10 pitfalls to avoid.

1. Not being realistic about how much an event costs. Unless you’ve recently planned an event, it’s easy to experience sticker shock. While we recommend having a budget in mind before you start any planning, this may be difficult to do if you have no idea what things cost. We recommend talking to two to three potential venues to find out a typical cost per person for food and beverage, which is one of the largest expenses, as well as entertainment, décor, and venue rental. From there, you’ll be able define your budget.

2. Not having focus. You need to have an established purpose for the event (e.g. charity event vs. networking event), reasonable expectations, and the ability to measure outcomes. Are you raising awareness, raising money, building your brand, thanking employees, appreciating customers, or something else? Don’t have an event “just because.” Have a specific goal/purpose and organize the event around this purpose.

3. Not being aware of “minimums” in the fine print. Many large venues have minimums for food and beverage, which does not include tax, gratuity, and fees. So even though you think you can get by with a small menu, it might not be possible at that venue. If you plan to do a cash bar, you should confirm with the venue that the proceeds of the cash bar can work against your minimum.

4. Not understanding the concept of “packages.” Many venues have “package” deals that they will offer that include room, food, beverage, decorations, transportation, etc. This is good if you have limited resources to go out and look for all of the vendors yourself, but know that they are building in the “convenience” up-charge and that you could end up spending more than if you did outsource on your own. Also, the packages may include things that you don’t need for your event.

5. Not knowing when to hire a professional event planner. Be careful when determining who is going to run the event planning. Make sure it isn’t someone who is going to get caught up in the office politics that invariably come from these activities, or someone who “loves to throw parties.” It’s quite different planning your son’s seventh birthday party than it is planning an awards event for 150 people. Know when it might be appropriate to bring in an outside planner to help play “bad cop.”

6. Not being aware of too much self-promotion. If you’re planning a corporate event with clients, avoid too much self-promotion — the event shouldn’t be all about you and your company. If you’re planning an event to thank customers or employees or to raise money for a charity, then the event should be focused around this specific purpose, not your company. (Don’t worry — your organization will still get props for the event!)

7. Not thinking about your attendees’ needs. Make sure that you select a location that not only fits into your budget, but is also in close proximity to where your potential attendees are coming from. Make it easy for them to attend.

8. Not thinking through logistics. Check out all of the venue’s logistics. Is there parking? If so, how expensive is it? How is the traffic in that area at that time of the day/night? Are you selecting a date the makes sense for your attendees? For example, if you want the “after work” crowd, don’t schedule your event on Saturday night.

9. Not allowing for time to mingle with guests. Don’t make your event so chock full of different elements that you’re too busy to meet and greet guests. Spending quality time with your attendees will likely be an important thing to you, your team, and your event’s overall purpose. Bring in help for the event (e.g. for the registration area) so that you can actually make those connections and assure your purpose is met.

10. Not thinking beyond the one big night. Just like a marriage is more than the wedding day, so is an event. Don’t have an event and think that’s the end of it. Look at ways to extend the life of the party. How can you follow up with the guests and/or give them something to remember? Hint: think promotional products, such as:

  • Custom totes. Imprint your logo on them and fill ‘em up with fun stuff (this custom totescan work well if your event has outside sponsors – the sponsors can provide items for the bags). People love custom tote bags because they’re re-usable…perfect for grocery shopping.
  • Fundraising pens. These are great for non-profit events like year-end galas or silent auctions. Keep plenty of them handy at all the tables/stations and encourage people to take them home.

Can you think of any more pitfalls to avoid? Share in the comments.

(Oh, and a special thanks to Jennessa Durrani, an event planner out of Boston, who provided insights for this blog post.)

Allison Rice

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3 Responses to How to Plan Special Events – Part 2: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid

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