High pressure, quick turn times, fast-paced decisions, a million balls to juggle—this is the life of an event planner. The trouble is that this kind of environment often produces mistakes and mishaps. But recognizing the common ones and planning for them are good ways to ensure they don’t happen to you.
When it comes to events , we’ve seen it all. There are some avoidable mistakes that tend to happen again and again. While errors are just part of the process, not acting on or learning from them is what makes the difference between a fantastic and an okay event professional.
If you want your event to be bulletproof, take a look at this list of the most frequently occurring mistakes planners make and, best of all, how to fix them.
Avoid the Most Common Mistakes Event Organizers Make
1. Losing sight of the event’s goal
What’s the focus of the event? What are you trying to accomplish, and how are you measuring success? These are important points when designing your event. Every decision you make brings you closer to accomplishing it or moves you further away from it.
Pro Tip: Keep the goal(s) posted so every decision can be made in reference to them. Ensure your team knows them as well. Use a whiteboard to share them with the rest of your team and keep them visible to everybody for the whole planning process. If you’re in the early stages of planning, stay organized with this event planning guide.
2. Trying to do it all by yourself
Event planning is a team effort. It requires individual assignees to get the work completed, as well as someone to coordinate the efforts. If you’re knee-deep in the trenches, getting them dug, you’re missing out on a lot of the high-level coordination. Hire team members that get it and hold on tight to them. Keeping valuable members of your team close is key to ensuring economies of scale.
Be More Efficient : Delegate tasks that don’t require your attention.
3. Competing with others
It’s easy to get derailed by trying to keep up with other events and event planners, particularly because most event organizers pull ideas from one another and it’s encouraged to look at others in the industry. But it should always be done for the positive. Don’t let inspiration erode into jealousy or useless competition.
Reframe Your View on Others’ Work: Select the best pieces or talents from a number of planners, and mimic them by adding in your own special skills to create something completely different.
4. Being enticed by the shiny object
It seems like there’s new tech, and thus, new possible experiences introduced into the event planning industry on an almost daily basis. It’s easy to want to adopt every shiny new object your budget can afford. But if you don’t have a reason for implementation that’s tied into your event goal, it may be best to sit that round out until you do.
Planners’ Trick: Keep your goals in mind, and ask yourself if this new addition aligns with them or helps you attain them in a better, more efficient way. If not, pass.
5. Missing the F&B minimums
You read and re-read the contract but sometimes things happen. If you’ve ever missed the food and beverage minimums at an event, you know what a costly mistake that is. Set up periodic check-ins while the number can still be adjusted. If tickets are pre-paid, triple check those numbers before giving them to the venue or caterer.
Try This for Free Events: If your audience is notorious for no-shows, consider a no-show penalty.
6. Selecting a space that’s too small
While a large space will make your event look less successful if it’s not filled, you can at least play with the flow to fill up the room. But a small space with too many people is just uncomfortable. Ask your venue what areas they have for overflow or how the room can be adjusted if you have more attendees than you were originally expecting. If you’re on the cusp of capacity, choose the larger room.
Shrink a Room: If you’re using a bigger room for a smaller crowd, try clustering tables together and creating a larger, additional lounge space or entertainment area.
7. Failing to research audience preferences
Personalization is extremely important to the attendee experience and will help you connect on a deeper level, sell more tickets, and improve word of mouth. But you won’t know what your audience likes if you don’t research it. This is no longer a "nice-to-have.” It’s an expectation.
Easy Solution: If you’re not sure what they want, ask them. Eventgoers love to give their input. You could use quick, smiley face devices that capture the feeling of the moment or cleverly use your app to collect more feedback about attendees’ preferences.
8. Thinking marketing is something to do right before the event and not all year long (for an annual event)
A lot goes on in your attendees’ lives in between events. It’s essential these days to market (or rather, stay in touch) year-round with your audience. You stay connected, they get valuable information from you, and if you start right after your event, you’re able to continue the event buzz instead of letting it fizzle and then needing to rebuild it right before your next event.
Tip for Awesome Year-round Marketing: Find ways to build on your event immediately afterward. Examples include sending links to pictures, a poll, or interesting facts in an infographic style. You can even save your “big reveal” (something key about next year’s event) for a social media/marketing campaign to entice people to watch your feeds and be the first to know.
