Category Archives: Event Planning Tips

Did You Catch All of January’s Event Tips? Check Them Out Now!

We hope you enjoyed January’s installment of “How to Make your Events in 2012 a Success!” In case you missed one, here they are again!…

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Tip #31: Post-event Evaluation and Final Wrap-Up

After it is all said and done, you’ll most likely want to pass out. But resist the temptation to hibernate just yet. While it is fresh in your memory, draft a post-event evaluation. It should be a professional document you feel comfortable sharing with your client and should include all the successes, shortcomings, and frustrations from the planning phase all the way to the last moment. Include your event staff’s opinions to capture everything and any results from surveys your attendees filled out. Avoid emotional comments, and stick to the facts. Make it constructive and end it with actions to move forward and any recommendation for next year’s events (when applicable). Include all pertinent information for record-keeping at the beginning of the document such as staff names, titles, areas of ownership, dates, name of events/meetings, spending (budgeted and actual), number of guests and other valuable statistics.

And finally, pop some bubbly. Make sure to celebrate with your event staff and thank them for all their hard work! OK, you can go pass out now 🙂

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Tip #30: Be Kind

We are almost at the end of January’s installment on how to make your events in 2012 a success! I’d like to give you the best advice you’ve ever gotten in the event industry: Be Kind. I know it sounds simple, but so often do egos and lack of sleep become the reason your event wasn’t as great as it could have been. Be kind to your clients, be kind to your decorator, be kind to your venue manager, be kind to your driver, be kind to the setup staff, be kind to the caterer, be kind to your exhibitor, be kind to your sponsor, be kind to your vendor, be kind to the front desk personnel, be kind to ANYONE who has a hand in making or breaking your event.

When issues arise, when something goes wrong, or when you need a favor, these are the players that will make it happen for you. If you’ve pushed them away with your attitude or rudeness, they will not care to help you. Even if they’ve messed up, they will not go above and beyond to make it right for you, because chances are they won’t want you to come back!

So if you care about making your event successful, be kind, say thank you, share your appreciation, and point out what has gone exceptionally well. When something does not go as planned, because something always does, you’ll have the support of an army to make it right.

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Tip #29: Survey

Take some time to create a survey for your event attendees and get them to fill it out. Ask measurable questions with rating systems that can be used in a post-event evaluation to measure the success of the event. And ask for suggestions on how to improve the event.

If you’re planning a conference with a heavy agenda, you may opt to hand out a survey after each session where attendees can rate the speaker and usefulness of the information provided. In other cases, just one event survey at the end of the conference will do.

If you’re planning a wedding, you MAY think you do not need to create a survey (unless the Bride is likely to get divorced, re-marry, and hire you as their event planner again). However, the survey is how you will be come a better planner and it may bring up issues that you still have time to address and “save”.

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Tip #28: Cutting your F&B Costs

Gone are the days of unlimited event budgets. Nowadays we want more for less. One of the largest expenses in an event budget is Food & Beverage. Below are six tips to help control expenses.

  1. Customize Menus. Do not feel obligated to choose from your caterer’s pre-determined menus. How ever much you’re spending, you want to make sure you are happy with every single item that is being served. Take their menu and remove or replace items to fit your group’s taste and budget.
  2. Avoid “On Consumption”. Unless you know your group’s consumption habits, avoid Coffee Breaks and Bars based on consumption and instead opt for Packaged Breaks and Bars at a per person price. With Packaged pricing you know exactly what you are paying for and it can be budgeted more easily. On consumption pricing can get out of hand quickly.
  3. Choose Pitchers over Bottled. Generally, pitchers are always less expensive than anything bottled. Ask about pitcher options for water, juices, milk, and any other beverages. If the venue offers complimentary water stations, do not add bottled waters to your menu. It will be a waste.
  4. Think Small. If you do not want food to go to waste, use small glasses, plates, and bowls. Generally, guests over-serve themselves and end up throwing away food. Ask the venue manager about options for small coffee mugs and smaller plates on the buffets.
  5. Re-plate. In recent years it has become quite popular to “re-plate breakfast pastries” and use them on your morning coffee break. Often times, there are many croissants, danishes, and pastries left over at the end of the breakfast meal. Some venues will re-plate these items and place them at your coffee break for a small fee and sometimes even for free.
  6. Get Sponsored. When creating your sponsorship packages, offer Sponsors the option to host a Coffee Break, the dessert, or the Martini Bar. You can also seek donated products, however, be wary of corkage fees imposed by the venue. Many times venues will not allow you to bring in outside food & beverage, and if they do, plan to pay a hefty fee to do so.
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Tip #27: Shipping your Inventory

In Tip #20, we talked about managing your inventory and keeping a list of everything purchased. As the event date nears, you’ll need to get all these items to the event site.

