Pre-event planning, tips and ideas
The 10 Do's of Event Planning
- Innovate, be creative, think out of the box. Since most of your audience has probably been in dozens of conferences and events, make sure that they remember yours.
- Make sure your attendees socialise and network, since one of the main objectives of you event is to help them interact and get to know each other. And since it is always hard to break the ice and meet new people, consider organising dynamic sesisons and/or harness the power of gamification (serious fun through the integration of game mechanics can add power, impact and focus to a meeting or event, a message).
- Understand your audience and tune the event's message and content to them. Your attendees are your costumers, so make sure that you know all about them in order to offer them an experience on par with their expectations. Furthermore, you must always include question time after each presentation or session.
- If you have little or no experience in event planning, partner with a qualified professional with a long track record of success in the industry; and if you are experienced but want to save on employing a professional, there are literally thousands web-based tools designed to help you plan all the aspects of your event.
- Establish clear goals and methods to measure success and return on investment (ROI).
- When choosing a venue, check up on its Wi-Fi network. Having Wi-Fi is not the same as having a robust, reliable network. And on the subject of Internet, if you really cannot provide free Internet, consider offering a low bandwidth for free and then charging for a premium service.
- Include green or CSR initiatives in the event programme: despite the extra effort, you will be surprised how important they are for a growing number of people.
- As soon as the decision is taken to stage an event, ensure that you have an engaging event website (including desktop, mobile, and tablet versions) up and running in the shortest time possible and that it is frequently updated; the Internet is the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.
- Harness the power of the social media so as to promote the event before it is held and to prolong its life afterwards.
- Video the action on the exhibition floor, interviewing exhibitors and visitors, which can then be posted on the official website and the event's profiles in the social media so as to show those that didn't make it what they missed.
The 10 Don'ts of Event Planning
- Don't charge for Internet access, parking or lunch, since these hidden extras are highly irritating. Attendees really loathe having to pay separately for Internet access, parking, coffee, etc., so try to make sure that everything is covered in the registration fee.
- Don't just talk about yourself and/or about how marvellous your event is, since its success is largely due to your delegates/attendees/guests, so make sure you emphasize this.
- Don't take the "do more with less" maxim too far. If the budget isn't generous enough for organizing a face-to-face event, go virtual: it's always better than leaving a poor impression; and don't always accept the cheapest quote for venue rental and services. As with second hand cars, the cheapest is usually never the best.
- Don't leave the participants in the dark if you decide to implement green initiatives at your events; their active participation is all-important.
- Don't forget to ask your participants about their food requirements; at large international events there are bound to vegetarians, people with dietary restrictions for religious or health reasons, etc.
- Don't rely solely on volunteers for your event's staff needs. Although usually very willing, you also need a core staff of tried and trusted professionals.
- Don't always choose a chic but noisy venue for your networking events; a lot of people really do want to be able to hear themselves over the din; and don't organise a social programme without options, since not everyone likes paintballing or Yoga.
- Don't improvise on the day: most people will not appreciate it.
- Don't weigh attendees down with printed matter. In the Internet era, paper-based information is now obsolete and will probably end up in bin anyway.
- Don't forget to follow up after the event; feedback from the participants is vital for ironing out problems and planning for future events.
Preliminaries - before the event
- Establish the event's overall objective.
- Identify your target audience and discuss the best, most efficient way of getting your message across.
- Decide on who will be doing the planning; i.e. in-house or outsourcing
- Pre-select at least two sets of dates for the event.
- Establish a preliminary event agenda.
- Define promotional strategy, if applicable.
- If outsourcing, prepare a detailed request for proposal.
- Send prospective attendees a first notice.
Event Organisation (outsourcing)
- If outsourcing, study quotes and choose the agency or professional whom you wish to hire.
- Hold a meeting (face-to-face, via videoconference, etc.) with the agency you have chosen to go over all the details.
- Liaise with the agency on a regular basis.
Event organisation (in-house)
- Draw up a detailed pre-event planning schedule, identifying and allotting tasks.
- Choose an event venue and go on an inspection trip, especially if you are unfamiliar with the venue and/or destination. Make sure that the venue can provide you with everything that you need: A/V equipment, Wi-Fi, event staff, catering, etc. Otherwise, draw up a list of the things or people to be hired.
- Negotiate hotel rates and blocks, meals, transport and additional activities (spouse tours, entertainment or recreational events), if applicable.
- Design, develop, and launch a responsive event website with a registration systems and, if required, an event app. It may be necessary to outsource these two tasks.
- Keep the website up to date with fresh content (notifications, news, videos, etc.).
- Book key speakers and confirm attendance of VIPs, media representatives, etc., if applicable.
- Send prospective attendees a second notice, including detailed information about the event and, if applicable, registration procedures.
- Start preparing printed materials, if required.
- Purchase insurance (public liability, at least) and decide on whether you will require any security measures.
- Prepare a contingency plan.
- Draw up a definitive attendance list several weeks before the event.
- Confirm all bookings and check all details.
- Finalise on-site registration procedures, if any.
- Reconcile accounts.
- Thank sponsors, speakers, VIPs, etc., by mail.
- Post photos, short videos, and testimonials on the event website in order to keep interest alive.
- Start planning the next edition.
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