9. Not building an email list
An email list is an essential part of staying in touch. Effective marketing is a year-round undertaking when done correctly, and for that, you need an email list. Make sure you require attendees to opt-in so you’re not violating any SPAM or GDPR laws though.
How to Get People to Opt-in: Provide a piece of content, discount code, or early registration notification/VIP list in exchange for an email. Also, encourage opting into your list when they register for your event.
10. Letting speakers breeze in and out and not making the most of their time
Think of your speakers as thought leader celebrities. It’s likely that’s how your audience already views them. Make it part of their contract to post from the event. Ask them to share pictures of themselves arriving, enjoying themselves, meeting attendees, etc. Make sure you also give them the event hashtag. You can grow your social media numbers exponentially with some fun ‘behind-the-scenes’ posts.
Bonus Suggestion: Select a speaker or session leader with an impressive social media footprint and a proven track record to support events that they attend.
11. Failing to build a community
People want to be a part of something larger than themselves, and it’s in our nature to want to belong. Your event is bringing together like-minded, or at least like-interested, people for an amazing experience. This occurrence is ripe for community building. If they enjoyed the event, they’re probably disappointed to see it end. Harness that momentum to build a community.
Community Building Idea: Create a group (on Facebook, LinkedIn, or a private online community) where attendees can stay connected to you and one another. Just make sure you seed it with (and post) good content. Don’t forget about your social channels after the event. Make sure to stick around all year long!
12. Thinking long lines are just something event guests must endure
Even amusement parks have given up on this old idea. Lines are no longer something to be endured. Creative event planners are putting an end to lines or making them more bearable with things like fast-passes, early check-ins, entertainment and games during sign-in, check-in kiosks, facial recognition, beverages and food during the wait, social media walls, and interactive LED walls to help pass the time. Make provisions for ways to improve the check-in guest experience.
Defuse Frustration: Keep an eye on the line, and have your caterer at the ready to bring out freshly baked cookies if things back up.
13. Leaving audience expertise out of session learning
Your session leaders have vast knowledge about the subject matter, but your audience may have a lot to contribute as well. That’s why a lot of event planners are including sessions that influence discussion like roundtables. If you don’t provide a forum that encourages exchange, you’re missing out on the type of learning that can set your session apart from others in the industry.
Engagement Idea: If you’re in a large room, don’t use a mic runner. Use a fun tossable mic. People will be more apt to engage in conversation if they’re not causing some poor staffer to run the aisles.
14. Not understanding the value of good AV equipment at an event
If you’re not well-versed in technology, you may assume that the type of AV equipment offered at your venue is the same you can get from an AV company. That’s often not the case. Companies that provide AV equipment and services as their main offering will have top-of-the-line equipment and perform routine upgrades of that equipment. Venues often provide those services out of convenience to their clients and do not invest as heavily in them as a company that specializes in it would.
Make a Solid AV Decision: Talk to an AV company to assess your needs and options. Many times they will give a free consultation and you can decide from there what you want to do.
15. Thinking it’s only the “big moment” that attendees will remember
Your headlining entertainment is important but it’s often the smaller things that make a big impression and get the most “airtime” on social media. Some of those small things could be in-room snacks, fun transportation, or a host that wears a bright orange suit.
Comfort is Memorable: If you do nothing else, create little surprises that provide comfort to your audiences, such as providing bug repellent or sunblock, or misting fans, and cooling stations for outdoor activities. These small touches can make attendees feel like you’ve thought of everything
16. Not lining up a solid team ahead of need
One of the best timesavers for event organizers is to line up a solid event team prior to needing one. Find people you can rely on before you have the added pressure and stress of a deadline. If you wait until then, you may be forced to make a decision you’re not satisfied with because time requires it.
Pro Tip for Greater Efficiency: Think about the type of team members or vendors you’re often asked for, and keep a short list of those you know who do good work on time and in budget.
There are plenty of event planning mistakes you’ll make that will be unavoidable, like making decisions without complete information or at the last minute that may lead to undesired results. But when it comes to:
- Staff and equipment
- Year-round social and marketing activity
- Making guests feel special and comfortable,
Mistakes are easier avoided with little work and preparation.
What’s your most regrettable event planning mistake, and what did it teach you? Share it with us.
About the AuthorMore Content by Amy Kelley