Event planning is both an art and a science. The ability to organize, manage logistics, and ensure that everything runs smoothly is a skill honed over time. However, like any profession, there are always ways to improve and refine your methods.
In this article, we’ve rounded up some of the most powerful event planning tips to help you save time, reduce stress, and deliver an exceptional experience to your attendees. Plus, we’ve included 10 outside-the-box event planning tips to help today’s event planners succeed beyond their wildest expectations.
1. Set Clear Objectives
Before diving into the specifics, it’s crucial to define the purpose and objectives of your event. Do you aim to educate, entertain, or perhaps raise funds? Knowing your objectives upfront will guide all other decisions, making the process more streamlined.
Curious about how to set objectives and long-term event goals? Check out our article, “Setting Long-Term Goals for Event Planners: Tips and Guidance.”
2. Use Event Management Software
One of the best event planning tips you’ll hear is to use event management software. These platforms allow you to manage guest lists, registrations, ticketing, and even floor plans all in one place. They also offer automated reminders and reporting tools that can drastically cut down administrative hours.
But event software isn’t the only tool you should invest in. There are plenty of fantastic apps out there that will make your life as an event planner less stressful. The key is finding the tools that work for you and the kind of events you manage. So, experiment and create a custom event technology stack that fits your needs and budget.
3. Prioritize Your Event Planning Tasks
Not all tasks hold equal importance. Create a task list and rank them by urgency and importance. This approach ensures you tackle the most critical tasks first, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. Wondering why to prioritize your event planning tasks? Here you go:
- Time management: Time is a precious commodity in event planning. Prioritizing tasks ensures you allocate your time where it matters most.
- Resource allocation: By knowing which tasks are vital, you can channel your resources, be it money, manpower, or materials, more effectively.
- Reduced stress: Having a clear picture of what needs immediate attention can significantly reduce feeling overwhelmed.
- Better decision-making: When tasks are prioritized, decisions become more straightforward as you have clarity about the sequence and importance of actions.
4. Build Event Planning Checklists
A well-structured checklist will be your lifesaver. It ensures you don’t forget anything and gives a sense of accomplishment as you tick off tasks. This is among the timeless event planning tips that professionals swear by. Here is how to get started building an event planning checklist:
- List everything: Start by jotting down every task, no matter how small. This provides a comprehensive view of what lies ahead.
- Categorize tasks: Group tasks into categories such as venue, catering, entertainment, marketing, and so on. This helps in focusing on specific aspects of the event.
- Urgency vs. importance: Recognize the difference between urgent and important tasks. While urgent tasks need immediate action, essential tasks may have a broader impact on the event. Use the Eisenhower Box (aka the Urgent-Important Matrix) to classify tasks into four categories: urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important.
- Use the MoSCoW method: This method categorizes tasks into: Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have. It’s a swift way to highlight non-negotiables versus nice-to-haves.
- Set Deadlines: Assign a deadline to each task. This provides a timeline, aiding in monitoring progress and ensuring tasks don’t drag on indefinitely.
5. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
You don’t need to do everything yourself. Identify tasks that can be delegated to team members or outsourced. Recognize which tasks you must oversee and which can be handled by team members or vendors. This lets you concentrate on high-priority tasks while ensuring others are in competent hands. This saves time and leverages expertise that others might bring to specific roles.
6. Streamline Event Planning Communication
Miscommunication can lead to missed opportunities or mistakes. Set up clear communication channels, such as regular team meetings or dedicated chat groups, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
We create Slack channels for every internal and external event we participate in to keep internal and external stakeholders on top of vital tasks.
7. Negotiate with Vendors
Vendors, ranging from caterers and decorators to technical providers and entertainment professionals, play pivotal roles in bringing an event to life. However, costs can escalate quickly if not kept in check. This is where the art of negotiation comes into play. Negotiating with vendors doesn’t merely revolve around reducing prices; it’s about striking a balance where both parties find value.
