Event planning can be difficult. You have to consider the major decisions and every little detail. In event planning, every problem contains its own solution – a lesson you can apply when planning the next event. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid during your event planning efforts:
1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Keep your Head above Water
Getting too deeply involved in minute details can completely derail your event planning process. The bigger the event, the more vulnerable you are to getting overwhelmed with tiny details, wasting valuable time you should have invested in the major planning issues. During the event planning process, focus on the theme and colors, not the individual decorations. Sketch out the menu rather than planning each dish. Develop a general budget without creating a line item for every supply. Develop a schedule with milestones (caterer contract signed, facility rented, invitations sent, etc.). Don’t plan the timing of every activity necessary or you’ll spend all your time on your schedule! Consider bringing on someone to help you manage the process – a volunteer from your organization, a friend or family member, or a temporary worker.
Remember that you can’t operate effectively if you are under severe stress. Having an emotional breakdown can ruin your event. An important aspect to event planning is keeping your cool. Keep your priorities in order. Use others to fetch, fix, and decorate. You’re the planning guru. You’re responsible for the smooth, successful accomplishment of major decisions, not the table decorations.
2. Invest Time in Planning the Food and Bar – Keep your Guests Happy
Big events, unless they’re staffed by a big group of volunteers, should be catered. Catering includes both the food and the bar. When you select your caterer, be sure to have a detailed written contract that specifically identifies the menu, the bar setup, itemized costs, a clear schedule, and specific performance standards that could influence the amount you finally pay. If the caterer lets you down, you shouldn’t be obligated to pay the amount you agreed to in the contract.
Remember that the caterer will be “invisible” to your guests. If the menu isn’t delicious, the setting isn’t attractive and appetizing, and the bar doesn’t function well, it will reflect on you, not the caterer. If you’re planning an event for charity or fund-raising, these things may be critical to success. Be sure your caterer is responsible and that you’ve checked out their recommendations before signing the contract. Your reputation depends on it.
3. Don’t Rely on a Handshake – Get it in Writing
Almost every aspect of event planning should be documented in a contract. No matter what it is – Whether the tablecloths and napkins, the entertainment, the clean-up, the facility, or seating – make sure you have a written agreement with your provider that clearly identifies what you’re paying for, what you expect from them, and the precise time they will provide their goods or services. This documents your providers’ commitments to you and gives you a clear base from which to assess their performance.
Settling for a friendly handshake will set up you for disappointment and added expense. Without a written agreement, you may that your provider has overbooked his service or changed his price on you at the last minute. You can avoid this crisis by having written, formal contracts that cover your needs. If the worst should happen, a contract also gives you a strong argument in court proceedings over payments (or lack thereof).
4. Don’t Go Bankrupt – Successful Event Planning Involves a Budget
Be sure that you have a clear budget for your event. If you’re doing it for hire or for an employer, they’ll give you a number to use as your planning base. Of course, they’ll respect you if you save some money. If you’re depending on donations or paying for the event out of your own pocket, you should have in mind a minimum and maximum amount that you’re able to spend. Do enough research to have a realistic idea of what different event planning elements will cost (caterer, entertainment, facility rent, decorations, etc.). Some of these costs will be more flexible than others. You may not be able to do much about the price of the facility, but you can make menu choices that will influence the cost of catering. And you have a lot of room to negotiate for affordable entertainment – anywhere from an orchestra to a one-man band. Decide which parts of your budget are most important and fund those first. Try to buy decorations and other supplies from a discount outlet or in bulk. Do your homework during event planning, and you’re more likely to get the most out of your money.
5. Don’t Get Over-stressed OR Over-Relaxed
In successful event planning, much work is done far in advance. This helps reduce the organizer’s stress level. It also assures that the best goods and services are available at a reasonable cost. But sometimes, when things are going great well in advance of the event, it’s a temptation to sit back and take it easy for a while. But take care – just the time you think it’s safe to sit down, the roof falls in. Keep up on event planning progress by checking in on others, offering to help resolve problems, or making a few important phone calls during those “down times” when things seem really quiet. Don’t let things slide until tomorrow, or they may become much bigger problems that demand more time or money to fix than if you had been there to cut it off at the pass.
If you’re event planning is thorough, and your schedule and budget are well thought-out, you should have some planned times for relaxation. Use them as scheduled, not as they seem to come. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a crisis with limited resources and few options. The time to slow down and relax is usually the day of the event. Everything’s set up and in gear. You’ve done your job, and the event is coming off without a hitch. You can afford to relax and enjoy the event because you were on top of things in the earlier event planning stages.