Over our 55 years in business Franco has become experts at planning events of all sizes in a multitude of industries. We’ve planned and coordinated client activations at conferences, restaurant grand openings, media previews, industry tradeshows, charity galas and more – each with careful attention to detail and precise execution. Events are an important piece of our integrated approach, giving clients interactive ways to reach their audiences.

There are a few things I’ve learned from planning events that may save you a headache during the process and ensure a smooth ride on event day.

1. Know your audience

Successful events are designed from the very beginning with attendees in mind. Just as all the things we do in public relations, marketing and social media, it’s imperative to cater to the audience.

When rebranding Great Designs in Steel we had to consider that our event attendees are down-to-business automotive engineers and designers. The way they connect with that event, from the logo and colors, to décor and more is much different than a high-profile charity event such as the PwC Grand Prixmiere, presented by Chevrolet, that features glitz and glam.

When making a decision about your event, always keep your audience in mind and ask yourself ’What feeling am I trying to evoke in my attendees?’

2. Communicate early and often with all stakeholders

Vendors, event sponsors, attendees, staff…the list of people involved in planning is endless. The key to getting everyone on the same page and keeping them there is to communicate with each group early in the process and as often as possible.

Event details are daunting but when each vendor knows their role and responsibilities from the get-go, they can own their piece and feel confident in their job. You, as the event planner on the other hand, can have confidence in each vendor by checking in regularly, weekly at minimum, and keeping a running document with status updates of each vendor.

You won’t even have an event without attendees so communicating and engaging them is imperative for success. Garner excitement by sending out a save-the-date e-newsletter or by mail, when appropriate, well in advance. From there, continue to connect with registered guests and potential guests by teasing what is to come at the event such as announcing speakers, activities, sponsors, etc. To ensure you reach your audience, it’s best to connect with attendees on both social media and via email regularly.

3. Negotiate contracts & quotes when possible

Invoices can add up quickly and budgets can be blown away in minutes. While it may be awkward having to renegotiate or ask vendors to cut things from their quotes, don’t be afraid to be up front with them. Let them know early on if you have a budget number to stick to, it will help them craft a quote as tight as possible.

If your budget is a little bit more flexible, ask vendors for two quotes – one bare minimum as a “you can do the event for this amount if you have to” and a second quote that has the bells and whistles, with prices for each line item to allow you to piece together the ideal package.

If it makes sense for your event, you can ask vendors to do part of their payment as trade for marketing opportunities. Some companies may be willing to lower their prices if you offer sponsorship benefits, including their logo on your collateral, signage or mentioning them in opening remarks.

4. Have a plan, but don’t be afraid when things don’t go as planned

It’s inevitable when there are so many people involved that things, at some point or another, do not go as planned. What is most important in these scenarios when things go awry, is to stay calm. As the event planner, everyone will look to you when the plan starts to fold. What you don’t want to do is panic outwardly. It won’t help any bad situation to cause alarm. Instead, breathe and switch gears to find a solution – make phone calls and see what can be done to fix the issue. Most likely at the end of the day no one will know there was even an issue, they’ll think it was planned all along if you have confidence in your solution.

Demonstrating composure when unexpected things come up in the planning process or during the event itself furthers trust from vendors and all others that make the event possible.

5. Create a detailed day-of run of show

It’s tedious but oh-so-necessary to put together a detailed, down-to-the-minute run of show (agenda) for event day, as well as any load-in and set-up days. I know it seems like overkill but trust me it’s helpful to keep everyone aligned. The reasoning is two-fold:

  • First, it forces you to think about the many logistical issues that could happen and resolve them before they cause stress. Vendor arrival times, load-in schedule, tear out, staff arrival all have to be planned around so there is space for trucks, staff to greet people, space for everyone to work. Creating the run of show and sharing it with all vendors, sponsors and staff will eliminate the headache later. It also saves you from being asked a million questions the day of (another plus!).
  • Secondly, if something happens (because again, things don’t always go as planned) and you are being pulled in an unexpected direction, anyone should be able to pick up the run of show and execute with confidence because the show, quite literally, must go on.

Event planning has quickly become one of my favorite things about my job. I enjoy working on tight deadlines and diving deep into all of the nitty-gritty details, making them all work together seamlessly. Seeing everything come together, getting great feedback from attendees and leaving a great lasting impression makes all the stress worth it in the end. My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy the ride. Stay cool, stay calm, communicate and be prepared, but expect the unexpected and your event will go off without a hitch.

Need help with your organization’s next event? Contact us today – we’d love to collaborate with you.

Rachel Burnard is an Account Executive at Franco. She can be reached at burnard@franco.com.