By cultivating strong relationships, understanding vendor capabilities, and communicating the event’s needs and budget, planners can achieve favorable terms, including volume discounts, added perks, or flexible payment plans. Moreover, effective negotiation ensures that the quality of services is not compromised, laying the groundwork for future collaborations and mutual success.
8. Reuse and Repurpose
Consider what elements can be reused or adapted instead of reinventing the wheel for every event. This can range from marketing materials to event themes and decor.
In fact, you should leverage event planning templates to ensure you can scale your event program more easily.
9. Gather Quantitative & Qualitative Event Feedback
After your event, take the time to gather feedback from attendees, vendors, and team members. But it’s crucial to collect both quantitative and qualitative feedback.
Quantitative feedback, derived from metrics like attendance numbers, ticket sales, or survey scores, accurately measures success. These numbers give a clear snapshot of what worked and what didn’t.
Qualitative feedback, on the other hand, delves deeper into the ‘why’ behind those numbers. Planners can gain insights into attendees’ experiences, feelings, and perceptions through open-ended survey questions, interviews, or focus groups. This richer, narrative-driven feedback can unveil nuances about event elements that might not be captured in mere numbers. By combining both types of feedback, event planners can paint a holistic picture of their event’s impact, ensuring that every facet is optimized for future iterations.
10. Limit Last-minute Changes
While some adjustments are inevitable, limiting last-minute changes will save you time and stress. Ensure that decisions are finalized well in advance, and stick to them unless necessary.
11. Centralize Documentation
Keeping all event-related documents, contracts, and communications in one central location. Nothing is worse than knowledge loss when people leave the company or switch positions.
With multiple vendors, team members, timelines, and logistical details in play, scattered information can quickly become a planner’s Achilles’ heel. By centralizing documentation, planners create a single source of truth where every detail resides, from contracts and floor plans to attendee lists and feedback forms.
Tools like cloud-based drives or specialized event management software can aid in creating this centralized hub, making information accessible to all relevant parties in real time. Such an approach minimizes the risk of oversight or miscommunication and speeds up decision-making. When every piece of data is at one’s fingertips, response times improve, and the planning process becomes a well-oiled machine primed for success.
12. Network with Other Planners
Networking is a goldmine for event planning tips. By sharing experiences and solutions, you can discover new shortcuts or tools that have worked for others in the industry.
Networking isn’t just about gaining; it’s about giving, too. Sharing one’s experiences and insights positions a planner as a thought leader and strengthens the event planning community. A robust network can also come in handy during emergencies. Need a last-minute vendor? A recommendation from a fellow planner in your network can be a lifesaver.
13. Start Early
As you know, planning an event is a monumental task. The more time you can give yourself to nail down every little detail, the better. So start as early as possible. This will allow you to maintain your sanity and give you an advantage when booking a venue, finding event staff, and putting out unavoidable fires.
14. Partner With an Event Agency
Sometimes, the best way to ensure your event is a success is to partner with an event agency specializing in helping companies host unforgettable get-togethers. Fortunately, we’ve already done the hard work of finding these organizations.
15. Plan to Scale
The SimplyBiz events team produces over 400 events a year. In 2021, the team adapted this ambitious event strategy to cater to virtual and in-person events by evolving their systems for scale. They looked for event technology that could cut down on manual tasks and increase automation—while investing in internal processes and skills to cater to in-person and virtual events. The resulting system enabled SimplyBiz to future-proof its event strategy while saving time.
Simplifying tech may be straightforward, but investing in internal processes can be more of a battle. Fortunately, we got you covered. Check out the below event production kits, loaded with tools and templates to help you create systems that scale:
16. Think Beyond Revenue with ROI
Measuring event ROI is a no-brainer. But tracking event ROI isn’t always easy. Luckily, marketing platforms like Bizzabo and HubSpot, attribution platforms like Google Analytics, and your company’s CRM software can all help you track event ROI.
It’s important to remember that you should be aiming to create value with your events, not just immediate monetary gain. An event that loses money but generates many high-quality leads may still be deemed successful.
