Just starting to delve into the wonderful and unpredictable world of arranging events? Feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all? Fear not, we’ve all been in your shoes!
Something will always go wrong!
No matter how thoroughly you plan or take every precaution, you can’t control everything. Think extreme weather that blows off stages. Try not to worry about every scenario (easier said than done!). Instead, put as a proactive event plan as you can, which will cover most of your bases, and be mentally prepared to be reactive to all the inevitable issues that crop up along the way!
A few years back, Alex was working at a music festival where a crowd of 50,000 fans were waiting for Nikki Minaj who was stuck in traffic. Not much you can do there.
Always have a contingency plan
It is very wise to have a plan B and maybe even C-Z! Identify your potential “problem areas” ahead of the event week so they can be easily dealt with as they occur. Reg systems crash so have a simple Excel sheet of attendees. Venues sometimes back off last minute so always have a couple in the back of your mind which are a phone call away. Remember all these contingencies don’t have to originate from you, delegate to make efficient use of your time.
As a rule, always overorder 10–15 % of what you need and put 10–15% extra on the budget as hidden costs will always appear.
There is always a solution
A myriad of problems will pop. The most important thing is not to freak out. There is a solution. It may not be obvious, but it exists. You will be amazed at what you can achieve under pressure with insufficient turnaround time. Try to stay calm and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues/contacts for help.
When we were at SaaStock Berlin one of our partner’s banners never arrived. With the event happening the next day, we were pressured for time. We found a supplier who could make it but was on the other side of town. Alex took three trains in the 35-degree heat to pick it up and got strange looks carrying 2×3 m rolled banner on the way back, and we had to figure out at 6am of the day of the event how to put it up without a construction, but in the end, our partner had the representation we had promised them.
The events world is small, be careful who you offend!
Events people are networking pros, it is very easy for gossip to spread fast — think before you bad mouth someone. A bad recommendation can reduce your chance of hiring that new employee/ contractor or getting hired yourself.
When we started working for SaaStock, we were coming from entirely different industries, yet it turned out we had a heap of connections in common. Sound people, caterers or print shops are not that much so how you treat each and talk about them is essential regardless where your event management career takes you.
Your contacts are everything!
You never know how much you may need a last-minute developer, designer or just general insight into a new location (especially when an inevitable last-minute problem crops up!). You can never have too many friends at the AV or print shop.
When you call them on a Friday afternoon at 5pm as they are about to close and head off for the weekend, it will be the ones that are your true mates that will be willing to do you a favour. And remember when you are asked to do a favour for someone, be kind to them and say yes.
Excellent communication with your sales and marketing team is essential
These three departments work hand in hand. It is absolutely vital everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives. For conferences and trade shows you may well find that the sales team has gone rogue and sold ANOTHER bespoke sponsor package the week before the event. I have been there, and it’s no fun. So make sure you have the right communication channels in place, and occurrences like that are identified as early as possible. Longer lead time is all any event manager can wish for! Weekly catch-ups before the stress takes its toll makes a vast difference.
You can never please everyone
There will always be someone who comes to the Registration Desk to say that the Content Room is too cold, with another guest saying it’s boiling. Try to provide the best event experience possible for the majority of people. You will probably experience the odd angry attendee or sponsor, and the only thing you really can do is stay calm and listen to the feedback without jumping to defensive mode.
You would be surprised what great suggestions may spur that would improve the attendee experience for next year. The phrase “kill them with kindness” really comes into practice with a disgruntled customer. If that doesn’t work, there’s usually networking drinks to look forward to!
Teamwork makes the dreamwork
A good events team will have each other’s back onsite. An environment where all the team mucks in to get the job done, usually means that problems get solved more effectively and that everyone makes it to bed at a reasonable hour on set-up day.
Treat your colleagues as you would like to be treated yourself and you will have the basis of a great collaboration. As the events team, we are usually on location 3–4 days before anyone else from the team. We make it a priority to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together and grab a beer after an exhausting day. The same goes for volunteers, they are giving up their free time, so treat them well, give them adequate training and precise feedback.
Event kit essentials
Sharpie, Gaffa Tape, Cable Ties and Box Cutter! It really is the little things that make a huge difference.
Don’t forget about yourself!
Events can be extremely tiring. With travel, multiple events in a row and little sleep, you have to remember to take care of yourself. I always pack Vitamin C (to prevent the inevitable post-event illness), painkillers (in case networking drinks takes its toll, or I am wrecked after mantling and then dismantling 13 booths), deodorant (unfortunately at the end of the event day you aren’t usually at your freshest) and water. With so much going on, we always seem to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. You may not feel like eating out of stress but do it.
If you remember one thing from this list of things make it that: stay hydrated and be proactive with your self-care and you will make it through a busy events season! This way you will be able to reap the incredible high of having put something massive together and brought together and connected hundreds, if not thousands, of people.