Hosting an event can be a serious undertaking. Challenges with staff, location and guests can all pose serious trouble, even for experienced event planners.
Business owners — and especially owners hosting events for the first time — often make a few of the same event planning mistakes. Knowing what these pitfalls are and how to avoid them can make hosting an event much easier.
1. Doing It All On Your Own
When running an event, some business owners try to do it all on their own, taking on all the responsibilities of event planning and organizing — in addition to the work they’re already doing.
This is a recipe for quick burnout, especially if this is their first event. It can also lead to trouble if they’re planning an event that requires a lot of coordination between the business, the event location and guests.
Delegation is key in event planning. Knowing when to pass on responsibilities to team members or outside organizations will be essential.
Bringing on team members who have experience with event planning can also help.
2. Hosting an Event Without a Goal
Having a defined goal for your event, even if it’s simple, can help keep your organizing strategy focused.
For example, if you’re hosting an industry event and primarily want to provide information to attendees, it’s easier to focus on dedicating resources to bringing on knowledgeable speakers and industry experts. A consumer-focused event for a product launch, on the other hand, may be lighter in tone and have more resources dedicated towards entertainment and catering.
Without this goal, it can be hard to know where to spend money. Event organizers may also struggle with scope creep — without a clear goal, it can be tempting to make an event more and more ambitious. At some point, this can lead your business to go beyond what it can really provide, potentially risking the event.
Keeping your event’s goal posted somewhere visible or at the top of event planning documents can help you stay focused.
3. Not Communicating Before and After the Event
A good event communication strategy needs to begin well before the event takes place. Otherwise, it’s easy to run into certain pitfalls around guest communications.
These may be small mistakes — like not notifying guests about issues with the hotel or area parking.
Sometimes, they may be bigger issues — like waiting until the event is about to start to advertise, wasting time that could have been spent attracting guests and generating hype.
Recommendations vary, but it’s generally a good idea to start advertising your event six to eight weeks beforehand. As you get closer to the event, you can ramp up your advertising efforts and provide more information as it becomes available. Many event planners recommend using serial content strategies and similar marketing strategies to lay the foundation for your event’s sustained marketing campaign.
Your guest communication strategy can work on a similar timescale. Give your guests and attendees plenty of advanced notice on changes, and try to provide them with all the information you imagine they would need. Info on lodging, parking, local restaurants and event schedule is a great place to start.
If your event is going to be a hybrid event, one with a mix of in-person and virtual events, it’s also a good idea to communicate this to guests. If they have the choice between attending in-person or via the web, you want to give them as much time to make plans and decide as possible.
4. Not Considering the Guest Experience
When planning the event, guest experience should be one of your top considerations. Ideally, you and your team should think about how the event will cater to your guest;s senses. Will noise from a loud panel bleed over into the next room?
Catering is desirable, but not every event can be fully catered. If you can’t provide food and drinks for your guests, however, you should make sure that your event is scheduled properly in response. If it’s not possible to leave the event site, eat and get back before panels start up again, you should make changes to your schedule or location to help avoid issues during the lunch and dinner rushes.
Including spaces to sit and rest will help to make your event more accessible and provide some extra comfort to your event attendees.
5. Missing Food and Beverage Minimums (and Other Fine Print Conditions)
Certain contract conditions that venue and caterer require sometimes throw off first-time event planners.
Most caterers and venues, for example, require that you meet food and beverage minimums. If you fail to purchase enough food and drink from your venue or caterer, you could face steep fines after the fact.
A hotel may also require attrition — a minimum percent of rooms in a certain block that must be booked if you want to avoid paying a penalty.
Knowing how you can negotiate contract conditions like a food and beverage minimum can help you keep event costs low and avoid issues like post-event fees.
When planning, it’s best to find a venue or catering service that can meet the needs of your event, no matter how big or small it is. In some cases, this may mean scaling up as the scope of your event grows — but it may also mean working with smaller venues and caterers that can provide services for a more low-key event.
Any contract conditions that you may need to meet — like attrition or a F&B minimum — should be noted in your event planning document. This will help ensure that these constraints aren’t overlooked.
Avoid These Pitfalls When Planning Your Business’s Event
First-time event planners typically run into a few of these challenges — but knowing how to handle them will help you keep your event running smoothly.
Knowing when to delegate, having a clear goal and creating a strong communication plan will help you overcome some of the biggest challenges you may face. Being ready to negotiate common venue contract terms can help you face many other common difficulties.