Before shipping, organize your packages by function. You can use large letters to label (A for Registration, B for General Session, C for Gala Dinner, D for Meeting XYZ, E for Office Supplies etc.) or simply label each package with the date and event it is for. However you choose to organize yourself, make sure it’s something you and your staff can work with. Once you arrive on-site, it will be easy to locate things and can save you a lot of time.

Options for Shipping:

  1. Drive-in. If the event is local, you can simply drive your packages over yourself. Pack a dolly or cart to help or ask the Venue staff in advance if there will be someone to assist when you arrive. If you’re short on event staff and need to advance a few things, ask the Venue if they have a space for you to drop off your packages a day prior. You’ll most likely need to deliver through a Back of House or Loading Dock area, so ask about its location and operating hours.
  2. Courier. Couriers operate locally and internationally and are a good choice if you require personalized attention, or have very specific directions for delivery. Again, you’ll most likely need to deliver through a Back of House or Loading Dock area, so ask about its location and operating hours.
  3. Mail. Use a standard shipping service like USPS, FedEx, or UPS. Before you ship, ask your Venue Manager for specific directions to ensure your package isn’t misplaced or discarded. Be clear about the expected delivery date and always save the Tracking Number! Ask the venue manager about storage fees imposed by their mailroom. Many venues have rules in place of how much in advance of your event you can have your packages shipped.

Are you expecting pallets or crates? Ensure the storage room you’ve booked at the venue has an entrance door wide enough to fit. If not, ask about available staff to break down the pallet, and what the costs are, if any. Determine what the truck size of your driver is and check with the venue that the truck will fit in its loading dock. Also ensure that the driver is prepared with a pallet jack. The venue will not always have one or will have policies in place that prohibit lending it. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through, but your shipping packages because you need them and don’t want to end up with lost packages or re-delivery fees.

To save money, and if you do not need to necessarily review something before it arrives at the venue, consider shipping online purchases directly to the venue. You can also use a local printing company to print all of your posters, programs, agendas, or menus. Many times the printing company will deliver to you for no cost at all. Again, keep in mind storage fees imposed by the venue and time your package deliveries to avoid such fees.

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Tip #26: In Case of Bad Weather…

In Tip #18, we talked about having a weather back-up plan when your event is outside. However, even if your event is inside, you still have to consider how bad weather will affect your guests, and ultimately, your attendance numbers.

  1. How are guests arriving to the event? If they are driving in or riding in motor coaches, is the pick-up and drop-off area covered? Talk to the Venue. Sometimes the Valet staff carry an inventory of umbrellas. If they don’t, consider designating someone on your event staff to escort guests from their vehicle to the front doors with an umbrella. Or organize a covered transfer from the parking lot to the venue. Your guests will remember this extra touch, and greatly appreciate it.
  2. Is the entrance covered? When your guests arrive, are they making a line outside before the doors open? Is there an indoor waiting area available? If an indoor waiting area is unavailable, consider renting large wind-resistant umbrellas and place them along the outside line. If it’s cold, rent outdoor heaters.
  3. Gift something useful. If you know your event is in a weather-moody location, consider gifting something useful in advance of the event. If your guests are all staying in a hotel, this can be organized quite easily with room deliveries. If not, you’ll probably have to mail the gift. When I say useful gifts, I’m talking about umbrellas, mittens, scarves, ponchos, etc. It can be quite the branding opportunity for the hosting company or for sponsors too. Imagine everyone walking in to the event in your sponsored logoed ponchos?
  4. Is it safe? Are the walkways safe from the drop off location to the front doors? Do you need to hire someone to shovel snow or keep the area clear?
  5. Add a Coat Check. If you’re forecasting poor weather, add a coat check for guests to check in jackets, umbrellas, ponchos, and other items they do not want to keep with them during the event.

Once you’ve thought about every detail, promote how weather-safe your plan is. Note it on the invitation, send an e-mail blast, make an announcement at the General Session, or post signage. You’ve put in great effort to make your guests’ arrival experience comfortable. But if they don’t know, they might just decide to skip it when they see the rain or snow is coming.

