Everything You Need to Know About Event Planning

Planning a conference is hard work. I now have a mad appreciation for event planners because I never knew the level of intricacy and how many items are contingent upon one another.

But after it’s over - it’s one of the most rewarding feelings to see a team come together to pull it off.

Here’s months of coordination, research and planning in picture form:

I mean, come on - could the O.C. be any more beautiful?

It’s easy to have a super successful event with views like that and amazing food and people!

But behind the scenes, if I had to do it over again or offer advice, here’s what I would refine:

Document Everything.

Down to the very last detail. It will help if you have to do it again. It may seem tedious, but save every email. Even if you didn’t end up pursuing something - that way you have a paper trail of “why” you decided not to do it. Which, I promise, will come in handy.

Tour the Space Beforehand.

When we showed up, it was the first time we walked the space at our pre-con meeting. I wish we would have seen it prior because it would have helped us understand where signage was going, where the A/V table was, where outlets were, how close the courtesy monitor would be to the stage, where the go-bo would shine, what time sunset was - all details we had to think of through looking at floor plans and other company event photos.

Don’t Print Until the Last Minute.

There will be last minute changes. Save yourself time and money but holding off on printing everything until you get there. By back-up cartridges and reams of paper.

Use a File Transfer Service.

Our Powerpoint presentations were huge. Because I work for a healthcare company, we can’t use flash drives and we have file restriction limits via email. File transfer service was the way to go. Create a folder in Google drive and upload your latest versions there that way you have the version saved on your desktop/network, the one in your email AND the one in your cloud - so you have emergency options. Which, we needed because my computer crashed multiple times embedding videos into Powerpoint.

Save by Version/Revision.

We had multiple documents going around and it can get tricky when multiple people on a team are making edits to the same document. Either save the file extension name with your initials, what version it was, the last date it was saved - something to differentiate between who the last person to touch the document was.

Make your run of show as detailed as possible.

I put what slide we were on with each talking point. When someone was getting up or leaving the stage. When people needed to be mic-ed. When a video was coming up. It will provide your speakers and A/V team piece of mind. I even color-coordinated the type of note. Videos were green text. Presentation slide numbers were red. You get the picture. One thing I wish I would have done was made it in an excel doc instead of word to be able to add notes. For example, if someone was a quiet speaker, ensuring they knew to turn the person’s mic up. Or, as someone walked to the stage, ensure their mic was on as they stood up because we had a few walker & talkers.

Have the front desk and drivers notify you as people arrive.

This one I didn’t have the realization to do until one of the last nights. Once I did it, it gave me piece of mind and I could finally sleep knowing our keynote speakers had arrived.

Be overly adaptable and go with the flow.

Things are going to change. Stuff is going to go wrong. Be on your toes and let it roll off. You can’t dwell on errors - you have to just course correct and move on. Fortunately, our spafoos were so minor that no one would notice except for those of us that planned it. Just drink some coffee and don’t draw attention to it because your attendees don’t know any different.

Take a day to rest afterwards.

I got home in the middle of the night Saturday morning. What did I do next? Decided to go out with some friends to the NFL draft. You can sleep when you’re dead, right? I was running on E and hurting the next few days after adjusting to the time change for two weeks. Rookie mistake, but I wish I would have taken some PTO or had an R&R day to get back into the swing of things.

This event was WAY different than ribbon cuttings and community events I helped plan before. I went into it feeling somewhat prepared, but this was a whole other level. I had done CEO talking points and a run of show for a couple of hours - not multiple days.

If it’s your first time planning a client event or conference, let me know! It takes a village and it is truly a team effort. Ask for help because you will need it. I had colleagues and friends share example confirmation emails, transportation itineraries, tips for A/V and run of shows.

You got this!

-Sarah