At Maribeth Smith & Associates, Inc., we have grown to know three types of clients. There are the clients who dream of hosting an event, but need us to assist in molding their goals and vision. Another type of client has an existing event and they are interested in transforming it or an entirely new start. A third type of client has set sail into unchartered waters and has an event in motion and realizes they are in over their heads and need our help to pull it together and execute. We appreciate each of these clients and the unique opportunities they pose. Whether you are hosting a business meeting, a national convention, a fundraising gala or a celebration, the operational elements to consider are similar. Here are a series of event planning pitfalls to avoid regardless of the type of event you are hosting.
- Clear Event Goals – More than any other topic here, it is fundamentally critical to have a clear understanding of “why are we doing this event?” Leadership must have consensus around your goals and those goals should drive all decision making. Is it a fundraiser, is it a friend-raiser or both?
- Realistic Timeline – Events take a considerable amount of time to plan and require significant human resources to execute. Make sure it is the appropriate time to add to your workload. For example, are you short staffed, are you also raising money for a campaign, are you competing with yourself because there are other priorities? Do you need outside support from an event planning firm?
- Attainable Expense Budget – Events can be expensive. Consult with an expert to help you develop a realistic event expense budget. If you don’t plan events for a living, you may be surprised to learn about things like corkage fees or service charges or just the pure reality of catering and audio visual costs. You may also forget line items like parking, signage and volunteer uniforms. Always include a contingency line for surprises.
- Attainable Revenue Budget – Event experts advise that events can take up to three years to break even. We recommend you build sponsorship packages to cover event expenses. Individual ticket sales and any onsite fundraising should be profit towards your bottom line. This model takes time and a serious focus on fundraising. Sidebar: When you develop sponsorship benefits packages, be sure not to promise things that cost you significant money to execute. Keep sponsorship money as ‘fluid’ as possible – i.e. Don’t commit to enhancement things like a photo booth sponsorship. You may need to cut that photo booth if you need the money to pay for something critical like food.
- Clear and Concise Message – Have you ever been to a formal gala event and suddenly you are singing “Happy Birthday” to someone you don’t know in the audience? Remember why you are hosting your event. All programing should be geared toward delivering that message as clearly and concisely as possible. Everyone should leave your event with a very clear understanding of who was hosting the event and why they were there.