“Anyone can plan an event!” The age-old adage that is used much too often in our industry. While this might be true to a certain extent, there is a stark difference between planning an event and planning a successful event. Let me give you an example:
Last weekend I was at a wedding. Sure, it was decorated like every Pinterest board you’ve dreamed of, a beautiful cake waiting to be devoured by hungry guests, and a DJ playing “The Way You Look Tonight,” but, there was one very noticeable problem – no one was there.
The bride and groom never planned transportation from the cocktail hour at the hotel to the venue where their ceremony would take place, thus, pushing their whole timeline back multiple hours and ensuing mayhem among the wedding party and guests.
What I am trying to get at is, whether you plan one major event a year, or 10 small events each month, the proof is in the pudding that you must be detailed-oriented and organized to produce a successful event. If that doesn’t come naturally to you, take a page out of my book and follow the tips below for guidance on how to stay organized when you are knee deep in event planning.
- Create folders
Some people might say it is unhealthy to compartmentalize your feelings, but this is definitely not the case when it comes to planning events. As an event coordinator, it is critical for me to create a folder for each event that I plan, and you should do the same. To take it a step further, you should also do this in the digital world- I’m talking email, file sharing services, you name it. Keeping all your documents and files for an event in one, easily accessible place is key to success.
- Create lists
You might as well call me the unofficial sponsor of sticky notes (or official – Post-it I’m looking at you) because all I ever do is make lists. I make lists of what I need to do; I make lists of what other people need to do, I make lists of what documents bands and food trucks still owe me – the list goes on and on. Lists are a crucial part of staying organized during events and holding yourself accountable to deadlines. By writing out the tasks you need to complete, you can visualize what needs to get done and prioritize the tasks accordingly.
- Create open dialogue
Constant and clear communication is a must in staying organized. It is just as imperative to keep in touch with vendors during the planning process as it is with your staff to be prepared come event day. In the weeks leading up to a big event, take the child’s birthday card approach, and send all staff the who, what, where, when and why of the event. Then follow this up with a staff meeting to ensure everyone feels comfortable with their roles at the event. This extra time set aside to pre-plan ensures everyone is ready to rock it come any hiccups on event day.
- Create spreadsheets and documents
If nothing else I have said today has gotten through to you, please let this, as it is vital to staying organized during events. I don’t care if you have the best memory in the world; there is no way you can keep track of the benefits of 30 sponsors, which food trucks will be at your event each week, AND the name of that band you saw last weekend and now want to book without putting it in a spreadsheet – the is the most essential event planning tool!
It is event checklists (or should I call them the Holy Grail of event planning), typically created in Excel, that have everything from each person involved with the event’s contact information, to promotional timelines, to even the shopping list for the event. These documents are what you sit back and look at after a long day before an event and go “shoot; I almost forgot the transportation from the cocktail hour to the wedding venue.”