Up until a few years ago, we considered ‘event management’ to be a key part of our business, something that we regarded as our ‘bread and butter’. With the onset of the financial crisis, however, the majority of large scale corporate events became a thing of the past, and we have only been involved in a handful during the past four years.
I have to say, though, that I am not that disappointed, as event management is something that very few people value (normally if we received an instruction to organize something, the opening line was ‘we could, of course, organize it ourselves, but no-one has time, so we thought we should ask you…..’), plus event management is one of the most stressful things that we do.
Having been involved in the organization of a very nice ‘gala’ this last week, I have been reminded of some of the issues that we can run into when we are organizing an event on behalf of a client, so if you are thinking about doing something yourself, maybe bear in mind the following:
(a) Nowadays, musicians, technical equipment, venues, outside caterers, etc, are relatively easy to find and pretty reliable (compared to 1991, when we organized our first event and couldn’t find one of any of these and then, when we did, it was always touch and go whether they would actually show on the night!). I usually tell clients that we can organize an all singing, all dancing, event pretty much tomorrow, but what we can’t do is get the people there if the invitation is left to the last minute.
(b) Getting the word out about the event, therefore, should be the first priority – no point in spending hours on choosing the music, or stressing over the presentation, if you then send the invitation just a few days in advance. While all the planning is going on, we like to start by sending out a short ‘save the date’ email to the guest list in order to get it into people’s diaries, but it makes sense to book the venue first as that might have some bearing on the date (the good venues can get booked up a long time in advance).
(c) Follow the ‘save the date’ up with a proper invitation – we prefer something that is printed and posted rather than emailed, but that depends on budget. But do not spend days debating the design of the invitation – better to get something simple out a couple of weeks in advance than wait until you have the ‘perfect’ design (there is no such thing) and end up giving everyone just a few days’ notice.
(d) The biggest cost of an evening ‘gala’ type event is nearly always the food and drink. My own view is that if you have such a tight budget that you can’t really stretch to decent wine and/or some reasonable food, then you might be better off doing a completely different marketing activity. Most people remember an event for the people they met, and then the food and/or wine that was served – whether good or bad!
(e) The little details can make all the difference – sometimes we have a bit of an argument with clients regarding decoration (flowers/lighting/etc) and/or music – they often don’t see the need, but we usually insist! You may not notice these things when they are there, but you definitely notice if they are not.
(f) Goody bags – the bane of the organiser’s lives…. Are they worth it? Great if you have something good to give, but if not, I would say it is better not to bother – how many events do we go to where we return with bag loads of materials that simply go into the dustbin. What a terrible waste.
There is a lot more, but this is just the gist, and I want to wrap it up now as there are a couple of important details that I want to mention (and here I go again!): before organizing an event, think about who you are targeting and what you want to achieve and then plan everything around that. But make sure that everyone in your team also knows what you want to get from the event; if you want clients and staff to have a rave up, then rave. If you want to get new leads and potential business, then remember - you and your staff are walking billboards for the company, and you all need to reflect the same message as you want the company to reflect…