What Event Planners Wish You Knew about Event Planning

When I graduated with my degree and experience in event planning, I happened to step out into the worst economy my generation had known. Every major company was shying away from events, cutting their event planning teams and giving any event-based tasks to either the marketing department, Human Resources, or an administrator (who all had pretty hefty workloads of their own!)

As the economy started to get better, budgets started to once again be allocated to events. Emphasis on marketing events, celebratory events, incentive trips, and the like began to come back into the forefront. However, the sentiments of the post-market-crash lived on. Budgets were cut for events, and planners were expected to deliver the same quality of events with a budget that was slashed in half. Vendors had to begin “getting creative” with their pricing and offerings, and many planners expected an incentive to book.

Here’s what we, as planners, wish you knew about event planning:

It takes longer to plan an event than you think. When quoting pricing to clients, sometimes they’re taken aback at the amount of hours I estimate. Between research, site visits, phone calls, vendor calls, creating timelines, rehearsals, day-of coordination and post-event reporting, you’re looking at a lot of time devoted to your event. I always track my hours and send to clients during our first event together, weekly, so they can see exactly how much time I am spending and I can manage their expectations.

$2500 will not get you a substantial amount of food for 500 people. There is, I think, a myth circulating that food and beverage is not expensive. The expectation that a small budget will deliver a substantial meal to a crowd is a dangerous one. I’ve attended events before where the parent company or planner allocated a huge part of their budget to the venue, and served chips and salsa as the food. Not only was the food depleted quickly, guests left early because they felt as though the event was over. I know the food vendor well, and they did set the expectations ahead of time.

No, I don’t think we should give a guarantee of 300 when we have 600 guests coming. Unless your events have a history of 50% attrition, it is not smart to underestimate when it comes to very obvious facets of the event: Food, tables and chairs (rentals), amount of time your vendors should stay. Picture this: You arrive at an event a fashionable half-hour late, grab a drink at the bar, and go over to the buffet, and there are no plates left. You’re left standing in line waiting for the caterer to wash and dry the plates and replenish the buffet. You finally get to the buffet, and realize that the serving dishes are looking depleted. You ask for more chicken, and the server tells you that it’s the last of what was ordered. Then, you try to find a place to sit or stand and eat your food, and all of the tables/chairs are taken. Once you are able to find a surface to put your plate on, the food is cold. There’s now about an hour left in the event, and the DJ stops playing and starts packing up. He was only contracted for 2 hours, for a 3-hour event. What’s your perception as a guest? Oh, I guess the event is over.

One point of contact is always preferred. We love working with your entire team, and collecting ideas from those who know your brand and company best. When it comes to final decisions, we need one person ti give the go-ahead and stick with it. It’s a waste of time and money to have one member of a client’s team confirm something, and then another person change the game at the last minute. Having an organizational chart for the day of the event is helpful in case the main contact is unavailable and we need to confirm something.

Deadlines are not arbitrary. We create deadlines, and encourage sticking to them, because we know that it takes 48-72 hours to prep food, at least 24 hours to gather items added to a rental order, or a week to get items printed. Additionally, we do not want to deal with the headache of a last-minute order, rush shipping or delivery charges, or not receiving print materials in time.

Whenever I attend an event, I can see where the host(s) skimped and where they splurged. I notice when there are I’s that are not dotted and T’s that are not crossed. Sometimes, this is a result of bad planning on the event producer’s part. Most of the time, though, it’s a result of mismanaged expectations on the part of the event stakeholders.

What do you wish people knew about event planning?