Yes, we’re looking at you!
We bet you’re excited about the big day / night / weekend. You should be. We have no doubt it will be amazing.
But wait…did you forget to plan for something? Or worse…will every single thing go fantastically wrong on the day of the event?
It’s natural to worry about worst-case scenarios as your big event draws near. We get it. What if your key speaker calls in sick? What if the food tastes like cardboard? What if the DJ only knows a single song…and it’s sung by Justin Bieber?
Okay, let’s take a deep breath. Epic event disasters are really rare.
Besides, you can avert most catastrophes if you’re aware of the biggest event planning mistakes.
Luckily, we’ve put together a list of the most common mistakes event planners make. We’re not just here to mock them, though. We’ll also help you not make these mistakes yourself.
Here are the five worst event planning mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
Mistake #5: Not accounting for needed space –
You get a wee bit carried away with your event promotion. You’re good at it, too: People are signing up or buying tickets by the hundreds. You’re a marketing rockstar!
Now the big day is here, and you suddenly find yourself trying to squeeze 5,000 people inside a single party bus. Oops!
How to avoid it:
You have two options here –
Option one: Set an attendance cap and limit the number of available tickets. Just about every event ticketing website lets you do exactly that. Even if you’re selling different types of tickets, you can pick the maximum quantity of each to sell.
Hint: You might want to let people sign up for a waiting list. If some of your current guests cancel, you’ll know who’s interested in taking their spot.
You’ll need to be pretty good at estimating the number of attendees in advance. If you book a large venue but sell too few tickets, you’ll have a half-empty event with understandably underwhelmed guests. On the flip side, if you book a small place but generate lots of interest, you’ll miss out on extra ticket sales and leave lots of people disappointed they couldn’t attend.
This brings us to…
Option two: Don’t put an attendance cap on your event and be ready to change the venue if needed. This is trickier to manage, but it is certainly doable.
You’ll want to have a few potential venues on standby. Make sure you know the cut-off date for each of these – when is the absolute last day to book them?
Now pick the earliest cut-off date. This is the “RSVP by” date you’ll need to communicate to your attendees. Of course, real life is rarely this clean-cut. People might forget to register on time or the venue might change their policy. But if you keep a close eye on these dates and keep your options open, you’ll have a much better chance to book a venue that closely matches the actual number of guests
Mistake #4: Not planning for setup on the day –
You’ve pictured in vivid detail all the happy guests mingling at your event, eating delicious snacks, and listening to a live orchestra. How wonderful!
Unfortunately, what you haven’t pictured is just how long it takes the catering company to unload the snacks or exactly how you’d get 73 musicians and their instruments inside. Seriously, what’s going on?!?!
How to avoid it:
The short answer is: Plan ahead. That was nice and vague, wasn’t it? Here’s what that means in practice:
Check the venue. Visit the venue and ask critical questions. Is there a lift? Can the catering van drive all the way up to the kitchen entrance? Will you need more people to man the doors?
Do musicians need to chant ancient codes in order to open a secret passage to the stage? Put yourself in the shoes of the staff and anticipate any hurdles.
Ask for estimates. Guess what? The catering company has done this before. So has the orchestra. Ask all parties to estimate how much time they’ll need to set things up on the day. Then add a buffer to their estimates – just in case.
Do a dry run. If you can, do a dry run before the event. Have as many actual vendors show up and walk through the setup steps. This way, everyone will know just what to expect and what obstacles might turn up.
Granted, dry runs aren’t always possible. The venue might be fully booked and the catering crew might have other clients. But it’s definitely a worthwhile goal to aim for.
Mistake #3: Not confirming with vendors –
You spoke to all the vendors and secured some great deals on catering, entertainment, and party balloons. You’re all set!
Except…did the Balloon Company say they could deliver up to 2,000 balloons or did they confirm that they’ll be at your venue at 9AM sharp with exactly 1,762 yellow balloons shaped like Donald Trump?
Did you sign an actual contract with that famous comedian showing up at your event? Are these rhetorical questions stressing you out?
How to avoid it:
Stay organised. You’ll be juggling many things, not the least of which are contracts with and confirmations from vendors, venues, vases, and many other V’s.
Keep a list of potential vendors to help you track how negotiations are going. Make sure to specify key details like delivery quantities, exact date and time, and so on.
Ask for a written confirmation once you’ve reached an agreement. Now you can safely move the vendor from “potential” to “confirmed.”
If you’re organising an event on behalf of a client, make sure they sign off on the plan and the individual vendors. The best approach is to schedule a walk-through with both the client and vendors to clarify what must be done and get their buy-in.
You want everyone on the same page.
Even if you’ve done all of the above, it’s always a good idea to double-check with each vendor a few days before the event. Send an email or make a quick call to hear how things are progressing and whether there’s anything you can do from your side.
You might come across as a bit pushy, but that’s better than being stuck with the wrong balloons. Isn’t it?
Mistake #2: Not following up after the event –
Everything went according to plan. The orchestra got a standing ovation. The food was perfect. Your Donald Trump balloons were so realistic that everyone kept trying to talk to them.
And then…nothing. Nobody hears another word from you. The vendors wonder if you’re happy with their services.
The guests want to know if you have some other cool events coming up. But you’ve disappeared into thin air like a ninja in an ’80s film. Where did you go?
How to avoid it:
Even if you’ll never plan another event, it’s common courtesy to follow up with guests and vendors to say thanks. You’ll leave a good impression as an event organizer.
If you’ll be organising other events in the future, failing to follow up is a costly mistake. It’s a missed opportunity to boost your reputation and encourage guests to show up for your next event.
Your vendors were a key part of making your event a success. Always make sure to thank them for their efforts. A personal follow-up works best, so try to give them a call if you can.
If you’re dealing with a large number of vendors, you might want to at least craft an email to thank them and leave things on a high note.
As for your attendees, don’t miss this chance to engage them further. If you have their emails, send a message thanking them for attending, asking for feedback, and sharing a teaser for your upcoming event.
Post pictures of the successful event on your social media and thank everyone who showed up. Maybe get people to tag themselves in the photos or encourage them to share their thoughts on the event.
This is your big chance to keep the positive momentum going and build up your reputation.
Mistake #1: Not having a “Plan B” –
Shiitake (it’s a mushroom) happens. We all know this. Yet when it comes to your own event, you’re sure that nothing bad can possibly happen to you. After all, you’ve planned everything down to the letter!
But now, because of Murphy and his awful law, things have gone wrong. Time to dust off that backup plan! You do have a backup plan, don’t you? Oh…
How to avoid it:
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” Sound familiar? It should; one of your friends has likely posted it on Facebook recently, along with other motivational quotes.
While it’s great to have confidence in your event’s success, it’s also smart to be prepared in case things don’t quite work out. Always have a contingency plan.
Think of any potential bad surprises and ask yourself what you’ll do if they happen. Do you have a laptop with hours of pre-recorded classical music in case the whole orchestra falls ill? Will you be fine with Bob balloons if you can’t get Trump?
Come up with a plan for any no-show or cancellation. Make a list of backup vendors you can call in case your primary vendors let you down. Ideally, you should be ready to salvage most bad situations.
Keep in mind that you’ll rarely – if ever – have to resort to your backup options. But having a “Plan B” is the difference between going into panic mode and knowing exactly what to do if things unravel.
Don’t ever leave yourself without options.
Now that you know the biggest event planning mistakes, you’re all set to make your own event a massive success. And you definitely won’t be making these planning mistakes yourself. Right?