business peopleEveryone has attended a bad event. Think back to an event where the food was bad, you sat around waiting for the event to start because of AV problems, and the event staff seemed to not be prepared for what was happening. We have all been there.
If you are like me, I am sure you spent your time thinking to yourself that you could do better if you were in charge of the event. That YOU would not have let that stuff happen. You are right; you CAN put on a better event.
So whether you are planning a small event for 20 of your most important clients or hosting a conference for 200 or 2000, these tips will help you put on a killer event that will leave your attendees thinking wow… in a good way.

Pre Event – Planning

Set Goals
Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I putting on this event? – An event uses many resources; both time and money, so you want to make sure that you actually have a reason for putting on this event.
  • What do you want to accomplish with this event?
    Do you want others to learn about your company? Or a new project/service you are launching?
    Do you want to find potential clients?
    Do you want to form a network of thought leaders?
    Do you want to celebrate an achievement?

Each of these demands a different type of event so you need to clearly know what you want to accomplish in order to select the appropriate plan of action.

  • What defines success? – The number of attendees? The amount of money raised? The amount of people who filled out a comment card or signed up for a trial of the product? Having a clear idea of how you define success for your event will allow you to evaluate the event’s level of success at the end.

By setting goals, and reviewing them throughout the process, you can make sure that your event is on target and actually achieves its purpose in the end.
Decide What Type of Event Will Accomplish Your Goals
Depending on the type of goals you establish, different types of events will be more suitable than others. You may want to have a sit down dinner if your goal is to celebrate an achievement with a client, or host a large conference if you want to bring thought leaders together. A gala event may be more appropriate for presenting awards or launching a new product line. Decide on the right type of event to align well with your goals.
Assemble a Great Event Team
This will depend on the size of the event. If you are putting on a large conference, your team will need to consist of more people. The most important things to remember when assembling the group that will help put on the event is to select people with diverse skill sets and define each person’s role. Make sure that objectives are set for each person and actionable to do lists are distributed. Many times, details slip through the cracks at events because no one thought it was their responsibility to do that task. Make sure that it is clear who is in charge of what.
Stick to a Budget
Once goals are established, develop a budget for the event. Make sure to get the budget approved before you begin planning, as the budget will impact the vision. Make sure that everyone is aware of the budget and then allocate it accordingly to different activities such as venue, catering, media equipment, marketing materials, speakers, handouts and additional expenses that will come up.
Choose a Great Location
Selecting the right location is key. You want to make sure that it is located in an area that is easily accessible to your target attendees, has ample parking, and provides the right atmosphere for the type of event you are having.
Craft the Appropriate Guest List
In developing the guest list, look back at your goals and decide who needs to be in attendance to achieve that goal. Also look at the budget and the location capacity when deciding on the appropriate number of attendees.
Develop a Killer Marketing Plan
You can have the greatest event in the world but if no one is there, it is a waste of time and resources. It is imperative to identify the right ways to reach your target group, whether this is through print media, online marketing, or grassroots efforts. Social media is a must in marketing an event.
Materials should be visually engaging, clear, and concise. Make sure to always include a contact person and the date of the event. You would be surprised how many people forget to include this. No matter how informal your event is… never write with sharpie on poster board. Every communication with your attendees should be professional and typed.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Nothing is worse than going to an event where people are poorly prepared. Make sure you have a strong plan that includes the logistics for the entire event. If you have speakers, make sure they have memorized their speeches and that transitions are clearly planned out. Run a rehearsal before the event.

The Actual Event

Create An Event Script
The schedule is key in making sure that your event stays on target and achieves its goals. It is beyond just an itinerary for the attendees. This event script puts everything in one place and acts as a snapshot of the entire event from start to finish.
Things to include in the event script:

  • Contact information for all event staff, volunteers, and venders
  • Materials and supplies that are needed for each part of the event
  • A detailed layout of the event logistics including timeline, flow, volunteer posts, job descriptions and catering layout and menus
  • Scripts for all planned speeches

Make A Great First Impression
You have a very short time to make a great first impression. Everything matters, from what the venue looks like to how prepared you are to how the event flows. Flow is very important. Awkward transitions between speakers or between break times make an event look poorly planned. Transitions should be planned out and practiced to make sure that everything moves smoothly throughout the event. Timing is also very important. Make sure that if you provide a schedule, you stick to it. Speakers need to start on time. And most importantly – if your event ends at 8, it needs to end at 8. Never go over the ending time.
Feed People
It is fact that people are happier when they are fed. It does not have to be elaborate but providing food during meal times and breaks does keep people more engaged in the event. Presentation is everything with food. Bad presentation can lead to a negative impression of the overall event. Use nice serving dishes and class things up. Do not just open up contains from a grocery store and boxes of beer and call it a day.
Have a back up plan
Always have a back up plan and a team ready to react – if something can go wrong it will. I once put on a conference where, on the second day, the city flooded and we had to quickly mobilize the team to make changes to the catering, venue, and schedule for the day. You never know what might happen so it is important to have the team come up with possible scenarios and solutions before the event happens.

Post Event – Follow up

Follow up
Your job does not end when the event comes to a close. You need to make sure to thank the attendees for coming. If you want feedback, send out a survey, but make sure it is short so you will actually get responses.
Also, thank people who helped put on the event, not just members of your team and volunteers but also your venders. If you plan to put on more events, creating strong relationships with your venders is key.
Measure Results
After your event, you need to measure the results against your goals to gauge whether it was success. Go back to your planning documents and look at how you defined success. Did you reach it?
You also want to use these results to improve future events. Your next event will be much stronger if you are able to objectively evaluate every event you have and identify strengths and weaknesses as well as ways to improve.
You now have the tools to be able to put on a great event. Now if only we can get others on board… just maybe, we will never have to sit through a bad event again… fingers crossed.
If you have questions or additional tips, please join the conversation below.