Event planning is not for the faint of heart. To illustrate the stress it can cause, I will tell you a story. This past week, my roommate informed me that the other night, I was talking in my sleep and the only comprehensible words that she could make out were, “regional conference.” Yes, serving as the co-director of regional conference is bringing me great anxiety; however, I am brought comfort by the great team behind me, along with the Boy Scout’s Motto “Be Prepared.” In this post, I will detail the do’s and don’ts of special event planning in order to help you succeed in planning your own events.
The do’s of event planning:
- Create a detailed budget and adhere to it.
As PR people, we value words, not numbers; however, your budget is crucial to the overall success of your event. Your visions of filet-minion for your main course and baked Alaska for dessert may not be realistic; however, do not settle for low-quality catering if you can afford something greater for your guests. Evaluate your assets and capabilities. If the event you are planning has been implemented by your organization in the past, reference the budget utilized previously. If your event has never been done by your organization before, odds are another organization has done something similar, so do not hesitate to reach out for suggestions in terms of cutting costs and a recommended budget range based on their experience. You may not be an expert, but a strong network can prove of greater value than expertise.
- Follow Murphy’s Law.
For anyone who has taken a course taught by Professor Krause, this principle does not need explaining; however, for those of you who aren’t aware, Murphy’s Law states what can go wrong WILL go wrong. Therefore, be prepared for any and all mishaps. Take time to brainstorm the worst-case scenarios of your event and create back-up plans for each potential disaster. Once you have thought through these possible misfortunes and your suggested reactions, document them in a manuscript that will be distributed to your event staff and volunteers. This may seem tedious and unnecessary, but may prove invaluable on the day of your event.
- Create an appropriate atmosphere.
This may not be precisely what you are thinking. For example, simply because an event is professional in nature does not mean that you cannot utilize performances or music to prime your audience. At the PRSSA National Conference, a step team preceded the Keynote Address. This was certainly an unconventional introduction to the main event, but the talented group of individuals inspired the crowd and kept them engaged despite the early hour of the event.
The don’ts of event planning:
- Do not have technical difficulties.
This may seem rash. After all these things are inevitable, right? Wrong. Thoroughly test microphones and test different interferences that may occur, such as cell phones, prior to the event. If necessary, ask your audience to turn off their phones. At a PR event, this may not be feasible, as attendees are encouraged to live tweet and blog sessions, so ensure your sound equipment can withstand the test of cellular interference. As stated earlier, PR people stray from numbers. Similarly, we are not entirely attuned to technological glitches so ensure you have a tech savvy volunteer present to attend to technical difficulties as they occur.
- Run out of food or favors.
Following Murphy’s Law, overestimate attendance. With tight budgets, it is easy to assume you will not run out of food and order lower quantities; however, you do not want to run the risk of excluding ‘paying customers’ from partaking in a meal they paid for. Some may question if potentially wasting food is an ethically sound decision to avoid displeasing guests. A solution to this dilemma would be to pre-arrange a drop-off of potential unused food to a local homeless shelter or food pantry.
Of course, there are far more considerations to make when planning an event; however, these are the basics. Remember: thorough preparation is the key to a successful event!
Samantha Peer is a senior public relations major. Samantha serves as the professional development coordinator of Waynesburg University PRSSA. She also serves on the leadership team of the Corner Cupboard Food Bank client of Red Brick Communications. In her spare time, Samantha enjoys cooking, exercising and spending time with family. Her guilty pleasures include Pretty Little Liars and power naps!