Event Planning is not for the fainthearted. The expectations on the Event Planner are high, and regardless of whether the event is a fundraiser, a corporate event, or a special social event, there is usually a lot riding on the success of the event.
In my experience, this expectation is the same whether you are volunteering or charging for your services. Your Client has a vision, and expects you to deliver the dream.
This article is being published in two parts to keep it at a reasonable length. Part One will look at issues such as venue choice, event decoration, seating arrangements, and food and drinks.
So, where do you start?
Get as much information as possible from your client about the type of event that they want. To do this effectively, you must build up a rapport with your client. You need to get inside their head. During this process, you need to glean the following information:
- The purposeof the event i.e. informational, fundraiser, social, special event etc.
- The nameand or theme of the event. Sometimes the Client would already have thought of the name, at other times, they might want you to come up with a name. The challenge is to ensure that the name is catchy and relates to the purpose of the event.
- The date and timeof the event – there are some general dates to avoid, and a good planner should advise the client of these dates e.g. it is well known that July and August are not good months for corporate events, whilst recent surveys have shown that in the year 2010, September weekends were the most popular for weddings.
- The key featureof the event e.g. is there going to be a popular performer or Guest Speaker? Perhaps there is some special fundraising activity e.g. an auction of holiday destinations.
Consider the physical needs for the event as this will help you to set the ambience. For example,
- A wedding would be better suited to a banqueting hall, or hotel venue;
- Seminars, conferences or training sessions might take place at a special conference room or business centre;
- A ball or dinner dance might take place in a dance hall.
Failure to choose the right venue can make or break your event. If the venue is too small, guests will be uncomfortable and there is the possibility of disgruntled guests leaving before the end of the event, and perhaps asking for refund of their ticket costs. On the other hand if the venue is too large, it becomes difficult to build up atmosphere and rapport between the guests, resulting in a glum event.
The fact of the matter is, there is a venue to suit every event so develop and maintain a list of the most popular venues in your area!
The decoration at the event, goes a long way towards providing the right ambience for the event. Some venues have their own event decorators and often times the quoted venue hire fees will include an element for decorations.
Particularly, in the case of social and special events, it is well worth investing in getting the venue tastefully decorated. That way you are guaranteed not only a lovely atmosphere, but beautiful photographs to remind you of your special day.
Beware of family and friends who volunteer to take care of the decorating. Try to advise the client that it is well worth spending the extra cash on engaging a professional to do this. Unless the friend or family member is a professional, the job is always usually rushed or substandard.
Personally, I do not take on jobs where there are likely to be family and friends involved, unless I am providing on the day co-ordination services where whatever happens before the day is not really within my remit.
Tables and chairs
Again, the right choice of furniture is essential for creating that special effect. So for example:
- A seminar set up in theatre style will only require chairs, apart from the table for the guest speakers.
- On the other hand, it is now common place to cover banqueting chairs for weddings, decorated with either sashes or flowers or a combination.
- One of the problems that I have encountered as an event planner, is that the seating capacity quoted by venue hirers for table sittings can be quite unrealistic. They might tell you that a table will take 8 to 10 chairs, when in reality, you could only comfortably fit 6 to 8 chairs around the table. If this is not verified beforehand, this could significantly affect the seating arrangements of your Guests on the day.
Food and drink
- This can be another tricky area. Some events come with a cheap hire rate on condition that you have to use their catering services and or bar. The result is that a venue that first appeared quite reasonable, could suddenly become unaffordable. The key here is to shop around and don’t be afraid to negotiate prices with venues based on the package that you get from each.
- In the case of fundraising events where you might want to sell refreshments, it is important that you find out from the outset whether any special licences are required. Sometimes the venue will sort this out for you, other times you might have to sort this out yourself and a good planner should be able to assist you with this.