I was travelling home from the office the other day and heard a conversation on the train from a fellow commuter about running events and how it was something that they’d never done before but had a big event to run later this year. It got me thinking about what advice I’d offer if someone came to me about running events. So here are my Top tips for running an event without resorting to mass murder.
It’s a cliche I know but not planning an event means you’re more than likely to fail. I’m a planner by nature, I love post-it notes, Visio diagrams and anything that allows me to put things in order. That might not be your style but running events without some sort of plan will only mean stress for you and others around you and a bad experience for your delegates.
If you’re working for a client (or even if you’re running the event for yourself) for commercial reasons draw up a contract of what you’re going to deliver by when and, how and what the client is going to deliver by when and how. Equally you need to have contracts in place for all the other parties you are working with, venues, caters etc.
The person commissioning the event from you needs to be part of the process, they’re the ones that know about the message that they are trying to get across and the people that need to be there to speak or present. They’ll know the style of the event that they want to put across and if you don’t have all that in writing even if it’s a short list of bullet points signed and agreed by them you’re starting on the wrong foot.
Business is ultimately about profit so not setting a budget for the event(s) means you’ve got no idea if you’re going to make a profit or a loss. It’s easy to spend £1000’s on crisp white table linen when you could spend £1’s instead on paper table cloths your delegates could write on meaning you save on flipcharts and table cloths and it’s fun for the delegates as well. More often than not agreeing the budget will need your input because you have the knowledge of how much things are likely to cost. Agree the budget with the person commissioning the event as part of contracting and allow a 5-10% contingency pot so you’re not likely to overspend.
Use other peoples skills to make you look brilliant; as long as it’s within the budget everyone’s happy.
The event industry is huge and your event will be one of the x many millions that will be put on all over the world this year. As a result of this there are lots of people that have events related skills that you can tap into.
Why would you spend days even weeks researching venues when you could write a venue search brief and use a venue finder to do the leg work for you? Venue finders normally get their commission from the venue and cost you nothing, so everyone’s a winner!! They’ll negotiate rates for you and because they have existing industry contacts they’ll get you better rates than you’ll be able to get yourself. If you don’t like what they send you ask them to search again, that’s what they are there for!! My top tip for venue finding is Pineapple Events Wendy and Lauretthe are great to work with and have years of experience in the industry.
The same logic applies to Audio Visual suppliers, if you’re not an expert don’t try and do it yourself. Don’t settle for the first quote you get especially if it’s from the AV company recommended by the venue. Write a brief and email it to half a dozen AV companies and see what comes back but don’t forget that cheapest isn’t always best. Give the work to the person or company that you feel is going to be able to work with you to deliver your agenda not theirs.
Sanity is a valuable thing in our manic world so I strongly suggest buddying up with someone else to manage your events. I know that’s not always possible due to budget constraints but even if it’s asking a friend or colleague to spend a small amount of time talking things through with you it will make a huge difference. If you’re putting anything live on the web or sending something off to be professionally printed, another set of eyes could save you time, money and potential embarrassment.
Delegate registration can be hugely time consuming if you’re using spreadsheets and databases but can be a lot more friendly for both you and the delegate if you use a web based system like EventManager or EventBooker. These systems can be accessed anywhere that has an internet connection and they allow delegates to self-manage bookings and cancellations for events that you have listed as being open for booking.
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