12 Event Operations Things You Need to Know - Learn About Event Planning

You’ve been working hard to gain your first event client.

And then… boom! You book one!

After the initial excitement sets in (and maybe you’ve popped some champagne to celebrate), the reality of what you have just agreed to becomes clear.

… you now have to plan a whole event.

But How? Where do you even start?

Hopefully, this guide to everything “event operations” will help ease your fears and get you on track to planning a successful event.

Understand Your Client

The very first step to a successful event includes fully understanding your client and their needs.

People seek out event experiences for a variety of reasons; it’s so important to fully grasp your client’s vision before putting any plans in place.

Topics you should be talking about in your initial meeting include:

  • Is this an internal vs external client?
    • This is often dictated by the type of employment you hold
  • What is their goal for the event?
  • Who is paying for the event?
    • Is it a person or a business?
  • What is the clients’ biggest priority?
  • What do the clients want to avoid?

Once you lay the groundwork of the purpose of the event, you are much better equipped to plan it.

Get Acclimated To Your Tools

Event professionals are typically very organized people.

But, events come with a plethora of details to pay attention to. No matter how “Type A” you may be, having the right tools on hand to keep yourself organized is essential to having a seamless planning experience.

When it comes to tools, there are two things you should pay attention to: internal organizational tools, and external communications tools.

Based simply on my own experiences, here are my recommended tools:

Internal Organizational Tools

  • Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite)
    • This includes everything from your gmail, to your google drive, to your google calendar
    • Google allows you to collaborate on every element of your project planning
    • Google calendar also gives you the ability to see your co-worker’s schedules, so you can effectively schedule meetings when everyone is available
  • HoneyBook
    • This is awesome for creating and sending proposals, keeping track of invoices, and developing workflows
    • We do most of our “work” within Honeybook, as it keeps all of our clients’ files organized
  • Slack
    • This is a great app to easily message your coworkers with quick questions/bits of information
      • We use slack when we can’t be together in the office, which makes it especially helpful in 2020
  • Voxer
    • This is another great app to communicate internally; you simply send voice messages back and forth, rather than physically calling and leaving voicemails
  • WhatsApp
    • Similar app to Voxer but allows you to quickly create curated groups or individuals to message with text, video, photos, etc. We find that WhatsApp allows for better threading and storage of conversations than regular text messaging, especially for group conversations.

Tip: Paying for Google Workspace gives you the ability to create a business specific email (info@inserteventcompanynamehere.com), which helps you look more professional.

Tip: Sync your Google Workspace with your Honeybook account so you can get notified about the status of your proposals via your Google email

External Communications Tools

While some of the tools listed below are the same as above, this list will explain how to use these tools in an outward facing setting, such as to clients or via advertising.

  • Honeybook
    • Your payments can be collected through here, and you can easily send things to clients via this platform
  • Squarespace
    • This is a super user friendly website building platform that offers many templates to help you create your dream site
  • Canva
    • Canva is a great tool to build out pricing brochures, logos, business cards, graphics, etc- all things you will want to share with clients!

Establishing A Budget

Once you have learned more about your client, event attendees, and gotten organized on the backend, it’s important to consider the financial restraints of this event.

Too many times, eager planners help clients envision a five-star event, only to struggle to provide their vision due to a tight budget.

Things to consider include:

  • What is the event budget?
  • Who is paying for the event?
  • Does the budget have any flexibility?
    • If you go over budget by $200 to secure the flowers the guest wanted, is it okay?
  • What event elements matter most to the client?
    • Usually, this dictates what you will put the majority of the budget towards

Understanding the financial situation from the beginning can help ensure you don’t overpromise and underdeliver.

Envisioning The Event

Now that the boring money talk is out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun stuff. The creative part of planning!

While all event professionals go through the creative process differently, this is the format we tend to stick to in my career:

  • Have Initial Brainstorming Conversation
  • Research Options
  • Present Mood Boards

Initial Brainstorming Conversation

After speaking to the client about budget, we like to transition our conversation into a fun one: let’s talk about your event plans!

