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Beginners Guide to Event Planning: 10 Simple Event Rules


10 Beginner Event Planner Rules: Don't Forget the Ketchup

Hosting a large event like a trade show or an industry conference takes a lot of planning. Sometimes, you can get so focused on the big picture that you forget about the details. Before your next event, make sure you have followed these 10 rules.

Choose a Location That is Easy for Attendees to Access

When deciding on a location for your event, first begin with access. Are you looking to locate your event in a city that attendees can easily fly, drive, or catch a train to? Once they're there, how will your attendees get around? Do your research and coordinate with your event partners (your local CVB or DMO is great for this) and ensure that your attendees have all the information they need to find the venue, networking events, and hot spots to visit while they're in town.

Event planners need to think about parking space as well as the maximum capacity of buildings and rooms. Most people will want to park near the event, so look for a hotel, conference center or similar building with plenty of room.

Nearby garages can expand the amount of parking space you have, but you'll need to tell attendees where to find the garages and how much it costs to park.

Share the Event's Schedule With Attendees

Let everyone know your event's schedule by sharing it via email or a mobile event app. Use hashtags like #eventprofs and the name of your conference or trade show to share information on Twitter. You should also post schedules at the event to help attendees make the most of presentations and other opportunities.

Check for Inconsistent Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi quality can drop quickly as more people arrive and connect to the internet. You probably can't do much about a venue's Wi-Fi quality, but you can use a mobile event app that stores information and regularly syncs with its database to make sure attendees get updates as soon as they can connect. (Good news, PCMA says that these convention centers are upgrading their Wi-Fi soon!).

Provide Good Signage to Help People Navigate the Event

The bigger your event is, the harder it becomes for people to find booths, stages and vendors. Posting large, colorful signs will make it easy for all attendees to navigate your event without constantly asking staff members for help.

We also love the digital signage that more and more venues are incorporating into their event spaces. Have a speaker or session change? Just like your mobile event app, now your signage can easily update at the click of a button.

Hire (and Train!) Enough People to Staff Your Event

You may need to hire several types of people to staff your event. Your specific needs will depend on the size and type of event that you host. Typically, you can expect to hire security guards, audio-visual professionals, greeters, and janitors.

Remember the signage rule before? While it will help you out tremendously, do remember that it will never replace the ease and importance of a customer service desk. For your attendees and your exhibitors/sponsors, be certain to set up a spot where they can come to mitigate questions, concerns, or just say hello.

Bring Dollies and Hand Trucks to Help People Set Up

Exhibitors and sponsors who rent booths for your event may not have the equipment they need to haul heavy items like tables and displays. Providing some dollies and hand trucks will make your event more efficient and encourage exhibitors to return next year. When I was a planner at the Nonprofit Technology Network, we made it a priority to bring extra extension cords, packing tape, and simple tools to help out our vendors.

Take note, though. Some venues, due to labor or liability rules, limit the ways in which the event planner or host organization can lend a helping hand. Again, do your research and work with your event team to ensure you are compliant with your venue and vendors but still extending a customer service oriented brand.

Get Permission to Use Songs

If you plan to play music at your event, then you should make sure you have permission from the artist or record company so you can avoid potential lawsuits. You can also contact a performing rights organization (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC for permission.

This is a helpful tip to pass along to your speakers as well. Most professional speakers already know and practice this rule, however, your industry experts might not realize or know that they'll need to get permission.

Have Someone Document the Event

Whether this is your first event or your hundredth, you should have someone document the occasion so you can include it in your portfolio. Having video clips of successful events can convince future clients to hire you instead of a competitor.

While you're documenting, update or begin putting together your event planning standard operating procedures. Especially for those annual events that you only do once a year, it's a great way to ensure that a crucial detail is never missed.

Contact Local Media Outlets to Publicize & Market Your Event

Put together an integrated marketing and communications plan so that you know how you'll be attracting attendees and promoting the program and speaker. Here are some easy ways to get the news out about your event:

  • Co-market the event with your sponsors and exhibitors through email and direct mail
  • Write a press release and send it to media outlets in the area, including online newspapers, as well as radio and television channels. Getting the media involved gives you an inexpensive way to publicize your event and attract more attendees.
  • Use social media marketing and boost your posts so that people who might not normally known about your event get access to the information

Solidify Your Food and Beverage Plans With Your Caterer or Venue

Depending on the location and size of your event, you'll need to put together a food and beverage menu and prepare your BEOs. Talk to your caterer or event team at the venue before the event to make sure you know exactly what foods, drinks and services are available. You'll give them initial numbers based on your research or event history, then update it to final order numbers 3-7 days prior to the event begins.

Get everything squared away before the event starts, or you'll find yourself trying to solve catering problems when you need to focus on other things.

And make sure they remember to bring the ketchup. No one wants to eat dry French fries.