Who of us hasn’t awakened the night before an important event we’ve organized, the success of which might influence our company’s reputation in the business community, and laid awake thinking about everything that could go wrong. Maybe we flash on a half-forgotten task, terrified that it might have slipped through the cracks. Or, we’re gripped by paranoia, uncertain whether a crucial agenda item was completed, because we forgot to double check.
This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. The fact is, almost all potential problems in special-event planning can be anticipated and avoided. The following check list highlights critical problem-prone areas, and ways to deal with them.
- Assemble a reliable committee, and thoroughly discuss the framework for the event. Prepare a check list of everything that needs to be arranged, then assign responsibilities.
- Second-guess everything that could go wrong, and brainstorm solutions.
- Never assume that the media you invite will attend. You can increase the chances, by holding the event in a central location on Tuesday or Thursday, and avoiding rush hour. Before you calendar the event, check with your local chamber of commerce and convention and visitors bureau to identify events that could compete and dilute turn-out. Don’t forget to check published date books. If your event is on the same day as the anniversary of a historic international commemoration, schedule it another time, or devise a clever tie-in.
- If publicity is involved, meet with your public relations representative, and set measurable publicity goals. Clearly identify your company’s markets and the media that reach them.
- Hold a photo planning session with your committee before the event. Decide what pictures you want taken, and of whom, and the publications most likely to use them. Your publicist can then be specific in telling the photographer what to take, so that important opportunities aren’t lost. Most editors keep photo files, and it is particularly true of trade publications that they will use topical photos if they’re of good quality.
- Hire a professional photographer who can bring along a photographic assistant to take names. It’s excruciating to pour over photos and try to put names to faces after the fact. A good publicity photographer can process photos the next day so that the temporal news aspects are not lost.
- Prepare a tight script, and do a walk-through several days ahead. You will be surprised how many problems can be anticipated and corrected. Your script should contain the framework for the event, as well as a timetable, and where everyone, including speakers, should be at the proper time.
- After the affair, put together a scrapbook that includes photos, news releases, guest lists, invitation, feature stories, and published news accounts. Don’t forget a copy of your budget. That way, when you plan your next event, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.
- Last, do a postmortem while the experience is fresh in your mind. List everything you would have done differently, and why. Include this in your scrapbook for future events.
Even with the best-laid plans, things sometimes go wrong. But with careful planning, you can create an event that is memorable for its accomplishments, not its disasters.