Tips and Suggestions for Planning Your Next Event

Whether it’s a corporate event, conference, or a wedding, successfully planning any size event and seeing your vision come to fruition is always rewarding but also challenging.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a part-time planner, or a helpful friend, here are some event planning tips and recommendations that can help make your event everything it can be and more!

Define “Success”

When you first start working with your client (or yourself), make sure you do your homework in a defined planning phase. Get to know your client(s), what their expectations are, all the known details of their event, and all the questions you can think of to get you started.

  • Number of guests / attendees?
  • Will food be served?
  • Entertainment?
  • Website?
  • Tickets / registration / guest list?
  • Technology?
  • Security?
  • Parking / Valet?
  • Timing and duration?

And, of course, what’s the budget? Do not wait too long to ask this question. If they don’t have a budget, have them put one together (or help them), because everything you plan might change if their budget isn’t what you thought it would be.

There are dozens of questions to be asked. Gather both personal requirements (type of location, cuisine, theme, etc) and functional requirements (stage required, PA system, lighting, etc). And depending on the type of event, the questions will change, like a medical conference versus a wedding.

Then, once you think you have all the answers you need, ask your client one final question – “What would make this a successful event for you?”

Their answer is tantamount to your success. Listen carefully and make sure “success” is reasonably attainable given the parameters of the event you just discussed with them.

Stay Organized

An Excel spreadsheet won’t cut it. These days you need to keep track of potentially hundreds of details, from vendors to guest lists to table arrangements to technology requirements. You need more than a checklist and your phone (while those are supremely important too!).

And as a communication tool, email is not the answer. Email threads will quickly become too long and disorganized. Important information gets buried. You end up getting too many emails that are unnecessary. Important attachments get lost in the shuffle. Or the worst – you accidentally include a client in an email that contains sensitive information. The list goes on.

There are literally dozens of apps to make your life more organized and your event goes more smoothly by the way, you may need several apps depending on what you need to accomplish!).

  • For organizing things, we recommend Asana and Super Planner. If you need to measure the size of an event space, try MagicPlan which basically draws a map of your space.
  • For communication tools and keeping track of tasks, consider Slack, Basecamp, or Evernote. On-site, day-of-event communication apps like HeyTell are great because they turn phones into walkie-talkies.
  • For managing files, photos, and more, try Dropbox or Google Drive. Even Pinterest is something you should consider keeping track of and sharing creative ideas for weddings. If it’s a photo-heavy event, there are apps that collect all the photos taken by attendees into one place for file sharing. Check out Capsule.
  • For managing event registration, guest lists, tickets, etc (most of these allow you to build a website for your event): EventBrite, Planning Pod, or Bizzabo.
  • For technology, you probably have a vendor if your needs are sophisticated, but a couple of apps are nice to have. AudioTools can help with everything sound-related. Decibels Ultra can ensure that your event doesn’t get too loud and violate a city ordinance.

Don’t Procrastinate

Good ole Ben Franklin once quipped – “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Right you are, sir! Look, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with everything you have to do in a short amount of time, not to mention the curve balls that come every day. But, hey, you chose to do this, right?

So when you have a lot to do, many of us procrastinate, which is totally antithetical to getting things done. It’s called the “Paradox of Choice.” When faced with too many choices (like tasks you have to do), you can’t make a choice.

ne thing to help you with procrastination is to make a prioritized list of things you need to do. Then, start with an easier one, so that you get started quickly and successfully. In fact, did you know that when making a movie in Hollywood, directors will often do an easy shot first so the film shoot gets off on the right foot?

Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”

If you become a “yes” person, you will fail. Period. Full stop. Mic drops. You have to be comfortable and confident to tell a client, “no we can’t do that.” Be firm, be polite, explain as needed, and you’ll be fine. If you can pull a rabbit out of a hat at the last minute and be a hero, go for it! Just make sure it’s something you can do. The adage here is “under-promise and over-deliver.”

Manage Client Expectations

If you manage your client’s expectations properly, you will rarely have to say “no.” How about that? Keep them in the loop with what’s going on. Answer their questions before they ask. It’s best to not have a client waiting on you for something. Never send a client an invoice that has a number on it they haven’t already agreed to.

Managing expectations is the ongoing task of “Defining Success.” You may have to re-manage the expectations throughout the lifecycle of the event. If you can’t get crab legs, don’t wait until the last minute to tell your client it’s going to be crab cakes instead. Manage their expectations and they’ll be more likely to go along with any last-minute hiccups

And it’s always a good thing to remember these tips for client management – have an agenda for client meetings. Have action items or next steps defined at the end of each meeting. Set your next meeting if it isn’t already scheduled. Communicate with your client clearly, concisely, and as often as expected.

Remember, you are the one to set expectations. You’re the planner, not them. It’s up to you to follow through.

The Devil is in the Details

You need an allergy-friendly menu at the 11th hour.
There’s not enough power for the PA system.
The keynote speaker left their notes at the hotel.
The PDF presentation won’t load.
Not enough tables/seats.
The band is stuck in traffic.
The projector doesn’t work.
The weather changes.
The list goes on…

Remember that Murphy’s Law #1 is always in effect – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” The closer you get to your event, the more your job changes from Event Planner to Problem Solver. If you stay ahead of the event, you’ll be more likely to keep it under control.

Find the Ideal Venue

Often a client will already have some idea of their perfect venue. They want an outdoor wedding ceremony with indoor dining. Relaxing views. There must be a dance floor and lighting. One hundred guests with an open bar, two tray passes and a vegetarian entrée option. The event space must be elegant, but not pretentious. Often, client requirements force an event to take place at a particular type of venue.

The bottom line is that the right venue can help with the planning and will have everything you’re looking for and more. Monona Terrace in downtown Madison is one such location. It is an incredibly versatile venue that offers all the amenities you would expect, the visually stunning architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and beautiful views of Lake Monona.

We hope you are able to use these event planning tips to make your event as successful as possible. Good luck and have fun!

Consider a professional event planner by booking your event through Monona Terrace.