Will's Week

Top 10 mistakes made by event planners

Top 10 mistakes made by event planners

In the colourful, frantic and precarious world of events there's a fine line between success and absolute catastrophic disaster. In an age where everyone fancies themselves as a 'professional' event planner, there are just so many factors to consider and so many things that can (and almost certainly will) go wrong if you don't know what you're doing!

Having said that, a great event is one of the most powerful ways to engage, entice and, above all, excite your target audience, so it's worth putting the effort in to get it absolutely right. In a largely unregulated industry, there's a great opportunity to stand out and be the best too, of course!
Check out our top ten event planning mistakes and oversights below and then, very simply, don't make them...

Here are the most frequent mistakes made by planners the world over:
1. Starting their events later than 7pm. There's a magic hour between six and seven when people are leaving work (and therefore have the perfect excuse to leave on time). But beware, if you leave too much of a gap between work and play, your guests may pop home 'to get changed'. If this happens, there's a 50% chance they won't bother to come back out, especially if it's raining! Start your event too early and something will turn up at work to ensure your guests won't turn up at your event...This is what I call the event industry 'Goldilocks' timezone...
8pm (1)
2. Choosing an awkward location (without laying on transport). If it is awkward to get to, don't tell your guests exactly where it is! With such great transport links in London (and Uber), location is less of an issue these days. From the Olympic Park to Blenheim Palace, you're never more than an hour and a half away. If your venue is not close enough to a tube or rail station then there are other ways. You can lay on cars or even a branded Routemaster bus which can add to the experience. This one time (at band camp) we were worried about a venue in an awkward location so we simply didn't tell the guests where it was! We made it a 'secret location' and bussed everyone in from Liverpool St. Amazingly, Innocent Drinks subsequently booked the venue and admitted that, had they known where the venue was, they might never have bothered to come in the first place! It just shows...
3. Skimping on food and drink. I can't tell you how many times I've banged on about this but harking back to my event timing point, people are hungry after work, you don't want to lose them en route (or early to McDonalds) so your event becomes their dinner as well as whatever you intend it to be. Feed your guests plentiful, delicious food and they'll be eating out of your hand as much as from their own..! 
Tobacco Dock
4. Forgetting the photographer. Any event photographer will tell you that they get called literally every day with people wanting to book them for the following day. Well, would you do that with the venue? Or the caterer? Didn't think so! Documenting your event is almost as important as doing it in the first place!! There may be 100 people at your event but there are 100,000 more who need to know about it and photos are the best way to extend your reach. If your event looks and feels great, your guests will become your very own publicists but there's nothing like a batch of professional shots to really communicate your brand message in a controlled way. And your event's awesomeness, of course! 
5. Treating entertainment as an afterthought. It's the heart and soul of your event. I can't tell you how many people plan their event and then slap a 'roaming' entertainer into the agenda at the eleventh hour. Ask any magician and he'll (or she'll, but mostly he'll) tell you that he picks up more last minute business than lastminute.com. This is both ill advised and unnecessary because there are plenty of amazing entertainment agencies who can strategically match your brand with original, exciting, engaging, memorable and innovative entertainment concepts. Just look what we did with Crowdfinders Live earlier this year - the entertainment reflected the Crowdfunding subject matter perfectly and, in many ways, stole the show! 
Entertainment
6. Thinking of the event as a stand alone entity. There's a massive opportunity to communicate and engage before and after, starting with an inspiringly worded invitation (which should make your event seem as exciting as the Oscars) and ending with....well, actually, it should never end because your aprés-event communication should progress and develop along with your relationship with your audience. That's the point. Think of your event as the central touch point within a (much) wider, ongoing campaign...
7. Missing the opportunity to personally address your guests - You have a rare captive audience! Don't shirk the opportunity to stand up and deliver your message, even if it's just a drinks reception. An event without any kind of speech or public address is a missed opportunity. Every time. Annoyingly, I can't even host a dinner without 'saying a few words' because I feel obliged to bring it all together. A good friend of mind looks at me knowingly every time I see him and mutters 'Hey Will, aaaaaalways selling!'. Well, if you don't sell it yourself, what if nobody else does...!?
Willspeaking
8. Creating an annoying queue at the entrance. That could mean the guest list or the cloakroom. There's nothing worse than running a clunky, manual guest list or having a clunky, manual badging and registration team to create an infuriating line outside a venue. This is particularly poignant in England, where it's raining. Bottlenecks are simply unacceptable at events because (most) people have been invited and don't expect to be cross examined behind hundreds or others being...erm...cross examined in front of them. If your guests are walking into your event 'hangry' (hungry, annoyed and angry) then you're on the back foot right from the outset. And out of the two feet you've got, that's not the foot you want to be on! Ever. I once ran a cloakroom because we were short of staff and I got all the raffle tickets muddled up - it was a nightmare at the end but at least at the beginning I had the opportunity to speak to every single guest as they arrived! A great ploy for any CEO to pull, I reckon! Maybe try it? 
9. Putting on a loud live band at just the wrong moment. How many times have you been at an event with a really interesting person and just when you're striking up a great conversation, the band..err.... strike up themselves. Yep, that! I love live music more than anyone else in the whole world (fact) but it's so annoying when it's a band you didn't ask for and you're trying to speak to someone. At 7pm! At an after party, a club or a wedding it's perfect. At the early stages of a networking event, not so much...'Rockaoke' on the other hand is totally different because the band becomes the event. It's all relative so assess your audience and tailor the environment accordingly...
Music
10. Thinking that everyone on your guest list will show up. They won't. Not even close in most cases. These days, there are at least seventeen events to go to every single night. Even though you've taken my aforementioned advice and your event sounds like the most exciting thing since the Olympics, at the perfect time, in the perfect place, with sumptuous, plentiful food and wine and with the greatest entertainment of all time to look forward to, you can still expect 40% of your, frankly, hard to please and ungrateful guests to find something better to do. Factor this in and double up if it's a large scale mass market event. Of course, if your guests have paid for a ticket, they're much more likely to turn up. There was a little phase where event organisers charged guests if they failed to show up but gave them a free ticket if they did show up! A nice idea in principle but in practice, in the current, cautious, time poor climate, it just means people don't sign up in the first place...
Oh, and perhaps most important if all....
11. Failing to follow up afterwards. You know that relieved feeling at the end of the night when you're knackered and the event's been a great success? Well it actually hasn't. Yet. It's all about the follow-up and capitalising on what you've just achieved. Get those event photos out the very next morning (see point about the photographer)  - any later than that and you've lost them. Your event needs to be the primary topic of conversation over coffee in the office next morning. The best way to do that is via an email entitled "Last night's photos" because everyone wants to re-live the moment (and see what they looked like!). Engagement. Engagement. Engagement...What happens at your event, stays on Facebook! 
Will Broome, CEO