17. Spend Time as an Attendee
It might sound counterintuitive but try spending time as an event attendee outside your current event planning workflow. It could save you from spinning your wheels when it’s time to make decisions for your event.
18. Work Faster with Artificial Intelligence
One of the more innovative event planning tips is to harness the capabilities of artificial intelligence to optimize the event planning process and enhance attendee experience. AI-driven chatbots, for instance, can handle attendee queries in real-time, ensuring swift responses without human intervention.
Powered by AI, predictive analytics can forecast attendance rates, helping planners make informed decisions about venue sizes or resource allocation. Additionally, AI-driven tools can personalize event experiences, suggesting sessions or networking opportunities to attendees based on their preferences or past behaviors.
By using AI, event planners can automate routine tasks, glean insights from vast data sets, and tailor events to individual attendee needs, all while saving time and boosting efficiency. AI doesn’t just enhance event planning; it revolutionizes it, enabling planners to work smarter and deliver unparalleled experiences.
19. Expect The Unexpected
Finally, with so many variables involved in event planning, not everything will always go as expected. It’s better to plan for this.
We recommend you schedule extra time for last-minute requests, especially in the final few weeks before your event. That way, you aren’t caught off-guard and will have enough time to accomplish what needs to get done.
Bonus: 10 Expert Event Planning Tips and Tricks
Feeling like those 19 tips are more like event management tips for beginners? Traditional strategies can be foundational, but thinking outside the box can offer unique advantages.
Here are some bonus event planning tips and tricks that can bring a fresh perspective to your next event:
- Themed brainstorming sessions: Instead of standard meetings, host themed brainstorming sessions. This ignites creativity and can lead to fresh ideas for event themes, decor, or activities. Think of sessions like “retro brainstorming” or “futuristic planning.”
- Crowdsourcing ideas: Engage your potential attendees early on by crowdsourcing ideas for the event. Use social media polls or online platforms to get suggestions for topics, activities, or menu items. This gives attendees a sense of ownership and tailors the event to their preferences.
- Gamify tasks: Make the planning process more engaging by introducing gamification. Set up challenges, rewards, or leaderboards for your team. This can help speed up tasks and inject some fun into the process.
- Eco-friendly planning: Consider environmentally-friendly event planning tips. This could mean digital tickets, sustainable decor, or zero-waste catering. Not only is this good for the planet, but it also resonates well with an increasingly eco-conscious audience.
- Interactive floor plans: Make use of augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) to provide interactive floor plans. Attendees can get a virtual event walkthrough beforehand, aiding navigation and increasing excitement.
- Pop-up surprises: Introduce unexpected elements, like pop-up performances, flash mobs, or surprise guest speakers. These spontaneous moments can become the highlight of your event, ensuring it’s memorable.
- Collaborate with local artisans: Engage local artists or craftsmen for unique event decor, souvenirs, or interactive workshops. This adds a unique touch and can often be more cost-effective.
- Digital swag bags: Instead of physical goodie bags, offer digital swag bags. This could include e-books, discount vouchers, online courses, or digital downloads. It’s eco-friendly and can often be more valuable to attendees.
- Mystery guests or speakers: Build anticipation by keeping one or two guest speakers a mystery until the day of the event. This generates buzz and keeps attendees curious and engaged.
- Feedback stations: Instead of traditional feedback forms, set up interactive feedback stations with touch screens or voice recording booths. This makes giving feedback fun and often garners more detailed responses.
Remember, the key to memorable events often lies in the details. By integrating some of these unconventional tips for event planning, you can elevate your event from great to unforgettable.
Your Turn: Efficiently Planning Your Event
The world of event planning is dynamic and ever-evolving. By keeping on top of the latest tips for event planning, being proactive, and always seeking ways to streamline your processes, you can save time and guarantee that each event you plan is memorable and runs seamlessly. Remember, it’s not just about working hard but also working smart.
Save time, work more efficiently, and own your events. While event hacks might be a stretch, these time-saving event tips will help reduce the noise and focus on your primary objectives.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for relevance and quality.