So—you are planning an event? Where do you even begin?! Here are a few tips to help you execute a successful and memorable experience for not only you (!)– but all of your special guests!
- Take a Deep Breath. I know. That is so hard to do. You have so much planning to do— researching, budgeting, decision making… and it goes on and on… but if you begin with a clear mind, the rest will begin to take shape. When you fill your mind with lots of stress, you will most likely end up with a stressful event managment.
- Envision the Event. Now that you have a clear mind, literally close your eyes and visualize how you see the event progressing. Use your imagination to explore how you would feel in the moment. What do you see? Take a moment and write down ideas that you dream up. (One time the inspiration for an invitation was found on a tissue box that had a photo of Cherry Blossom trees!)
- Get organized. Take time to grab a blank notebook or journal to keep all your notes in as you move along with the planning. When you begin executing all your plans, you will have a place to write down details from conversations (be sure to include names and dates!) and when your mind is cluttered, you can refer back to this informaiton. This notebook/journal can be slipped into your bag and it will become your bff as you plan.
- Formulate an Implementaion Plan. What is that you say? Think of it as a football game and you are trying to make it to the endzone to score—you have to have a plan to score. An implemention plan can be hand written, however, I find it easiest to formulate it on an Excel spreadsheet or Word document. (Using a program like Excel provides you the ability to have several tabs for different areas of the plan ex. budget, timeline, etc.). The plan is compilled with all the details for your event. Some suggestions for your spreadsheet are: ITEM, DATES, POC, STATUS. You can make it work for whatever you are planning. For example, one of my events I listed the following areas for the implementaiton: Invitations, Catering, Audio Visual, Run of Show, Photographer, Decor, Registration, Social Media. Then for each area I would make the ‘to-do’s’ to track and have a space in the ‘status’ column to keep the most updated notes. This is also helpful if you are working in a team environment and use document sharing (like Sharepoint, etc.) where each individual can find the most up-to-date information. The below image was a sample plan that I made during my Master’s program. This screenshot gives you a visual of how simple the plan can be but it helps to keep you on track of all your to-do’s!
- Update and Track Changes. Now that your plan is in front of you, use this as a roadmap to get to your goals. Yes, your “GPS” can change your routes, and that is ok, but keep track of all changes in your plan. When you begin to get busy and sidetracked, you can refer back to your initial plan, see where it changed, and see where you are headed and what needs to be acomplished. You can always expand your document with additional colums. Remember, it’s YOUR plan!
- Be Flexible. Working within a budget means there are prameters. What you want does not always mean it will fit —so this is where creativity can come into play. Work through ways to use your resources to make things happen. Sometimes there is a champagne taste on a beer budget… Be flexible and seek solutions that work!
- Communicate and OVER Communicate. Don’t assume the other parties/vendors know details you have stored in your mind. When you are working with vendors (catering, florists, etc.) be sure you have contracts in place and you have everyting documented. Do not assume that an email sent is an email received. Do not assume that a voice mail left, is a voice mail heard. It is better to confirm, and reconfirm rather than not having the special ice show up for your whisky tasting event! (Note: The special ice was delivered to the Capitol event! And everone said, “cheers”! Ok, so they did not actually say that, but I did in my mind. I was so thankful for my over communication on that event).
- Lights, Camera, Action! I am not going to lie to you and say, event managment is easy, as it is not an easy task to have it all come together tied in a shinny bow! It looks different for each individual as we all have different ‘plays’ to get into the ‘endzone’! What works for you may not work for others. The key elements are to communicate, stay focused and remove stress during the process. Staying on task and remaining organized will lead you to a successful event.
- Have a Backup Plan. Ok, this literally is a whole other blog post… but basically—Have plans in place to replace the plans you have just worked so hard to formulate! Just think through the ‘what-ifs’ and make ways to overcome challenges. This requires both flexibilty and creativity and a LOT of communication!
That’s a Wrap! Small details such as invitations, centerpieces, colors, etc., matter…but it’s the budgeting, tracking, decision making, communication, etc., during the planning process that must not be overlooked. It’s all in the small details and as they all fall into place they make a big impact, and in return, your guests will experience all your hard work and enjoy these special moments.
If you are still reading (you must love events too!) and ever need to pick my brain on what has worked for me (and not worked)—from planning kid’s birthday parties to throwing events on Capitol Hill, to planning an event in a foreign country— reach out! Happy to chat!
*All photos are property of Elisabeth Bryson Photography.
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