Planning an event, whether for 100 people or 10,000, is a lot of work and can be a stressful endeavor. Successful execution requires months of preparation. Hundreds of decisions need to be made and approved. When the event finally arrives, last minute changes or an unexpected problem can rattle even the coolest and most collected events manager. But by planning ahead and anticipating challenges, you ensure a successful event that leaves both attendees and company leadership energized.
In our 40 years of experience, we’ve seen a lot, and answered countless questions about the event planning process. Here are a few we hear the most.
1. What’s the first step in planning an event?
Compile an experienced team. Working with vendors that have seasoned expertise in planning and executing events is the best way to ensure a successful event. When a company is well versed in event production, they serve more as a partner than a vendor, providing the knowledge and added workforce to help you plan and execute the event smoothly.
When working with an experienced event production company, for example, you can expect deep collaboration on all technical aspects from the first meeting through execution. They are there to learn about your company, your vision for the event, and propose ideas of how to best present your company’s message. This includes event staging, video, and sound. Some event production companies, like massAV, offer 3D renderings of the proposed event design, providing a clearer picture of what the event could look like.
massAV Production Manager Aaron Barbatti says it’s important for an event production company to talk to the team about what it will take to make the event happen.
“Communication is critical. My job is to ensure I’ve got a clear understanding of the clients’ needs and their overall vision. I then take that information to inform ‘boots on the ground’ about what’s expected of them so that there’s a seamless transition from pre-planning to execution,” said Barbatti.
In addition to discussing budget and timeline, your vendors should make you feel comfortable and provide ample information about how they can help you have a successful event. When an event partner tries to build a strong relationship from the beginning, you know they’ll be there when it comes time for the event.
2. How much will this cost?
When it comes to planning an event, it’s important to be up front about your budget so your vendors can craft a solution that makes the most of it. The cost will depend largely on the size of the event, the number of people staffing it, and the technology and equipment needed.
Event production companies will also ask whether you plan to live stream the event or simply record it. Will there be video that requires additional pre-event production? Is this event in one space or throughout an entire convention center? All of these decisions have a direct impact on the final cost.
3. I have an idea. Who can do it?
Beyond securing the venue, hiring a caterer, and booking speakers, you likely have a ton of ideas you’d like to incorporate into your event, but aren’t sure how to find the right company to hire. Power generators, live entertainment, and special requests can be difficult and time consuming to pin down. You may start with an online search, but unless you know someone who’s hired jugglers before, you’ll be left guessing about entertainment at the company’s circus-themed sales meeting.
Instead of wasting hours on Google, ask your event production company, venue management, or other vendors to help source and manage the particulars. They’ve seen everything and are likely to have a name of someone who can fill your request, or they may even be able to make it happen for you.
4. How long does it take to set up an event?
One of the most exciting parts of event planning is the moment the venue doors open, and setup begins. It can also be the most nerve wracking since every action is up against a hard and fast deadline.
“That’s when planning is critical,” said Sr. Project Manager Steve "Shep" Shepard. “You need to know what you are doing from the moment you hit the ground.”
Like cost, the time required to set up depends on the size and location of the event. For an event that begins in the morning, such as a conference or convention, setup will begin 24 hours before or more depending on the time needed for rehearsals with speakers and performers.
Depending on your venue and the booking, there may be only limited time for setting up check-in. Staying in touch with your event production team and other vendors about advance access to the venue will help them prepare their teams and design an efficient setup.
5. How can we integrate our brand?
In the age of social media, companies are looking to infuse branding into all aspects of their event, from creating unique hashtags to ensuring the live stream includes the company logo. This can include creating sets that serve as “Instagrammable moments” throughout the event or interactive social media opportunities where an @ mention of your brand gives users the opportunity to ask a keynote speaker a question.
Event planning often relies heavily on swag and other physical pieces to keep a brand top of mind, but by working with your event production team, you can also integrate your branding across all visual and digital assets of the event as well.
6. What about live streaming?
Live streaming and other ways of accessing content at events is becoming the norm. According to Barbatti, companies want remote access to be high-quality and are moving away from desktop applications and free online options because they’ve been disappointed with the product.
“Companies want to take it to the next step, with clear video, no lag time, multiple cameras, and effectively getting message out to the team,” said Barbatti.
If live streaming is something your company is considering, it helps the planning process to speak with the event production team early,” said massAV Technical Director Chris Casimiro.
“Once we find out we will incorporate live streaming, it activates another set of questions for the event,” he said. “How large is the audience? Will it be interactive? Will there be other remote streaming site?”
Communicating with the event production team not only helps you get the kind of live streaming experience you’re looking for, you can also explore innovative options that will take the event to the next level.
7. What happens if there’s a problem or a last-minute change?
This is where having a solid plan and an experienced team really matter. No matter how much you’ve tried to anticipate issues, something unexpected sometimes happens. Here are a few things we’ve learned about keeping cool under the pressure of live events.
Communication is key – If a problem or last-minute change arises, let your vendors and production team know as soon as possible.
Stay calm – Take a deep breath and compose your thoughts. You will need to keep cool when talking to your vendors about options and giving your team directions on how to make changes happen.
Trust in your team – Your staff has been working toward this moment for months. Your event production team, venue management, and other event vendors are professional, ready to handle even the craziest of challenges. Once you’ve directed them to act, focus on your role.
Shepard, who has more than 15 years of experience in event production, tells his team to expect constant change. He said when a client has a change or problem, he keeps a positive attitude and focuses on doing what he can to help.
“When a client comes to us and they are nervous, it’s our job to stay solutions-focused and to help bring their event to life. We really try to tell them not what we can’t do, but what we can do,” said Shepard. “We try to ease the pain as much as we can and find solutions that align with their vision.”