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Tip #25: Getting from A to B

If your event includes multiple stops and locations, you’ll need to organize transportation. When choosing your transportation, consider unconventional options. Our first thought it always to choose Motor Coaches, but have you considered Party Buses, Riverboat, Horse and Carriage, Go-Karts, or Sightseeing buses? If you’re hosting a lot of out-of-town guests or if it’s a nice time of year weather-wise, consider using open-top sightseeing buses. You don’t necessarily need to shell out additional money for a tour guide since it is not the main event. Your guests will enjoy the cool breeze and photo ops without a guide. If the weather is cruel, or the main event is formal, avoid open-top buses. It will be a painful ride and the ladies will not appreciate what the wind will do to their salon hair. If you’re hosting your event in the country and the breakfast place is a hike from the Hotel but still somewhat nearby, consider organizing a horseback ride. It doesn’t need to be round-trip, on the way back after the group has united for breakfast, you can transfer them all back in a bus together. It is sure to be an experience and spark conversation over coffee. Before you decide, think about the pros and cons of each option and what must be done in advance to minimize confusion and stress.

  1. Standing and Waiting. Where will the vehicle be standing at the pick-up location? On a private driveway? A public street? Be sure to have it approved by the property owner or the City. You will need to designate enough space by using cones, bagging parking meters, or closing streets. Many of these things require permits, so plan well in advance. If you’re doing this on a busy street, hire police officers to regulate traffic and keep pedestrians safe.
  2. Route. Choose your route carefully. Consider traffic patterns and allot enough time to arrive to the event on time. Usually the fastest route is chosen, but if you’re doing something creative with your transfers, consider a more scenic route. Also, ask about what else is going on in the city around the same time. Is there a large street festival you may want to avoid? Is the President going to be in town? All of these things will affect your event transportation.
  3. Frequency. How many times will the vehicle need to go back and forth from pick-up to drop-off location? Have you alloted enough time?
  4. Accessibility. Are your transportation choices accommodating to guests in wheelchairs or parents with baby carriages?
  5. Parking. Once you arrive at your destination, what is the parking situation? Is there parking available for busses? Dock space available for boats? Or will you need to drop-off only and return at pick-up time? If there are multiple vehicles, does the facility have enough parking spaces for everyone? What happens when the lot becomes full? What is the secondary option?
  6. Last Call. Ensure you have made it VERY clear when the LAST CALL for pick-up will be on the departure and return trip. You do not want someone to be left behind. I would suggest indicating a time 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the actual time on your program as there will always be someone who is running to catch the bus. Also be sure to indicate alternative options if they miss the transfer. List the full address of the destination and indicate approximate prices to take a Taxi, or walking distance and time. It is also helpful to have someone from your event staff stay 30 minutes past the Last Call time to answer any questions in person. At the very least, post a sign at the pick-up location with information about alternative options.
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Tip #24: Pack a Kit

A little cliche, I know, but J-Lo got it right in The Wedding Planner. Whether you’re planning an event or a medical conference, keep an emergency kit of essentials tools and fixes. I guarantee you will use it at least once, and you’ll be glad you packed it! Below are a few suggestions:

  • Headache/Fever Reducer Medicine
  • Mailing Tape
  • Double-sided Tape
  • Duck Tape
  • Scissors
  • Box Cutter
  • Assorted Sharpies
  • Crazy Glue
  • A Lighter
  • Safety Pins
  • S Hooks (For Banner Hanging)
  • Sewing Kit
  • Tacks and Push Pins
  • Paper Clips
  • Rubber Bands
  • Glue Gun
  • Extension Cord and Power Strip
  • Tissues
  • Trash Bags
  • Feminine Products
  • Makeup Remover
  • Q-Tips
  • Paper Towels
  • Back-up Name Tags
  • Paper Wristbands
  • First Aid Kit
  • An Energy Drink! (this one is for you)
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Tip #23: Technology… Your Friend. Your Foe.

Today, technology is a part of everything we do. It’s no different in the event industry. The days of bulletin boards and forms have been replaced with twitter feeds and online registrations. However, technology is not always our friend, so be sure to have a backup plan.

A day or two before your registration desk opens, print a list of registered participants, paper registration forms, and credit card authorization forms. If the internet or your registration system fail you on the day of your event, you will be thankful you can still check in attendees and accept on-site registrations.

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