Planning a successful group event entails marrying magic with pragmatism and shepherding chaos into calm. It’s not easy and, consequently, some events go more smoothly than others. After 10 years of experience as expert event planners, we have a unique perspective and know what works. We compiled this list to help eliminate the most common mistakes event planners make.
Do your homework. Regardless of whether you need caterers, entertainers or team-building specialists, vet each vendor carefully.
The time you spend up front will save you anguish later. Read online reviews and contact at least one other company who has worked with the vendor directly to inquire about their performance.
Be sure you understand each vendor’s offerings and that your expectations are aligned before signing a contract.
Now comes the easy part: Let it go. If you hired a guy to make BBQ for 350 people, he knows what to do and what he needs. If you’ve done your homework well, you can trust that your vendors are experts in their crafts.
Promote the upcoming event internally, and consider these tips. (Note that 3-5 are specific to team-building events.)
- Top Down Buy In: If leaders in the organization don’t take it seriously, then others won’t.
- The Hype Machine: Tease it out ahead of time, but remember that a little mystery goes a long way. Share enough to create intrigue, but don’t give away every juicy detail of what’s to come.
- Costumes are Good: Designate colors or themes for each team. Will Team Purple triumph over Team Green?
- Pre-Game Competition: Pump up the natural competiveness of certain people or departments. Would anyone care to make a small wager on the marketing department?
- Prizes: If you feel compelled to gather a few prizes, go for it. Gift certificates are good, but keep the value small. If a prize is too big, it becomes the focus and dampens the fun. A $15 or $20 voucher at a local coffee house, sock store or novelty shop is perfect.
The Golden Rule of event planning is that everything takes longer than you think. Toward that end:
- Build extra time into the schedule, and keep the timeline loose. Expect to start a little late, and remember that it’s always better to end sooner than people expect than to ask them to remain longer than expected.
- Recognize that transportation is a bottleneck, so keep travel distances as short as possible. Once you get people to a site, try to organize everything around that location, as opposed to multiple places.
- Allow for free time for play or socializing between events.
- If people are hungry or uncomfortable, they don’t have fun. Provide water, food and, if it’s an outdoor event, sunscreen.
- It’s easier to cut something than it is to spontaneously fill time. Create a best-case scenario (if all goes according to schedule) and a worst-case scenario (what to cut and change if something goes amiss).
Be sure to acknowledge all of the other people who help organize the event. Appreciation is one of the keys to building and maintaining long-lasting relationships of any kind.