Five tips for successful event planning

5 Tips for Successful Event Planning

1. Benefit the community, and you will benefit together

Calgary Winter Skyline courtesy of Randy Peters/

Often, the warmest and strongest event resources can be found right in your home community.

Relationships, mutually beneficial arrangements and strong friendships strengthen the neighbourhood bonds and community connections – but you shouldn’t always expect the quid pro quo.

There’s intrinsic worth in cooperating with the local professionals, emerging amateurs and local businesses.

These are the young specialists and growing businesses with personal talent and resources. These are the entrepreneurs emerging out of passion and innovative spark.

By providing your specialized resources where you’re able – your time, labor, or possibly audio/video set-up for events – you contribute back, and develop new relationships with these impassioned individuals.

Some people and businesses choose to provide their work’s services, or look to cooperatively share resources. Others may be able to lend a hand and a few hours. Some have merited the experience to offer valuable insight and advice, or others can help to spread a message with their friends.

Think about those in your social circle. Consider the skilled workers, studious academics, and welcoming businesses in the area.

Stop for a second, and consider how you can contribute back using your own resources.

When hosting an event, there are many opportunities to work cooperatively alongside friendly network connections.

1. Providing a local business or agency with advertising
2. Holding an auction or fundraiser for community organizations
3. Sharing what you can back into the community

Of course, there are other ways to reach out to a mass audience…

2. Use social media to publicize your event.

Social Media Landscape courtesy of fredcavazza/

It’s 2013, and maintaining a strong social media presence is as crucial as ever. Most of all, there are always awesome and innovative ways to embrace this digital mediascape.

Get creative. Figure out ways to tap into social media, and get people involved.  You can host competitions, getting people to get their friends involved for best stories/photos. You can post regular trivia questions. You can release press releases, or produce teaser videos.

The trick is to be creative, and consider which media best fits your event.

Realize, also, that the online world offers a two-way conversation. Not only can you sell tickets or make your event information accessible, you can create community discourse Try blogging, being sure to ask questions and create dialogue. When combined with a humble interest to improve, this communication can also be a great way to personally address and understand audiences and their expectations. Consider streaming your event – for fans, collaborators, or even investors.

Simply having an online presence gives audiences a comfortable environment to discuss events. Photo galleries tend to be one of the more visited parts of websites, and luckily, most social media allow for free uploading. Post stills on Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook – motivating more of an audience to join in each time, stirring the hype. If you’re looking to get readers to actively engage, a lot of websites allow users to post replies. Depending on the size of your event, consider hosting a message board for users to create and discuss their own topics. You can learn a surprising bit about your audience.

As far as Internet etiquette goes, it’s a good idea to consciously consider how you are representing yourself and your affiliates. Keep it classy, and stay professional – but be sure to add just a spit of your own charm and style.

When hosting an event, there are many opportunities to engage audiences and generate hype and communication across the mediascape.

1. Hosting online competitions, contests and events beforehand
2. Increase accessibility for both ticket sales and community dialogue
3. Generate social media buzz in your professional and social circles

3. Consult with the professionals.

Photo by Kris Benoit/Calgary Sound Rentals.

As the old saying goes, nobody knows everything, but everybody knows something. That is, shed the pride and ask a professional.

Sometimes our experience in one area makes us too proud to seek help in others. In fact, there’s a term – the Dunning-Kruger effect – for those who are only vaguely aware of a subject, but assume competence and specialization with something because they aren’t aware of how much they don’t know.

This assumption can be more than unprofessional. This can be dangerous.

You may wire electricity or other utilities unsafely, not get the appropriate legal permits for your event, budget or organize haphazardly, or simply not host an event with lasting energy.

There is a reason why we don’t do everything ourselves.

Professionals like us can ensure that your event goes off without a hitch. We have planned, organized and mixed hundreds of events and have practice troubleshooting in a variety of anomalous scenarios.

Even if you choose not to hire a professional, simply consulting an expert points out easily overlooked follies. It will help you and those attendees to have a seamless evening where the focus isn’t on getting equipment to work properly; rather, the focus will be on exactly what you’d intended the event to be for.

