Planning your first event is like walking through burning coal without any preparation, no matter how much you’ve read about event management or how many events you’ve attended or volunteered.
You’ll always remember your first event, and chances are you won’t remember it fondly. But that’s totally normal. Only practice will help you hone your skills. You’ll make several mistakes you didn’t see coming, and face many unexpected challenges. But the good thing is that with each issue you solve, you’ll feel stronger and better prepared to run better events.
So if you’re about to plan your first event, be ready to mess it up. But also be ready to make the most out of it. After all, this is how we learn: by making errors, understanding what we did wrong, and improving next time. However, there’s a quick list of things you’ll want to remember when planning your first event. You can overcome these mistakes by being aware of them and trying to be more conscious about the entire process.
If you’re interested in preparing yourself a bit and approaching event planning with the right mindset (which might reduce the gravity of your errors), check out these things to avoid:
Mistake #1. Constantly confusing the details
One thing that makes event planning so difficult is the need to juggle numerous details and updates. Remembering all those details and updates, however, can be tricky, especially if you don’t have the experience. After all, as an event manager, you’ll be the point of contact between stakeholders and service providers, attendees, speakers, sponsors, and your team members.
This information overload can overwhelm you. That’s why we recommend you have an event action plan. Write down every single concept and make a note of every single new piece of information comes your way.
Keep track of everything in a notebook or even on Post-its. The only thing you’ll have to do is review all these notes regularly and keep them updated. This “external memory” will help you better manage the information and make up-to-date decisions.
Mistake #2. Not considering the law of cause and effect
Let’s say that you’ve agreed with the catering company to have enough food for 500 people at your event, yet only 400 people registered, and it’s unlikely you’ll get many more additional attendees before the event starts.
When you’re caught up in planning fever, you might easily forget to update the catering company with the new headcount. Subsequently, you’ll end up paying for catering for 500 people, and waste money and food.
One thing to remember when planning an event is to have your mind in the right place and be very careful about the way things influence each other. After all, event planning involves a chain of actions that are bound together. One simple change can greatly affect all the other logistics. So be careful about the law of cause and effect.
Mistake #3. Spending more than you initially planned
This is an error even seasoned event professionals make. Sometimes it’s difficult to predict how much an event will really cost, so you might end up running out of money. To keep this from happening, always add 15%-20% to the initial expenditure plan. This will give you enough margin to operate within the established sum.
Mistake #4. Not empathizing enough with your attendees
What may seem logical or correct to you may be totally confusing or bad for your attendees.
Let’s say you’re proud of designing a very intensive event program with very few breaks. You think your guests will appreciate getting so much valuable information and listening to so many speakers—after all, that’s why they came to the event. However, very soon you’ll discover that overly exhausted attendees will stop enjoying the event, or worse, decide to stop attending your events altogether.
Make sure to always put yourself in your attendees’ shoes. Always ask yourself how they will feel. Will this decision be beneficial for them? And always remember that your guests aren’t superhumans. They need plenty of breaks and enough support to deal with the event logistics (such as the registration, the check-in, attending the right sessions, moving through the venue, ...).
Mistake #5. Focusing on the wrong things
As we previously discussed, planning an event is extra difficult because of the multiple details you need to juggle at the same time. Make sure you’re prioritizing accordingly. Focus mainly on the core structure of the event and the tasks that come first in the logistic chain.
For example, don’t organize a cocktail dinner without knowing how many attendees will be attending this specific dynamic. Take things one at a time and always concentrate on the tasks that can influence the overall structure of the event.
Mistake #6. Not communicating effectively with your team
Planning an event is stressful even for a veteran team. There are crucial moments when one decision can make or break the entire event. If you don’t know how to communicate with your team correctly, you’ll run the risk of sabotaging your attendees’ experience.
Always make sure that all information flows freely within your team members. React promptly to other people’s questions or concerns. Run weekly meetings so that everyone can express any issues or questions regarding the event logistics. Also, make sure to communicate every update about the event so that everyone has the most up-to-date information at all times. Finally, make yourself available to your team members as much as possible and have constructive conversations with them.
Making mistakes when you plan your first event is inevitable. But don’t worry: This first step will give you the necessary confidence and knowledge you’ll need to plan your second event, then your third, then your tenth. With every event you plan and run, you’ll gain the practice and expertise to climb one more step higher on the ladder of event management. So go ahead and make mistakes confidently. This will help you learn and become one of the best event professionals out there.