Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Event Planning 101: How to NOT Lose Your Mind!

Many of you may or may not know, from my previous post, that I was recently (as in the event just happened this past Sunday) a part of an event planning team for a small theatre company here in Chi-Town. Event planning has been an interest of mine that I have placed on the back burner for a while now, with performing taking precedence. Since theatre hasn't exactly been my friend lately, I thought that this was as good a time as any to get my feet wet a bit. And who better to stretch my event planning muscles with than a theatre company! Talk about marrying your passions, right?!  Having worked as a Booking Agent in the past, I was able to learn a bit about certain components required to pull an event off...but the idea of taking it from the brainstorming stage and watching it through until we were live at the event was uncharted territory, but a challenge I had always wanted to conquer. 

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

And a challenge it was. Aside from an amazing venue space and a hard working team, we really had to cultivate this baby from the ground up! Working with a minimal budget, a hard working team of volunteers (many of whom work full-time jobs to pay the bills - myself included), and limited meeting time...we used and abused email correspondence and text messages....but we pulled it off! That was the pay off. The week after Thanksgiving, B.K.A the week of the event, was a little touch and go for a while...didn't know if I was going to make it out alive, but I did. And while in the midst, I really thought I was hating every minute of it, in retrospect, I would do it all again...but with a few slight changes to ensure my sanity. 

We all plan an event at some point or another, so here's a list to make sure we stay sane while doing it:

10 Ways to Make My Your Our Life Easier

1. Start early - I don't care if you are planning a Birthday Dinner or the President's Inauguration Dinner, if you can start planting seeds well in advance, you'll be better off for it. (hint: one month is not well in advance).

2. Give yourself benchmarks and measure your performance -  it is really easy to make a timeline of when you would like to get things done, but if you don't hold yourself to those timelines, what good is it? You will be thanking yourself when it's four hours before the event and you aren't running around printing materials.

3. Say Thank You - the art of appreciation is sometimes lost in stressful situations, and I know I am an offender. It is more than likely that everyone on your team is working just as hard as you are, and doing their very best. If someone does something to aid in any way, a simple "thank you" goes a very long way, and will ensure that they will continue to be a resource.

4. Find ways to stretch your budget - re-use! We actually did really well with this. If you can re-purpose decor, supplies, ANYTHING, to fit the theme of the current event. USE IT. There is no shame in recycling. 

5. Work together! Understand that everyone has different techniques and ways of getting things done, and compromising may end up making your job easier. And PLEASE don't be afraid to ask for help or simply say 'I don't know'...pretending you have all the answers will get you nowhere.

6. If fundraising is a part of your event, it is important that you start reaching out to your donors EARLY. I mean early, early -  as in this should be one of the first benchmarks on your timeline. Some organizations take 6-8 weeks or more to process donation requests. Don't ruin your chances with something so simple as being a few weeks too late.

7. When it becomes evident that something will not work, move on. This can be hard, because as creative planners we always want the coolest most amazing aspects for our events. But if something just isn't working, trust that you are just THAT good, and that a better idea will come along.

8. Congratulate yourself along the way! If you are anything like me, you never stop to look at how far you've come and how much you've accomplished. I organized a 3-package raffle with price points and volunteers for an event attended by 100+ people, in addition to balancing other miscellaneous responsibilities...something I have NEVER done before. I never once congratulated myself during the process, and was stressed to the heavens. NOT GOOD!

9. Be Flexible - this can be vague or specific. But it is important to understand that most times, as an event planner, you won't  be planning your own events...meaning that while your vision is valued and the reason why you were brought on, the client's vision is most important. Don't be too head strong that you are not malleable enough to fit the needs of the occasion.  While malleable is a term usually used for materials such as metal, sometimes as an event planner you kind of have to be as tough as nails. So I think it fits!

10. BREATHE! You will be okay. The event WILL happen. And if it doesn't, at least you're pretty, right? ;)

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All of the things above were learned from my own experiences, and by no means are a reflection of anyone else's work. If and when I plan another event, this list will be my nearest and dearest friend.

I am proud of my own efforts, and the efforts of everyone on the event planning team. This  was the first annual holiday fundraiser for this company, and for what we were working with, it was fantastic. Could we have raised more money? Probably! But, we learned a lot, and I am confident that next years' will be out of the park, fantastic!

Sneak Peak! A few snaps from the event!
I am pretty pumped I have this list now! Hope it was a somewhat enjoyable read for you :).

Happy Tuesday!


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