Whether you’re planning a child’s birthday party, a week of Bible School crafts or the inaugural ball for the incoming college president, there are five guidelines to remember to ensure a successful event. I’m an event planner for a university. I plan everything from an entire weekend’s worth of Homecoming festivities to simple meetings for just a few people. No matter the occasion, I always follow these five tips to ensure a smooth, successful event with few surprises.
- Plan early. Determine where and when as early as possible to ensure you get the time and place you want. Planning for weddings and large events begin a year or more in advance. The week after Homecoming, I begin planning for next year. I reserve all the venues I need in addition to contacting catering, a photographer, renting shuttle buses and tents for tailgating, etc. As soon as I know I need something, I reserve it. Be sure to include a back-up plan for outdoor events in case of rain. Make a timeline by working backward from the date of your event. Plug in important reminders such as when invitations have to be mailed or emailed, when to shop or pick up certain items, and when to make follow-up calls.
- Pay attention to detail. It seems like everything is customized these days. People notice and appreciate when you’ve paid attention to the details. If someone cites a dietary need or preference, do your best to accommodate that. Ask your guests how their name tag should read. Spell their names correctly. If your event includes a “plus one” make sure to get those names when guests RSVP so you can provide a correct name tag for their “plus one.” Be sure you have extra, blank name tags available for errors or those who show up despite not RSVP’ing. (And they will.)
- Make follow-up confirmation calls. A few days before your event contact anyone you are relying on. Again, with large events, you made all those reservations months ago. Be sure to touch base again with the musicians, florist, the people providing your linens, etc. You don’t want any surprises or disappointments when someone fails to show.
- Be ready early. I strive to be ready one hour before each event. If I shoot for that, I have time to deal with any tiny, and not so tiny, glitches that might come up. If you find everything really is ready to go, take that precious time to put your feet up and relax.
- Put on a happy face. When something goes wrong – and it will – the right attitude can make all the difference. What can set your experience apart, and by association the experience of your guests, is your ability to smile and roll with whatever comes along. I’ve dealt with everything from power outages to spoiled food. Don’t waste time freaking out and dwelling on what happened. Focus on damage control and resolving the issue.
Event planning is not hard. It can be time consuming and involve a truckload of details, but lots of people can handle the logistics. If you consistently follow these five tips, you’ll produce well-planned, enjoyable events with few problems. You might even get to relax and enjoy yourself at your own party!