Updated: Mar 5, 2020
We all have made mistakes-- and hopefully learned from them. Mistakes are part of learning and can be very costly when planning events. A mistake can affect your budget, let down your guests, and even damage your reputation. Take this opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes and prevent them from happening to you.
Not Defining A Budget And/Or Not Sticking To It
Money management can be one of the most difficult parts of planning an event. Prior to planning your event, research, research, research! Once you are familiar with costs and fees, you are better prepared to create a realistic budget for your event. Before you spend your first dime, make sure you have created a budget template with built-in formulas so you always have real-time budget to actual numbers. List every possible expense you can think of, and apply a number to it. You can always modify the allocations as you finalize details, however, taking this step at the forefront of planning will help you make informed purchasing decisions and prevent you from having to scale back on specific elements at the last minute. Make sure to keep your budget updated as you contract for services and make purchases, and schedule a time to review it on a weekly basis.
Unexpected costs are the most common reason for going over budget. A best practice is to add a contingency line item for expenses that you may not have anticipated. And, remember that many of your service providers have additional taxes and gratuities noted in the fine print of their contracts.
Lack Of Details On Event Check-List
There are so many things to think about when planning an event, and keeping it all in your head or on a multitude of post-it notes is a recipe for chaos and overwhelm. One of the first things you should do once you decide to plan an event is to create a comprehensive checklist. It is the number one thing you can do to ensure your event is planned properly. A meticulously planned checklist will enable you to stay organized, focused, meet deadlines, and make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.
The perfect checklist is one that has all of your tasks listed in order of importance, includes deadlines, and assigns responsibility. Consider using a project management app such as Asana, Trello or Airtable, that will allow you to work collaboratively with everyone involved. Once you determine the format that works best for you, clone it and create additional checklists for packing, setup, and day of actions. Your checklist should include every single item you can think of, including reminders and line items to follow up on previous tasks.
Make sure to have sections for pre-planning, budgeting, venues, vendors, speakers, sponsors, ticket sales, marketing, promotions, scheduling, ordering/shipping, etc. The more detail you provide, the better prepared you will be.
No Contingency Plan In Place
This is one of the biggest mistakes in the event planning world. It is inevitable that “things” happen at the last minute (even to the most experienced planners). What’s important is that you have a “B” plan. This goes beyond the “what if it rains during my outdoor event plan”. Before your event, think about all the “what ifs” that potentially could go arise, and put plans in place to minimize the risks, and be prepared with an action plan to respond to last-minute obstacles. You can not predict the future, but you can plan for the unexpected.
We all like to believe in the best of people and frequently assume that with a signed contract everything is locked and loaded, ready to go. However, assumptions like these can be detrimental to your event. There is no shame in following up, one, two, or even three times. Make sure that your to-do list includes following up with all of your vendors, speakers, sponsors, and event staff. Add an action item to follow up 3-4 weeks prior to your event, and again the week of your event for final confirmations. Make sure you confirm times, dates, pricing, and all other details multiple times, and always be sure to have everything in writing.
Underestimating Set-Up Time
Have you ever noticed that when you are in a rush, everything seems to take longer? There is nothing worse than racing against the clock to ensure everything is set up and ready to go on event day. Often, the simplest tasks take the longest time. Make a list of everything that needs to be completed for setup and final review. Think about how much time each task will take and double it! If you find yourself with time to spare, congratulations! Use the time rest and visualize your successful event. It will be over before you know it!