So you’re planning an event...have you thought ahead to prevent common event production pitfalls?
You put a lot of time, effort, and expense into planning, but there are always potential hiccups that can get in your way. It’s frustrating when, despite your hard work, something goes wrong and you’re left scrambling to take care of it. Ready to start running great events? Download the workbook, How to Run an Event That Isn't Terrible.
With some awareness of the common issues that can occur, you can plan ahead and not be faced with a scramble. Without missing a beat, you switch to Plan B and your attendees are (hopefully) none the wiser.
Here are six issues to consider:
#1. Not having contingency plans
Murphy’s law - anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Not that it will with your event, of course! Draft a variety of backup plans so that your event is able to continue if certain issues occur.
Hopefully you won’t ever have to use your contingency plans, but if you do, things will run a lot more smoothly if you’ve planned ahead. You don’t want to be forced to make things up on the fly!
Here are things to plan:
- Someone calls in sick. From speakers to hosts to caterers, what will you do if someone calls in sick? Have activities or backup people at the ready to step in.
- The technology fails. There is nothing more frustrating than having a technology failure, where presentations won’t display as you need them to, or the sound system stops working. Have a backup plan just in case this happens.
- Medical emergency. Do you have staff trained who can offer first aid should there be a medical emergency? You don’t necessarily need first responders on staff, but it’s always a good idea to have people with basic training.
- The venue can’t be used. Sometimes floods, plumbing, electrical or other issues can close a venue. Have a back-up, just in case!
- Equipment. There are a bunch of things you use as essentials that can either fail or be forgotten. Keep a master list of equipment and have back-ups for key items.
- Catering can’t deliver. It happens sometimes! What will you do to ensure everyone still gets fed and watered?
Having contingencies in place is about good risk management practices for your event. You hope that by planning ahead, any issues can be well-managed and minimize guest disruption.
#2. Underestimating needed resources
This is especially a pitfall that can occur with larger events. For example, have you ever been to an event with long, jammed lines of people waiting to get in? This can be a sign that the event organizers haven’t planned for registering such a large crowd at once.
This tends to be a bad start for any event attendee and can taint their entire experience. Be prepared for your event size with enough team members to staff registration and an appropriate electronic check-in system. Some of the worst examples you see involve people with spreadsheets or pen and paper. A digital system can significantly speed up the process.
If you’ve underestimated the needs of the size of your crowd, you may not have thought of things like how you’re going to efficiently get them in and out of the event. You might also underestimate how you’re going to cater for enough food, drinks, toilets and trash cans, not to mention any supplies such as handouts that you might need. Make a list of all of these things so that you leave nothing out in your estimates for resources.
If yours is an event where people will be traveling, accommodations should come into the venue consideration. Will there be enough rooms available in local hotels to accommodate attendees? Are there any other big events going on at the same time which will also require local accommodation resources? If you’re booking an event in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, your guests may have a difficult time finding somewhere to stay, for example.
#3. Not allocating the right skills
It takes a certain set of skills to run an event well. In practice, within many companies someone decides that an event would be a good idea, then they flick the planning over to sales or marketing. This may be fine if there are people with event management experience, if not, it can be a recipe for disaster.
An important key to successful event planning is having people with the right skills. Marketing might be great at promoting the event, but are they familiar with all the nuts and bolts that go into creating it?
An experienced event manager tends to be worth their weight in gold. They understand the many components that go into a successful event and they’re familiar with the pitfalls they need to plan for. Finding or hiring one is a good way to avoid a disaster!
#4. Failure to track event changes
As the planning process progresses, there will almost always be changes made to the scope or overall plans. A mistake that companies make is not keeping up with these changes and finding themselves short of resources or over budget.
This can especially be an issue where there are multiple people involved in the planning and organization. There can be all sorts of tasks that are contingent on one another, and just a small change can make a big difference. If there isn’t an easy flow of communication, changes get missed.
A solution to this is to use a centralized planning system to monitor the entire event planning process. For example, there are specific software options set up for event management, or some companies choose to use their preferred project management software and treat the event as another project.
The point is that you should be able to track and view changes. The aim is to have no surprises!
#5. Not using digital marketing
Believe it or not, some companies still rely heavily on print or other forms of “traditional” marketing to promote their events. These avenues have their place, but you’re potentially restricting your reach if you’re not going digital.
Digital promotion for events might include things like social media advertising, pay per click advertising, and website promotions. You might have guest blog posts on relevant websites, emails going out to your list, and listings on event sites.
Defining who you want to attract to your event is a key first step, followed by marketing in the appropriate places to reach them. Don’t overlook the power of digital!
#6. Underestimating planning needs
Planning a successful event takes time - often much more time than companies estimate. If you’re expecting sales or marketing to plan an event while simultaneously continuing with “business as usual” then you’re probably short on the time needed. Also, consider that these people probably have targets to meet outside of the extra time spent on the event - planning may not be a priority.
Another thing that often gets underestimated in this situation is the importance of using a clear, repeatable event planning process. This tends to come with experience; it may not have been considered by people asked to pick up the event planning role.
A clear plan, along with enough time devoted to executing that plan, helps to avoid mistakes. If you want to have a successful event, then the planning phase deserves to be given needed time and expertise.
The best events have the planning phase fine-tuned. They prepare for “Murphy’s Law,” devote appropriate time and resources and follow a repeatable plan. This way, all of your efforts are a success!
Remember that the event doesn’t end when it’s over - post-event follow-up is a key part of getting effective results. We could add here that failing to follow up is another common pitfall.
Finally, use the tools available to make the planning process easier. This might include a proper, centralized planning system and it may include outsourcing the planning or promotion of the event. If events aren’t your main business, it often pays to call in the professionals.