With so many aspects to be considered when planning an event, it can be hard not to overlook some of the finer details. Most of these smaller details aren’t the be all and end all of your event. Chances are your attendees won’t even notice if a few things go awry. But there are some pretty crucial things you want to try and avoid all together! Here are the seven mistakes you want to avoid when planning your event.
1) Not Setting Goals
This is at the top of my list of mistakes to avoid because every event needs to have goals. Not only is it hard, it’s virtually impossible to plan an event without having an idea of why you’re holding it and what your attendees can expect to get out of it. When planning any event, you need to figure out what you want to achieve as well as what you want your attendees to take away or learn. The answers to these questions will not only drive the goals you set but also lead to a whole bunch of other decisions that you’ll make down the line.
If you don’t set goals, how exactly can you determine if your event has been a success? First of all, it’s important to remember to make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. It’s great to hold an event, and they can be super fun, but there’s also a lot of work involved. I know you’re not holding an event just to pass the time. It’s got to be worth the time and money you put into it, and you won’t know that unless you’re able to somehow measure it.
For example, if your goal is to increase sales of a new training or service, you’ll want to include some content that revolves specifically around the problem that your training or service helps to solve. You could also give away a solution to a part of the problem, so your attendees have something to take away from the event. If they want the rest of the solution, however, they’ll need to purchase your product. You can then take a look at the sales that occurred during and immediately after the event to see how successful you were.
Here’s another example. If your goal is to build a community, it’s a good idea to create a private Facebook group or Slack channel for your attendees ahead of time so they can start to form relationships. At the event, make sure there’s plenty of spare time for them to mingle and network. In terms of venues, look for areas where people would naturally gather. Nice outdoor spaces with plenty of seating are ideal for attendees to gather, relax and get to know one another. Simple things like this will help your event to meets its goals.
2) Starting Too Big
Being ambitious is good, but you also need to be realistic. If this is the first event you’ve ever planned or held, you probably aren’t expecting to book a large hotel, commit to 250 hotel rooms and expect 300 people to pay $1,000 to attend your three-day retreat in Bali. Everyone has to start small. For a first event, you’re probably looking at having 10 – 15 people attend, (depending on your current audience and exposure). With small events, it’s also important to keep it to a local level. This way, there’s less stress and pressure on you checking over details at the venue and chasing vendors right up to the day of the event.
There’s so much to be learned from holding your first event. Don’t expect everything to go to plan. Learn from any mistakes you make so you can plan bigger and better events in the future! There’s no reason to start out big. All it means is that you’ll be spending more money and have more details to coordinate. Take the time to build up to a larger event once you’ve gained more experience and you’re sure you’re prepared.
3) Not Knowing Your Target Audience
The target audience for your event doesn’t need to be the same as your business’s ideal client avatar. It could be slightly different, or a subset of your usual audience. But it’s vital to the success of your event that you define this. One key reason you need to do this is so your messaging will resonate with your audience. And if your audience isn’t resonating, they’re not attending! Knowing your target audience is also a great way to build a sense of community. People like to be around others with similar interests – be it business, goals or lifestyle.
You should also niche as much as humanly possible (and appropriate). For example, an event titled “Social Media Marketing for Entrepreneurs” isn’t going to grab as much attention or attendees as “Facebook Marketing for Health Coaches”. There are thousands of courses and events aimed at entrepreneurs that teach social media skills, but how many are aimed specifically at health coaches and about Facebook? If a health coach reads the first title they’ll probably skip over it as they’re inundated with these kinds of promotions every day. However, if they see the second title, they’re more likely to have their interest peaked because you’re speaking directly to them.
4) Not Setting a Budget
I’m sure we all wish we had an unlimited budget for planning our events. The things we could achieve! If that were only the case… Sadly, money is a very real concern when planning an event. Before you even get down to planning, you need to have an idea of what you’re willing to spend. Of course, some costs could be offset by generating income during the event. Having sponsors, offering 1:1 coaching, and selling other products or services on-site could all generate income. Your budget will determine the type of event you can hold. For instance, you might dream of holding an event in that boutique hotel right on the coast in California. But how much is the room rental? Are the food and beverage costs through the roof? Have you thought about audio/visual? Taxes? Even if you do have income-generating activities, it might not be enough to offset this gorgeous, but very expensive, venue.
This isn’t to say that you can’t have nice things on a smaller budget. You just need to be clever about your spending. Foregoing the expensive venue for a cheaper one might allow you to have some killer giveaways and awesome guest speakers. As I mentioned earlier, knowing your target audience is key. If you know them as well as you should, you can probably tell what’s most important to them and increase spending in those areas while making compromises in others.
5) Not Having a Timeline or Plan
Events have the tendency to creep up on us. They’re a bit like Christmas in that way. One day it’s Thanksgiving, and you’re thinking, “I’ve got plenty of time! There are four whole weeks until Christmas”. Next thing you know it’s December 20th and you haven’t bought or wrapped a single present! Where on Earth did that time go!? When planning any event, there are certain things that you need to get nailed down as soon as possible. The date and location/venue are the most important. Once you’ve got that sorted you need to be looking for speakers and any vendors you might need. The best ones always get booked up fast so you’ll want to get them locked down early. Sometimes you can even save a bit of money by contracting early and locking in the current year’s pricing for events being held the following year.
Timelines also help with the all-important job of keeping you on track. I’ve always been a list girl. Give me a ‘To Do’ list and I’m happy. And crossing things off that list? Nirvana! It makes me feel so accomplished! I check on my timelines each Monday morning so I know what I need to achieve in that week. Doing this gets more important as you get closer to the event. In the last few weeks running up to the event, I check my ‘To-Do’ list on a daily basis just to make sure everything is going to plan. If you have staff or others helping you, disseminating the timeline ensures that everyone stays on track. Sometimes it can be helpful to share your ‘To-Do’ list with vendors as well. They don’t need access to the full list but it can be useful for them to know specific dates, such as final decisions on room layouts, move in, walk-throughs, practice sessions, etc.
6) Not Having a Contingency Plan
The first rule of events is “whatever can go wrong probably will!” I can’t tell you how many times we’ve planned a lovely outdoor event…. and it rained! Who would have predicted 47 degrees and raining in Scottsdale, AZ in April? I digress. My point is that without a contingency plan our guests would have had an absolutely awful experience. Not to mention that I would have had a nervous breakdown. The event might not have turned out exactly how I’d imagined, but thanks to the contingency plans we had in place, the guests still had a wonderful time.
Forgetting to make contingency plans is one of the biggest mistakes to avoid when planning an event. Your event might not turn out exactly how you pictured it, but at least it will still go smoothly if you have back up plans in place.
7) Not Having a Marketing Plan
You could plan the most fantastic event in the world, but it doesn’t matter if no one shows up. Marketing your event CANNOT be left until the last minute. I can’t stress this enough. Market your ass off! My rule of thumb is to start marketing at least three months before the event date. But the sooner you start, the better. And you’ll definitely need to allow more time for larger events. Be sure that your marketing efforts are going to attract the right people. If your event is going to involve travel and large expenses then people will need to plan it into their schedules and budgets. In all of your marketing, you need to answer the WHY. Why should people come to your event? Why is it going to benefit them? As a business owner, I think we all know that “Build it and they will come” sadly doesn’t work.
Planning events is all about attention to details. Some details can be overlooked and, chances are, your event will still run smoothly. However, the seven things we’ve just discussed could make or break your event. Whether this is your first or 50th event, keep these seven things in the forefront of your mind when planning any future event. And happy planning.