Planning for panic: 7 tips for handling the stress of executing a memorable event
Event Planner, Dianne Brennick is a master at remaining cool, calm and collected when potential disaster looms for the latest event. Here’s how she does it.
I love planning events. And I’m really good at it. In fact, I excel at taking my client’s needs and wishful thinking and turning them into a memory for dozens or even hundreds of guests. But I still get the heebie-jeebies every time the curtain goes up on a conference, sales meeting, seminar or awards ceremony.
Why do I get nervous? Because no matter how many events you have pulled off successfully, every new event is fraught with potential disaster – a veritable tsunami just waiting to come ashore.
How to avoid disaster
To my mind there are two words that together exemplify what event planning is all about: objective and organization. No matter what form an event takes, it always has an objective – entertainment, education, marketing, whatever. And no matter what the objective, you simply cannot meet it unless you are organized. Here are seven ways to succeed at planning and executing your next event.
- First, figure out the objective. I can tell you right now that unless you understand what your client is trying to achieve, you have no hope of success. Those first few meetings are crucial to getting your arms and your head around what the client wants. Furthermore, if you want to succeed, write down the objective in black and white and get your client to sign off on it. Use this as a reminder when the client (or you) gets off the track in your planning.
- Agree on a budget. Face it; you’re going to have to deliver bad news about money. Clients are prone to underestimating the cost of just about everything. They are also prone to big ideas about their event. The two things don’t go together well. It’s your job to arrive at a compromise – or fire the client.
- Build a minute-by-minute schedule. Just like budgeting, scheduling is critical in any event. Sometimes that means you have to be the one to “move things along” even if it means shooing the CEO off the stage when he gets caught up in the sound of his own voice.
- Know your venue. You’ve got to know the ins and outs of your venue. What are the strengths and weaknesses? Are there alternatives in the event of bad weather, larger than expected attendance or technical needs? I spend a lot of time visiting venues in person, by phone or on line so I know what the venue management and staff can handle.
- Decide on a theme and stick to it. I’ve created themes ranging from pirate parties to “quest for success” sales meetings. The one thing they all have in common: consistency. Get a theme line and logo approved by your client and plaster it everywhere you can think of – on invitations, newsletters, welcome packages, the dais, cocktail napkins. Re-name segments of the event in the theme: a pirate-themed welcome cocktail party becomes “Captain’s Rum and Reconnoiter,” a space-themed marketing meeting becomes “Masters of the Marketing Universe.” You get the idea – don’t you?
- “Coordinating” means sweating the small stuff as well as the big stuff. As an event planner I have coordinated everything from food and beverage to tables and chairs to hotel rooms and transportation to speakers and presenters. Let me tell you, the best coordination is done in sweats and sneakers…with a headset attached to your cell phone. Everyone calls, and calls and calls. Get used to it.
- Have a Plan B…and a Plan C. And perhaps most important of all, success as an event planner depends on always having a contingency plan for everything. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to find a fill-in for a missing presenter, move an outdoor event indoors, accommodate extra guests and create a last minute menu for someone with a food allergy. As they say “Spit happens.” Just don’t get too panicked over it; go to Plan B.
About Our Guest Contributor
Dianne Brennick has been an Administrative and Operations professional for over 20 years. She specializes in event planning and management, project and program management, association management and social media. As one of our guest professionals, her blog posts focus on the ins and outs, ups and downs, and all around details of planning and managing all levels of corporate events.
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