In August, Data Connect hosted its 1st annual Marketing User Group (MUG). The event brought together our partners and customers for a week-long learning summit about the future of trade shows.
The conference was a big success, but also an enormous effort. It’s actually a minor miracle that we even pulled it off. The decision to host the event happened very fast. We had roughly 90 days to put the entire thing together, from locations to branding, to meals, registration, and conference sessions.
In today’s post, Susan Stocking, the lady who was perhaps most integral to the event’s success, will provide some helpful rules of thumb to add to your conference planning bag of tricks.
Take it away, Susan!
Create a Timeline
This is the single-most important thing to do. Don’t shortcut it. Spend the time to do it right, and you will be so glad you did. Once you establish the date, work backwards. Include when to send out invitations, order giveaways, flowers, entertainment, printing needs, guest accommodations, air travel, and even post-event thank-you notes.
Event planners can often get into trouble by not assigning some tasks to others. Many times, employees and others are anxious to contribute their time and expertise. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use your timeline to identify areas where others could be most useful.
Use a simple Excel spreadsheet to notate all of your guest information. Include name, address, meal choices, dietary restrictions, travel plans, hotel accommodations, etc. This is invaluable during the planning phase, and will help you to create everything from name badges to place cards.
Have a Contingency Plan
What could go wrong? (Hint: Everything.) What is the plan to fix it? How will you cope with “worst-case” scenarios? Just knowing you have these contingency plans will reduce your stress levels and allow you to seamlessly deal with anything unexpected.
Negotiate! Negotiate! Negotiate!
Don’t be afraid to negotiate or get additional bids. Venues, florists, caterers, entertainers all recognize that competition is stiff. They are almost always willing to work with you.
Be Firm On Your Expectations
Have a clear understanding of what you expect from the venue, caterer, florist, and other employees helping out. Be sincere and precise with what you expect from them, and don’t hesitate to insist on getting what was promised. And of course…get it in writing!
Serving Alcohol? Consider Drink Tickets
Drink tickets were a smart choice. At the last minute, I decided to give people the option when they arrived to exchange their drink ticket for additional prize drawing ticket. This increased their chances of winning a prize, and reduced the company’s alcohol expense by about $300.00.
Big thanks to Susan for her input on this post and her tireless effort to ensure that MUG 2014 was a hit.
So, what are your secrets for planning corporate events? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.) Leave your feedback in the comments below.