Having worked in the Waianae event planning industry for almost 7 years there are not many surprises left – but occasionally I still get the, “They did what?” pass my lips! Why am I not surprised anymore – because over the years the number one rule for event planning is putting time into the pre planning of the event, and then planning contingencies for the exceptions that may happen?
So where do you start? As far out from the event date as possible as getting space is the first step. In Waianae, where we do a lot of work, it is not unusual to be booking one year out at some of the venues, as they are booked solidly every week.
The first few decisions are the easiest. What is the budget? What is the event about? A party, corporate seminar, convention, festival, wedding, or an anniversary – the list is endless, but one thing remains constant once the event has a name and the type of event is decided, the next step will be to decide where to hold the event. This is where the real event planners stand out from the crowd. So you have an event – okay lets book a hotel is normally the next answer but why would you miss out on an opportunity to create a unique experience?
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The art of setting up seminars or company gatherings has really taken off in recent years. Dallas event facilities are amongst the leading venues in the state, and possibly the country. Dallas ranches offer wide open spaces where the company delegates can relax and enjoy all that is on offer, and perhaps learn a thing or two along the way.
With any kind of seminar, or gathering to say thank you to the employees, it is important that the place where the meeting is held fulfills all the requirements of the company. Merely booking a hall or hotel doesn't seem to cut it these days and suppliers have caught on to that fact.
Nowadays it is far more likely that a retreat of some standing will be booked to make sure that the employees get the message that they are valued, or that they can achieve bigger and better results with the company should they strive harder to meet goals.
Take, for example, the theme inspired ranch style settings beloved of those who hail from Texas. Wide open venues, with space to see and feel nature, must be like paradise to those who are tied up in board rooms and offices most of the day. These venues often spread over about one hundred acres and offer superb facilities like trail riding, horse riding lessons, mechanical bull riding, armadillo racing and a host of other western themed events to keep the reveler happy.
Even country and western style music is on offer with lessons in line dancing or shows from some top of the line entertainers mean that there will never be a dull moment at this style of seminar. Imagine stumbling across a gunfight at the OK corral in the local area. This would be a highlight in the entertainment package for sure.
But of course, these seminars do not have to be all fun and games. Rather, they use the entertainment to make the minds of the attendees open to some teaching points which will be done throughout the stay. Meeting halls can seat up to one thousand people or more, but still in the 'down home' style that is Texas. Although these state of the art convention centers have all the modern equipment that one would expect, they still manage to make the visitor feel like part of the family for sure.
Indeed, these venues are not just for sales and marketing teams, or company picnics. They can be used for just about any kind of meeting that will have to house a large number of participants. By putting it into a country setting means that the whole experience will be that much more memorable and enjoyable.
Clever companies will reserve their meetings when the headline entertainers are booked to appear. This means that their delegates will get an even greater thrill out of meeting up with other company workers as well as seeing some top notch entertainment at the same time. This is surely a great way to show company representatives that they are valued and needed.
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Having worked in the event planning industry for almost 15 years there are not many surprises left - but occasionally I still get the "they did what" pass my lips! Why am I not surprised anymore - because over the years the number one rule for event planning is putting time into the pre planning of the event, and then planning contingencies for the exceptions that may happen?
So where do you start? As far out from the event date as possible as getting space is the first step. In Orlando where we do a lot of work it is not unusual to be booking one year out at some of the venues, as they are booked solidly every week.
The first few decisions are the easiest. What is the budget? What is the event about? A party, corporate seminar, convention, festival, wedding, anniversary the list is endless, but one thing remains a constant once the event has a name and the type of event is decided, the next step will be to decide where to hold the event. This is where the real event planners stand out from the crowd. So you have an event - okay lets book a hotel is normally the next answer but why would you miss out on an opportunity to create a unique experience for your client. Stop thinking like a newbie!
Look around the city where you are and start looking for that space that is different! We once held a red carpet fashion show right outside the Lingerie store that was promoting their opening! What's unusual about that? Nothing except the two lane highway outside we had to close, get planning permission and then build a 150ft marquee over the roadway, flooring, carpeting, stage, runway, extravagant lighting. All in one day. That's planning. Or the client that wanted a nautical theme, so we brought in a pirate ship complete with water cannons, pirate uniforms for everybody including the CEO! Ahh Captain. Get the idea, think outside the box - everybody does hotels, make your event unusual. What about an event/launch or party on the top floor of a multistory car park, we have even taken over parking lots for major festivals downtown and invited 5000 people to attend. Used castles for car launches and produced tours for musical competitions.
So know we have an event and the location/venue. Do you need planning permission for the event? If you have tents, or are somewhere public the answer is going to be Yes. Get that permit application in quickly, the city will have lots of questions for you to answer. Don't worry they will let the event happen they just want every answer and t crossed, so allow time for them.
Are you helping with the marketing too? Now is the time to get all this started and the timeline built when the copy, printing, mailing emailing needs to be done. Do you see a pattern starting, timelines, pre planning, etc.
Next on the list is going to be catering commonly called F&B. Is this a sit down event, stand up cocktails, dinner reception, hors-devours, alcohol, etc. Again another decision and one that needs a budget figure. Hot meals catered with full service can cost upwards of $50 a plate or as low as $19. Its all about the budget. Once you have decided on what is required your event planner will have a list of suitable caterers who can produce the meals.
If the event is themed, then the next step is to design the layout of the tables, surroundings, and make the venue become an experience. I remember erecting a Marquee inside a tall ballroom for one client, as they did not want the tradition ballroom space. A local hotel has two weeks of Ice sculpture in their ballrooms and kids can play on the ice slides, play in the snow and experience below freezing conditions - in Central Florida
Another area that will need addressing is entertainment, is their music, DJ what style and what purpose. Is it for dancing to or just background ambience? Again if the event requires a headliner you will have to contact the booking agencies in plenty of time to ensure schedules are available - you did have a second choice ready as well didn't you?
So now we have an event, the date(s), a theme, a venue, food and drink, entertainment and the permit has been granted by the city!
What about Sound and lights and video for the event - usually called Audio Visual or AV again the event planner will know what and where to get the appropriate systems from and the size of equipment required depending on the number of attendees. While we are looking at AV, we may as well mention the videographer to film and record the event for the DVD and also the photographer to take a zillion shots during the evening making sure to get everybody in at least one picture!
The event date is obviously getting closer. If this is a corporate event you will want to make sure that there is all the appropriate insurance and Public/General Liability insurance certification in place. The policy should be for at least $1 million dollars of protection.
The fire Marshall always wants to know about events in their city and no matter how big or small, a phone call to answer their questions and get approval is always part of the planning stages. It is your responsibility to contact the fire Marshall not theirs to contact you.
One area that a number of people forget about is how are people getting to the event, are people flying in, are you booking the tickets? And if so what transportation are you providing from the airport for them? We use certain limo services that have given us great service and deals over the years and we know that guests are in good hands.
So far we have overcome every problem but as this is a summery of event planning, every event will be different. Seminars for instance will need registration tables, classroom style layouts, etc each event has its own nuance.
On the day of the event, everything comes together as planned, if you didn't plan for the contingency then panicking doesn't help. Look at every part of the timetable and second guess what if scenarios? Plan around those too so that your day runs smooth.
Lastly the day isn't over until the last guest leaves..errr no! until the venue has been restored to how you found it, until all the decorations are removed, the catering has packed up and left, the AV guys have got all their gear in the vans and the venue operations personnel have finally said goodnight and thank you.
Steve A Brown
Event Planner - Resource Management Alliance