Planning an event is hard work. Even if it’s not your career, just arranging a “small intimate” gathering for your friends can turn into one of the more stressful events of your life. What you need are some decent event planning habits.
Sure, you can make your life easier and less stressful with some hints and tips, or learn the most common mistakes event planners make, but, even an even more useful technique is to develop some killer event planning habits that will help you get the job done.
In a hat tip to one of my favourite books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I thought I’d investigate what habits were the most effective to develop if you’re a party planner or event organiser.
Sure, there are lots of habits you COULD develop, such as panicking whenever the phone rings or resorting to “medicinal medication” whenever you get stressed, but what are the habits that are really going to turn you into an event planning rock star?
Here are 7 event planning habits to get you started:
Event Planning Habit 1 – Communicate Often
A good event planner and organiser communicates often and honestly with all of their team and event partners.
They don’t assume that everything is going to plan just because there has been no bad news.
Good event organisers are proactive; they reach out to everyone involved, ensuring regular check ins and also keeping other team members motivated and on task, making sure that everyone knows what is expected of them.
Regular communication is one of the best habits you can form if you want to minimise errors, problems and disasters.
Event Planning Habit 2 – Identify High Priority Tasks And Do Them First
Sometimes, it’s easier to focus on the little jobs, or the fun ones, rather than that great, big uncomfortable task that you’ve been pushing down your to-do list for the last 3 weeks.
Effective event planners realise that they have very limited time when planning an event and they need to use that time wisely.
Having clear priorities and identifying your most important tasks is one of the best things you can do to ensure a successful event.
If event ticket sales are down, you need to identify the problem.
If everyone who ate the fish last year died from food poisoning, you may need to source a new caterer.
Just do it.
Identify the high impact tasks you should be doing and focus on those. Don’t spend time colour coordinating napkins and chair covers.
Event Planning Habit 3 – Keep Your Eye On The Prize
You have to know your numbers. Even if you’re not a full time event organiser and are just planning little Timothy’s birthday party, you need to keep the main metrics in mind when making decisions about the event.
Things like budget, guest numbers, space requirements, ticket sales or RSVPs received – these are the things you need to keep track of to make sure that the event is going to be successful.
A good event planner will know statistics like these at any given moment. You don’t need a minute by minute live feed to update you, but if someone asks you how ticket sales are,
A word of warning: you can get a little too “deep” into statistics. What starts as a detailed breakdown of attendees, based on geography or other demographic factor, can turn into a wormhole of “how many attendees are fans of Manchester United, enjoy Foie Gras and are left handed?”
Remember habit number 2 – keep your eye on the most important things.
Event Planning Habit 4 – Look For New Ideas
You have to keep yourself open to new ideas, especially if you’re a full time event planner/organiser.
This doesn’t have to be a mammoth task, but it should be something you do fairly regularly.
One easy way to do this is to have a search for a blog online, subscribe to it and take time every week to work through the emails. Make notes and what’s happening in the world of event management and make notes about anything you see as relevant or potentially useful.
Here’s a few blogs to get you started:
So, find a few or, better yet, get all of your team to find a couple of different blogs to subscribe to, and hold a weekly meeting, where each team member feeds back some new ideas they’ve read about, for the team to discuss and digest. Sounds like the perfect Friday afternoon winding-down activity to me.
Event Planning Habit 5 – Stay in Touch
Another great habit you can develop if you’re an event planner is that of staying in touch with customers, suppliers and, well, pretty much everyone in your black book.
Don’t just call on people when you need them. Develop rock solid relationships with people. Learn about them.
It’s been said often that people love doing business with people. Relationships count probably more than any other thing. Life is so much easier when you get on with people, so make the proactive step of keeping in touch and being awesome to as many people as possible.
Not only will this make you feel good about yourself and your work, but other people will begin looking out for you. Because you’re awesome, they’ll look for opportunities to help you out more, but that’s not the reason to start being nice. Don’t do it just to expect favours back, do it because it’s the right thing to do and then enjoy the rewards of a fabulous working relationship.
Event Planning Habit 6 – Be Able to Deal With Feedback
An effective event organiser needs to be able to receive, and deal with, criticism and feedback.
Without reacting like that
It doesn’t matter if an event has gone really badly and you’re airlifting record numbers of attendees to
“What can we learn from this?” is a great question to ask after an event, even one that has gone brilliantly well.
There’s always something you can learn, some new tip or working practice you can develop to make your event planning life easier, or more effective.
Always keep learning.
Ask attendees for the feedback. Be proactive. There’s that word again. Don’t wait for people to contact you. After the event, get out there and ask them. Create a survey and get attendees, suppliers, partners and team members to fill it in.
Go the whole hog and have a full on debrief with the results. Really pare down on how the event went.
It’s likely it could have gone better. It’s also likely it could’ve been a lot worse.
You can learn from both.
Event Planning Habit 7 – Step Back and Relax
The 7th habit in the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is that of sharpening the saw – focusing on preserving the most vital asset that you have – you.
You have to look after yourself and nowhere is this more important than when you have a stressful job, such as party planning or event organising.
There are things you can do to make your party planning life less stressful, but you need to identify areas of your life where you can relax and renew yourself, to help prevent burnout.
Take time off.
Have an away day.
Before you start planning an event, identify an activity, or some activities that you can rely on to sharpen your own saw, even if it’s little things like having a walk in the park, or going out for a meal and turning your phone off.
Drink more water. Eat healthy food. Do the things you’re mother always told you to do. Look after yourself.
Event planning can be stressful, no doubt about it. Sometimes what you need though, isn’t a bunch of high tech apps and devices, proven to save you 2.3% minutes of your day. Sometimes, what you really need, is to focus on the basics.
Because the way that the final event looks will certainly change over the years, the basics behind how they are created won’t. You’ll always need to build fabulous relationships with people, focus on getting better, learning new things, looking after yourself and making sure that you don’t go over budget – the habits that will stay with you forever (or at least until you retire and move to the Mediterranean!).
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