22 - 26 September 2021, VIRTUAL
ESPE Virtual Congress 2021
What makes a successful events planner?
Lydia Owen • 4 min read
The short answer is a deep-rooted love of creating — and ticking off — to do lists!
Although it’s fair to say that the world of events has been overhauled in recent years with the introduction of tools and technology (from logistics software to audience voting systems) that make planning — and the event itself — go that little bit more smoothly, there is no getting away from the fact that, when it comes to event management, organisational skills are key. And whether it’s online or on paper*, lists help ensure events go seamlessly to plan.
So what else do you need to have in your armoury when it comes to being on the frontline of events?
1. A good ear for listening
Having taken the brief, it’s important to get to grips with what resources the client is telling you they’re willing to give to their event, both in terms of money and time. You need to have a firm grasp of the client’s likes, dislikes and — most importantly of all — their strategic objectives. If they’re onboard and have faith in your abilities to deliver a successful event for them, you’re starting from a positive place!
2. A creative streak
An innate desire to do things differently certainly helps in events — originality and imagination are fundamentals. Obviously, budgets can set limitations but there’s nearly always a way around this, even it’s offering a platinum, gold or silver option. Taking an innovative approach that also reiterates and reinforces your client’s messaging is what will ensure your event lives on long after the lights fade.
3. An eye for detail
Being meticulous when it comes to the details pays off. It really is the small things, that matter — and that are so often the cause of a last-minute change of plan. Yet, if you know the ins and outs of what’s happening when, it’s unlikely that something minor will turn into a major challenge in advance or onsite. It’s worth bearing in mind though that every little alteration to the itinerary has a knock-on effect… which leads on nicely to the next core skill every events planner should have!
Plans fluctuate so being willing to adapt and think on your feet is critical. Although it’s nice to think everything will go exactly to plan, it’s not unusual for something to happen that is not on your list — a crew member is sick, a key prop that’s taking centre stage has been unaccountably held up in Customs, or a volcano has exploded in Iceland causing all air travel to be suspended and you have no choice but to drive across France and Spain with a fellow crew member to get to the event on time… yes, that sh*t did actually happen. So, resilience and having a backup plan (plus keeping your driving licence with you at ALL times… rookie mistake) is important. You need to be able to take these ‘challenges’ in your stride without losing your cool to ensure your event doesn’t get knocked off course, regardless of any obstacles that get flung across your path along the way.
Events are hardcore. They require blood, sweat, tears and sheer, unadulterated hard graft. You can have months or (more often) a few weeks to pull together an event in the UK or overseas, taking in multiple venues, a variety of ‘events within events’ (presentations, exhibitions, gala dinners, seminars and workshops etc), and delegates who don’t all speak the same language (thank you, simultaneous translation!). You will live and breathe the project and, the closer you get to D-Day, the more you become absorbed in it. Having a passion for what you do helps here and it’s that dedication, coupled with boundless energy, that will get you through long hours in the office and onsite — whilst still having a (slightly manic) smile plastered across your face.
6. An ability to multitask
This is particularly important when on the ground — there will be plenty to juggle onsite. Prioritising is vital when time is of the essence and you’ll be far more productive if you’re not flustered. This is where your list comes in. Try to be methodical and work out what will have the biggest impact. Deal with that first and ensure your whole team is made aware of any changes to the production schedule.
7. Having a kickass crew
No man or woman is an island and, when it comes to the fast-paced and often intense world of events, you need a team you can trust. Finally, and just as importantly, everyone needs to know what their responsibilities are and exactly what role they have to play in ensuring your event is one that everyone in attendance remembers — for the right reasons. Managing multiple teams onsite can be challenging, especially when under pressure, but if you’ve brought along the right people who are all experts in their own right, you’re already halfway to your goal of pulling off a successful event.
*Disclaimer: There’s no shame in being old school — it’s pen and paper all the way for me. In fact, I’ve been known to add items to my to do list that I’ve already completed because nothing makes me happier than a ticked task! Sad but true…