At the end of an event, it does not matter the type of flower in the centerpiece, color palette, or the invitation stock. The only thing that matters is that your guests had a good time at your event. A happy attendee will be a repeat attendee and an unhappy attendee will not. To ensure your attendees have the best event ever, you must build a solid foundation, be organized, put yourself in the guests’ shoes, be an event expert, have a robust army of knowledgeable staff and volunteers, keep attendees informed, leave a lasting impression, and evaluate to grow as an event planner.
No one needs a crystal ball to envision an event with a disorganized event planner. Schedules will disappear. Rooms will look cobbled together and sloppy. Key event elements will be missing. And guests will pick up on the chaotic ambiance. This can all be prevented with a well-planned event design.
Throughout the planning process, I keep all of my event materials, from invitation drafts to invoices, in a Leslie Knope level-organized binder. First, I build my road map, a planning timeline, allowing as much planning time as possible. My timeline breaks down my monthly and weekly duties when it comes to vendor and venue selection, volunteer recruitment, marketing and PR, content creation, and social media and communications.
Then, I create an at-a-glance page that features critical event information: vendor contact information, a detailed schedule, a breakdown of volunteer and staff roles, supplies needed for the day and a rain plan, (even though I am known to deny all weather-related elements). While you can’t control the weather, you can certainly plan who will hold the umbrellas!
Build A Solid Foundation
A successful event begins with a solid foundation where the bricks and mortar are the event objective, goal, and ideal attendee. Are you trying to raise awareness of the company’s philanthropic efforts by planting 1,000 trees? Raise $100,000? Attract 100 new customers? Show appreciation for volunteers? The event’s objective and goal serve as a compass during the event planning process.
Pick an event format that best achieves your objective and goal: a gala to raise $100,000, a happy hour to bring in 20 new customers or a week-long series of volunteer appreciation events. Next, it’s time to imagine who will attend the event. Your audience shapes the entire event, from the menu to messaging, programming to schedule, and venue to the room layout.
Put Yourself in Your Guests’ Shoes
The event should be planned around the attendee, not vice versa. Whether the event is an 800 person gala or 40 person beach cleanup, it’s important to walk through the event as the attendee (in your head or at the venue if possible).
Once you have a presentable schedule and layout, grab someone and explain the event to them as if they’re an attendee. Sometimes just saying a plan out loud will help you see what needs to be fixed or they may make a suggestion you missed.
Be An Event Expert
An outdated trend will stick out like a sore thumb. Event planning is an ever-evolving field with new breakthroughs in design, planning, and technology happening every day. Luckily for event planners, there are plenty of resources to stay on top of trends. BizBash and Event Manager Blog are my go-to resources for event recaps, news, best practices, trend reports, and incredible insight from fellow event planners across the industry to help build the perfect plan and ultimate attendee experience. While I will not be planning another wedding again, I draw a lot of inspiration from wedding blogs like Emmaline Bride, Style Me Pretty, Wedding Bee, and Martha Stewart Weddings.
Have a Robust Army of Knowledgeable Staff and Volunteers
It’s the little things that will ruin your guests’ good time: waiting too long to check out at an auction, driving in circles trying to figure out parking, or wanting to purchase 50/50 raffle tickets but no one is around. These are all three situations that have a simple solution – more staff and volunteers.
From check-in to check-out, go through the entire event and figure out how many staff and volunteers will be needed at each area, what they will be doing, and their shifts times. Assign volunteer and staff jobs and distribute job descriptions and schedules early. You will be pulled in 3 trillion directions the day of the event, so allow plenty time for people to ask questions before the event.
Volunteermatch is your guardian angel if you need to increase your volunteer base. Volunteermatch is a free website where people find short and long term volunteer opportunities based on their location and interests. Volunteers find meaningful opportunities to give back and event planners get loyal volunteers delivered right to their inbox.
Leave a Lasting Impression
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span is a mere eight seconds, shorter than a goldfish’s. From Facebook posts to email newsletters, invitations to blog posts, event listings to tweets, your event materials need to leave a lasting impression.
Copyblogger will change the way you think about writing and teaches the art of crafting killer copy. They cover anything and everything copywriting, content marketing, SEO, and online marketing. For beautiful images and graphics, Canva is an easy-to-use website to create beautiful visual content in minutes for blog posts, social media, cards, banners, brochures, email newsletters, posters, and presentations. Canva’s Design School has simple tutorials and features that give a crash course in typography, graphic design, branding, layout, photography, and more.
Keep Attendees Informed
No one wants to be the person that wears blue jeans instead of black tie or show up to an event that was canceled due to rain. It’s essential to deliver details before your big day, whether it’s through a Facebook page, website, email newsletter, or ticketing websites like Brown Paper Tickets, Ticketleap, or Eventbrite. Make sure the event page is filled essential event information: date, time, address, map and directions, menu, schedule, speakers, dress code, contact info, or the rain plan. Refresh your guests’ memory and build excitement with ongoing updates via social media and emails throughout the planning process. Enroll in Ticketleap’s Events University to teach you how to make your event’s website stand out.
Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate
The job is not over when the last person walks out the door and everything is packed up. It’s essential to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. The only way to improve your events and grow as an event planner is to accept all forms of feedback. Before I enter my post-event coma, I gather feedback from guests, board members, staff members and volunteers through a Survey Monkey questionnaire. After my event, I add my notes for next time, survey results, and final event materials to my beloved event binder.
An event is more than a party, conference, or festival. It’s a form of marketing. It’s an extension of the brand, organization or company. It’s an opportunity to build a community of loyal brand advocates, volunteers, customers or supporters. It’s a way to make a difference, make someone’s day, or just make a memory. And it all boils down to one thing – the attendee. What are some ways you give your attendees the best event ever?
Photo credits: Hannah Close