5 Critical Event Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Essential event planning tips to avoid a disastrous special event

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Murphy’s Law stipulates that if something can go wrong then it probably will. Things going awry is a fact of life that we all have to live with.

But when it comes to event planning, a competent event manager will always look to mitigate Murphy’s Law by recognizing the potential for things to go haywire and planning accordingly.

As an event manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your client's special event runs smoothly and with as few hitches as humanly possible. In the real world it’s not feasible to cover every possibility, but at the very least you should be aware of critical event planning mistakes every event manager must avoid.

Forewarned is forearmed, so let’s delve into five essential tips that may help you avoid an unmitigated disaster at your next planned event.

  1. Bad communication - this is probably the most common mistake made by inexperienced event planners and is one to be avoided at all costs. Bad communication (as in miscommunication or no communication) can spell disaster. Bad communication is often the result of a lack of attention to detail, especially when it comes to your event checklist. It’s absolutely crucial that you communicate effectively with both your internal event team and your suppliers. While you don't want to micromanage everyone, you do need to know who does what and when to ensure that everyone involved knows what is expected of them and keeps to their assigned timetable. 
  2. Poor or missing contingency planning - there's a good chance that at least some things will go wrong in the days and hours leading up to your event. Worse yet, some things will likely go badly during your special event. That’s normal and to be expected. A professional event planner thinks ahead, identifies what could go wrong, and has a good contingency plan in place. For example, what if your registration system malfunctions on the day of the event? What if you run out of food because extra people show up? What if your keynote speaker doesn't show up or arrives late? If any of these things happened, would you be able to cope? In other words, would you have a plan B?
  3. Inadequate transportation - are you absolutely sure that the transportation you’ve organized to get delegates and presenters to and from your event is adequate? Check in during the weeks leading up to your event, and on the day of the event, that all transportation requirements are adequately met. You need to think in terms of contingency. What happens if a vehicle breaks down on the morning of your event? Do you have alternative transportation available to you?
  4. Lack of clear signage - Nothing is more frustrating for those attending a special event than being confused about where the next presentation is being held. Avoid this by making sure you display adequate signage that is easy to read and understand. It’s better to go overboard and have too much signage than risk attendees being lost and continually asking for directions.
  5. Inadequate staff on hand – on the day of your special event you will likely be dealing with a large number of attendees. Don’t make the mistake of relying on just one or two individuals to deal with delegates' questions or concerns. Make sure you have a good head count of attendees and, above all, ensure that between your event planning team and personnel provided by vendors, you adequately staff your event.

In addition to thinking and planning ahead about what could go wrong, to ensure a smooth and successful event the best policy is always to check and double check.