Sometimes we aren’t aware of how much we don’t know. Consulting the professionals helps to ensure that…
1. The event has acquired the proper permits within local jurisdiction
2. There are back-up plans in place in foreseeing potential issues
3. You’ll get what you need, and more, to host the event that gets people talking

With situational experience, professionals know the right questions to ask. They can provide realistic timeframes and a better cost-estimate to pull off certain elements of your event.

4. Establish and follow a timeline & budget

Photo courtesy of rmkoske/

Event production is fast-paced and demanding.

Your budget-influenced timeline is the quintessential tool for keeping on track and on time. Your timeline should include every possible date; when the flowers are ready, when they are going to be picked up, when they are going to be delivered, when the photo booth deposit needs to be in by, what time the photo booth is set up by, when you have to email to confirm power considerations for the photo booth, etc.

These are the aspects of your event that, when structured and followed, allow every element to come together cohesively – with a specific time allowance and monetary budget for each component.

Document every event and timeframe – and throw in some time cushion in-between event details for any unprojected hang-ups. Be sure to honour these time commitments.

Let’s say, you’re hosting a larger event that involves rental and set-up for audio/visual equipment, professional event catering, a live band, and setting down.

Each of these participating groups needs time to make your event clean and professional, so be sure to discuss timeframes. The audio/visual company will have to run their speakers, cables and lights. The catering company will need time to prepare each dish and place, with diet and food restrictions. The band will need time for a sound-check after the audio/visual equipment has been set-up, and likely before the general audience arrives. Naturally, each group will have to work around each other for setting down, which ranges dependent on the intricacy of your event.

It should also be expected that you, as the event coordinator, pull some of the longest hours. In overseeing the larger spectrum of event planning, you’ll likely be the first on-site, and the last to leave.

Keep your timeline digital, in a binder or somewhere handy at all times. This way, if a group or service has to reschedule or make minor timeline changes, you’re able to note them or assess the plausibility of how well the rest of the evening will go with a delay.

1. Discuss and uphold timeframes with each company and service
2. Document every given and projected time frame
3. Ask each company to provide a realistic estimate for their services, and decide whether or not each provided service is necessary

To best coordinate your event, you’ll have to be available and communicative to all groups involved in facilitating your event.

Which brings us full circle to…

5. Establish an organized contact list
Sometimes, smack-dab in the middle of an event production, you never know who you may have to get a hold of – and fast!

Your contact list should be in the same document cluster as your timeline and budget. It should be accessible, navigable and organized. That is, you can’t mess around trying to find a number, or getting somebody’s name wrong when you’re hosting a professional event.

So, when somebody hands you their card or contact information, take the time to properly add it to your list of contacts – and, unless you expect this contact to be reoccurring, try to categorize this contact specific to that event. This is to ensure that this contact can be easily reached – with no confusion over which number to call, or whom it belongs to.

The contact list needs to have absolutely every person involved in the event – from the volunteer coordinator to the business contact that donated a silent auction item. I would encourage you to keep Twitter handles, emails and cell phones – you never know when you’ll have to contact a specific person with a critical role in the event.

You can use spreadsheets, folders, or even your own phone to professionally and efficiently organize the mountain of contact information that you will no doubt be dealing with. With evolving technology, it’s getting easier to maintain that list of clients, contacts and coordinators.

One of the most forgotten steps may just be, as long as you have these individuals or agencies’ contacts, to thank them once the event is done. Usually, it’s been a long day, and people like feeling appreciated for their talents and services. This basic cordiality will preserve longstanding relationships with the people, professionals, and community that helps to provide such inspiring and powerful events that keep Calgary as strong a city as it is.

  1. Categorically document every bit of contact information you’re given
    2. Organize it so that your grandmother could easily navigate the list
    3. Most of all, thank everybody involved with the event for their time and commitments

    Following these five tips will help to make you and your event the talk of the town, and hopefully you’ll be able to contribute back to the community that helped ensure your event flowed beautifully and professionally.

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