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Event planning 101

How to make sure your business event has a smooth sailing

By Janice Petrelli

Back in 1964, songwriter Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times, they are a-changing.” His words accurately describeevents the event and meeting industry today, which has had to refocus its strategies and concepts.

Events—such as corporate meetings and celebrations for customers and employees—are expensive. In today’s economy, they can be perceived as an extravagance, although this perception is not necessarily true, since it is possible to create an effective event on a cost-conscious level.

Despite the challenges of the still-lagging economy, now is a great time for companies to hold events, when leadership can re-group, re-strategize, collaborate, and embrace new opportunities.

Holding an event or meeting can be especially important for strategic planning. When co-workers and key players get together, they learn from each other as well as learning about company’s goals and their competitors. And events provide a great opportunity to stir up excitement, especially during times when less than good news is commonplace.

Event-planning checklist

To make the most of your event, planning is required. Here is a checklist to make it go smoothly:

• Determine event the event’s goals and objectives. This is a key component. An event is a major investment of time and money; you want to get the most bang for your buck.

• Identify possible dates. Send out a notification to current customers and potential clients in advance so the projected attendance will be met.

• Promote it. Send out pre-event mailers to entice attendees. List the purpose of the event and reasons/benefits for their attendance.

• Prepare a preliminary agenda and attendee list. This will help you determine the size of the venue needed.

• Send event requirements to the selected venue. Make sure the venue is capable of handling the client’s needs and wants, including the appropriate size of the room(s) to accommodate the number of attendees as well as the audio visual equipment.

• Identify meeting content. Presentations need to be precise and to the point. Hire a keynote/motivational speaker to help get your meeting content across. Don’t discount an internal, key company executive.

• Create a to-do list which includes deadlines and requirements. Establishing these items for your event will keep you on track and inform your staff of their responsibilities.

As the event nears, you have more work to do. Put these items on your to-do list:

• Form committees. The larger the event, the more work that is involved. Establish committee members’ roles and responsibilities and get them involved in the planning process at an early stage.

• Establish the event’s theme. Events are a great way to enhance your corporate brand. Create a logo and graphics and use that image or theme throughout event to reiterate concept.

• Develop a promotional strategy. What is the concept, branding, or theme of the event? Provide a promotional item that can be used or seen after the event concludes.

• Develop public relations for the event. Include in your PR pre-event mailers, press releases, and interviews.

• Prepare budget categories and set budget. This is an important step in keeping your costs under control.

• Hire vendors for your needs. Vendors may include the printer, florist, rental furniture, security, photographer, videographer, and entertainment.

• Determine food and beverage requirements. Negotiate menus and prices. A common mistake is ordering too much just to be “safe.” Remember: Everything is negotiable and you have up to 72 hours to provide the final guarantee.

• Determine audio visual requirements. Confirm all equipment with the client and obtain their presentations a few days prior to the event so all changes can be made in a timely manner. Create a dedicated AV team so there is a familiarity with the client and attendees.

• Arrange all travel and housing for participants. Work with a travel agent for all your airline needs as well as the hotel for all housing needs for the staff, speakers, and attendees.

The day of the event:

• Review responsibilities and procedures with staff. Take 10 minutes for an informational and motivational meeting to ensure team members understand the content and schedule of events so they can answer any questions that may be asked.

• Confirm and monitor the pickup of equipment and supplies. Sure you ordered it, but did it really arrive on site?

• Do a walk through. Check: room sets, AV equipment, entertainment and décor, and signage. Make sure clients as well as attendees know where each session of the event is taking place.

After the event, your work is not quite done.

• Pack and inventory all material. Many of your collateral materials can be reusable so ship it back.

• Do final reconciliation. Double check all your invoices to make sure you were charged the correct amounts, as per your contracts. Treat the client’s money as your own!

• Perform post-budget performance review. Were you within the preliminary budget? Could you have saved money? What could you have done differently?

• Prepare thank-you letters. Prepare and e-mail letters thanking everyone for their time and participation. It costs nothing, and it’s a gesture that will be appreciated and well received by the attendees.

• Collect and organize data for final meeting reports. Obtain evaluations from the staff, attendees, and client. Find out what went right and what went wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

• Start planning the next event. If this is an annual affair, start the process now. You’ll be ahead of the game and will learn from your mistakes.

Janice Petrelli.smallJanice Petrelli is owner of Perfect Planning, LLC, www.perfectplanningllc.com, a full-service event-planning company. She can be reached at 904-778-1175 or Janice@perfectplanningllc.com.


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