This week’s event planning expert is Keisha George, CMP. Keisha has been in events for seven years. She fell in love with event planning in college when she accidentally became the event planner for her student group. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, reading lyrics, and getting caught up in conscious rap and poetry.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from a prior mistake? I once learned to consider my audience when I ordered a delicious Italian feast for a lunch event with a client that runs a health-conscious company. Salad would have been a better choice! — Sam in New York
My lesson: Listen between the lines when it comes to event head counts.
Many times, budgets are tight and people will underestimate how many people will show up for an event in order to save money. Planners will try their best to get their numbers either slightly under what they think is actually going happen, or just right on. But they’re not always being honest or realistic with themselves as a result.
Planners: you are doing yourself a disservice. Yes, attrition is just a basic operating risk that you run when you’re doing events. You run an even bigger risk by under-guaranteeing.
Early in my career, while planning an event, my client gave me a certain headcount, but I noticed her attendee list was way larger than that headcount. What ended up happening is the day of the event so many more people showed up than the guarantee. There was a mad dash to just pump out more food, do more things. We were, fortunately, able to respond, but not in a manner that I was totally satisfied with.
And so, that is one big lesson I’ve learned and I hope to impart to planners. You may be saving money, but at what cost to the experience of your event?
You always want to make sure you’re being realistic with attrition planning and make sure you have a plan in place in case more people show up than you estimated.
What’s the number one thing people forget when planning an event? — Isabel in New York
I think the thing people forget for an event is what happens at the end.
When we’re planning events, there’s so much hype leading up to it—the planning, the load, and the actual event itself. But at the end, what’s going to happen? What do you do with your boxes? Has every vendor been paid? That sort of thing.
It’s the unglamorous parts of the event that get forgotten.
How do I budget properly for an event? — Isabel in New York
Leave room for potential risks. Factor in natural growth to your group. Factor in room for additional tech requests from your speakers. Factor in extra room for specialty foods you might want or need.
These unglamorous things are what people forget. Leave yourself some room to grow. I think that’s just basic budgeting, but it’s easy to forget that when you’re planning an event, big or small.
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