Avoid Major Pitfalls When Planning Your Event

Organizing and producing an event is a lot of work and, if you are anything like me, you don't realize how taxing it is until you are actually doing it.

My baptism of fire happened when I produced my first festival. I had no experience with event planning at that level and I certainly was not prepared for the inevitable problems that occurred. Fortunately I had a team of people with the experience to guide me through to the other side. 

This does not mean that I have not made any mistakes since then. After all, it is a part of the learning process. However, there are a few things one can take into consideration which can help to mitigate against some common pitfalls.

Start Your Planning Early

Festivals and most annual shows require the planning process to start at least a year in advance. Smaller events may only require a few months. Whatever the size of your event the bottom line is you need to start early. 

Early planning gives you ample time to seek sponsorship, work out your logistics, and put any necessary measures in place. It will also save you a ton of embarrassment. You  don't want people leaving your event thinking that it was poorly organized. Especially if you want to do it again next year.

Tip: Get an event bible/journal and document EVERYTHING that is done with regards to your production. Put together a calendar of activities with clear goals and timelines.

An event bible/journal is not only perfect for your current project, but if it is an annual event it will save you a lot of time when you do it again.

Form A Committee and Have Volunteers

Despite what you may think you are not a superhero. You cannot do it all by yourself! Have individuals that can be responsible for different aspects of the production process and report  to you at specified intervals. This will ease your work load and there will be a much better chance that tasks will be completed properly.

There is also a large chance that you may not be able to pay for all the staff you need to work during the event. Call on volunteers, friends and family to be ushers, work food stalls, and assist with minor duties.

Tip: Offer perks and incentives to encourage individuals to volunteer to work with your event. Show them how working with your event can be rewarding. A student in technical theatre may be happy to volunteer his/her time as a stage manager's assistant.

Clearly Outline the Parameters of Work Relationships

Always make sure that you are clear about what services are being offered to you and what you are giving in return. I cannot stress how inconvenient and problematic it is to think you agreed to one thing and have some person approach you with something completely different at the end. Don't "wait until after the event to work it out" and don't accept "give me what you can" as an answer about payment.

Tip: Get it in writing

Satisfy Safety and Legal Requirements

Laws and regulations may differ from state to state. Make sure to have all necessary permissions and documents needed. In addition, you may be required to pay certain licenses/fees and you will  need to have the necessary precautions and facilities in place for your patrons. (Insurance coverage, security, adequate bathroom facilities, emergency personnel etc.)

Tip: Contact your local government office (s), tell them about your event and get a list of everything that will be required of you. Get information and advice from others who have produced or worked with similar events.

Have A Postmortem

No event is complete without a postmortem. Once your event is finished sit with your  committee and go through what worked and what didn't.

Maybe if you had purchased those decorations in bulk it would have been more cost effective!

A postmortem will help you and your production team to see what you can do to mitigate against making the same mistakes, and capitalize on what worked when planning for your next event. More importantly, it can save you time and money.

Tip: Ask patrons and sponsors for feedback. It not only helps you to better understand what satisfies your target market but it gives them the feeling that they are a part of growing and developing something special. Providing this sense of involvement can go a long way in ensuring support for your event in the future.

 Each of these points are expansive and can have an article dedicated to them specifically. However, no matter what size your event is, once you take these factors into consideration it can save you a lot of head ache in the long run. Event planning and production is a skill, and like all other skills you get better with time and experience. 

My advice? Do your research, don't bite off more than you can chew and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Feel free to leave a comment below. Let's hear what works and what does not work for you.