During the initial brainstorm with the client, we ask things like:

  • Estimated number of attendees
  • Color scheme preferences
  • Theme preferences
  • “Must have” items
  • Things they do not like

We also encourage our clients to bring forth any photos they have found for inspiration. This helps us visualize what they have in mind!

Research Options

Based on the prior conversation, we research event elements in their budget and put together a few event options in the form of mood boards.

These mood boards can be physical boards, or virtual ones (we use Google slides).

A successful mood board can quite literally set the “mood” of the event; it highlights things such as colors, flower preferences, venue aesthetic, textures or patterns, etc.

It should be a visual overview of what the event should feel like.

Present Mood Boards

Once we have put together a few boards, we present them to the client. This leads to a great dialogue about what clients do and do not like, and guides us towards creating their ideal event.

Tip: Clients don’t always love one mood board the best. Be prepared for them to pull elements out of each mood board to create a unique event aesthetic- be flexible!

Get Planning!

When you have months to plan an event, it may feel like time is on your side. But if you relax too much in the beginning, you may be pressed for time in the weeks leading up to event day. Remember, events take months to plan for a reason.

Here are some tips to get organized:

  • Write out everything 
    • Create a master list of everything that needs to be done for the event, and continue to revise it. This should be an evolving document!
    • Tip: utilize Honeybook to build out this list as a workflow. That way, if you complete a similar event in the future, you can refer back to this built out list
  • Create a Timeline
    • Putting due dates on tasks throughout the duration of your planning will help ensure you are on track throughout the process
  • Focus on “Top Down” Planning
    • “Top Down” refers to focusing on the most important things first, and then settling into the details. Book your venue and key vendors before worrying about smaller event elements
  • Maintain Two-Way Communication
    • Providing periodic updates (weekly/biweekly depending on the size and scope of your event) to your client regarding what has been accomplished will help them feel at ease with what you are doing behind the scenes
  • Put Everything in Writing
    • Client decisions, vendor conversations, everything. Not only will this help you remember what was said, and is a great tool to reference months into the planning process when logistics are crazy, but it also benefits you legally, too, as proof of any decision that was made.

Executing

Event day is almost here! As you roll into your final weeks of planning before event day, here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Host a Dress Rehearsal
    • If you have the ability to access the venue early, consider holding a run through before event day. This can help identify any issues early on, and gives you time to solve them. At the very least, try to get into the venue a day or two before event day to get a clearer picture of what event day will bring
  • Nominate a Clear POC
    • POC = point of contact
    • No matter how much you prepare for an event, something is bound to go wrong day of. Decide who your point of contact, or decision maker, is ahead of time, so you aren’t left wondering who to run questions by on event day.
      • Note: This isn’t always the client. For instance, on wedding days, we encourage nominating the maid of honor or mother of bride to make decisions, so the bride & groom aren’t aware of any last minute malfunctions
  • Make a List & Check it Twice
    • Make a Run of Show (AKA a timeline)
    • Make a packing list
    • Make a list of vendor contacts
    • Make a list of attendees (if applicable)
    • Whatever you do, make a list of the details and bring it with you!

After The Event

Once the cake is cut and the raffle baskets have all been won, it’s easy to want to take a deep breath and relax. And you should… for a moment.

That being said, there are still things that need to be done.

After event day, don’t forget about these things:

  • Return Items
    • After most events, there are usually leftover items such as votives, table numbers, and favors. Make a plan with the client on when and how you will return these items to them
  • Send a Note
    • Depending on the type of event, it may be appropriate to send a note to the client, either thanking them for their service or congratulating them on their event. Send the note; maintaining relationships are so important in this business
  • Leverage Social Media
    • After a successful event, you will likely have a ton of great footage that showcases your event skills. With photographer permission (of course), utilize this on your platforms to brand and advertise your company
  • Follow up with Vendors
    • Taking the time to thank vendors and build a relationship with them is mutually beneficial; they help you do your job, and you help them do their job. Get to know them and their work, so you have vendors to recommend your clients use in the future

Hopefully, with enough preparation, your event will run seamlessly.

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