When it comes to successful event planning, preparation is key. Meeting and event planners must be ready to face any and all of the challenges that might arise during both the event planning and execution stages. Thinking ahead is essential to the success of any meeting or event. Here are some of the basic elements you should consider when planning for a successful event.
Know Your Budget
If you can determine the amount of money available to spend on an event, it will keep your costs from adding up beyond what you can afford. Make sure that you list out on a spreadsheet, online program, or other document, every line item for each detail of your event that is going to cost money. Break down all of these costs as much as possible, listing the amount you plan to spend as well as the amount you actually end up spending. Keeping track of your budget can keep it from spiraling out of control. If this is a new event for you, start by researching costs for similar events held in your area to make your estimates as accurate as possible. Remember that many of these expenses must be paid in advance, so be sure to keep track of all payment deadlines as well. And try to leave a bit of room in your budget for the unexpected – which can and does happen.
Choose the Right Venue
Once you have a budget, start your event planning by booking the best venue to fit your needs. The setting you select creates the framework for your event and will impact almost all other event elements. Book it as far in advance as possible – ideally nine months to a year ahead of time, so that your top venue choice will be available and can be taken into account as you decide on the other elements of your event. Location plays into marketing, choice of vendors, itinerary, list of attendees and more. Of course, some events can or need to be booked at the last minute. If you are trying to make plans within a shorter window of time, don’t despair. Securing a great venue is possible, even at the last minute – but you may need to be more flexible in your choices.
Make Careful Catering Choices
If possible, choose your caterer at least nine months in advance. Food is one of the most important elements of an event, as it sets the tone and mood for your attendees. Those with a full, happy stomach throughout an event are more likely to look on the event itself as positive, making them more likely to buy into the ideas you are sharing and more likely to attend future events. Keep in mind that some venues may restrict you to using their onsite caterer only, not allowing for outside food options. Regardless, try to finalize your menu choices by at least one to two months out, as product and ingredient availability varies according to season, chefs, and other factors. Food and beverages must usually be finalized with the number of guests by two weeks in advance or more. Be sure you know what your vendor expects in terms of final head count.
Set Clear Objectives
From the purpose of your event, to any themes that may be incorporated, each of your objectives should be finalized as early as possible. This allows for targeted outreach and confirmation of vendors, presenters and attendees. For success, you need to have SMART objectives that are: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. During the event you need to know what your objectives are so that after the event you are able to measure effectiveness.
Do your Marketing – Before and After
Promotion is essential to a successful event. You need to know your stakeholders and/or target audience, and inform and persuade these people that your event is relevant to them. Who is your event aimed at? Who is going to have an influence on the success or failure of your objectives? An event is also the perfect way to improve your social media presence. Share a relevant hashtag for your event on Twitter, create an event page on Facebook, and encourage your followers to tag the event in all of their relevant posts. Upload photos once the event is over and actively encourage attendees to tag themselves and share the photos as well.
Have a Backup Plan
Over the course of planning the event, things are going to change. Whether it is event times, locations or attendees, you need to ensure that you’re flexible and can meet any changing demands or issues, such as an item not arriving on time or a presenter arriving late. Assess the most important elements of your event, and create a backup plan for each. Continually monitor your event as it progresses, and be ready to initiate your backup plans as needed.
Evaluate Satisfaction Immediately
The last item on your event planning list is to establish a system for monitoring the success of your event and/or any action plans that come from it. Satisfaction means retention and follow-through, as determined by the objectives you already set. Once the event is over, don’t wait to gather this important information. Follow up with attendees immediately over email or on social media, to determine the success of your event.
One of the most important elements of meeting and event planning is venue selection. Maritime Conference Center, conveniently located just four miles from Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, features a full range of venues encompassing 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space, all equipped with the latest in audiovisual technology and Internet capabilities.
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