So, here’s the inside scoop. Some event planners are well suited to select the venue, recommend food and décor, and make things run smoothly. While others are truly EXPERT STRATEGISTS who can take on far more – from providing you with fundraising or sponsorship sales strategies you hadn’t considered to shaking up your marketing outreach, to helping you extend your event content beyond the event itself.
When you hire an event planner, realize that there are still myriad details that can make the event a big job for you and your team. The more you can pass off, the better, and that requires hiring a true expert. Below are five ways to get the most from your expert event planner.
Granted, cost can be a good reason for hanging on to parts of the planning yourself. So, for each of the recommendations below, we’ve included the “give a little” option, where we can provide you with some quick consultation or simple onsite service, but your team can run with the rest of the effort.
1. Registration or RSVP Management
New clients often tell us they already have a registration platform that works for them, or they choose to receive RSVPs for an invite-only, exclusive conference by email and manage them in a Google Sheet.
We have nothing against your platform or your technique, and maybe they work well for you.
Sidebar: Well, sometimes we DO have something against your platform – we once had a client with a custom-built registration website that had just been built this year (2015!) but may as well have been from the dark ages, with data that had to be downloaded and emailed around to us, rather than updating dynamically and hosted online. Yikes! That’s another story, about not reinventing the wheel when people have already designed some really nice, affordable wheels!
However, event planners do this All. The. Time. We eat registration lists for breakfast. Great planners will know how to make the data sing, not just give you the basics. Specifically, your planner should be able to come up with the right questions to ask to get meaningful data, organize and report it in a way that frees you up, get it ready for the day of the event – especially check in, nametags, pre-event updates and post-event thank yous – efficiently and cleanly.
Hand it off: Ask your event planner to take on your entire registration process and provide you with regular reports, as in-depth or summarized as you’d prefer.
Give a little: Budget tight, or concerned about handing it off? A savvy planner can review your process from registration to check in, from head to toe and make recommendations for additions and improvements. If it’s a Google Sheet with emailed RSVPs, have us design the fields and recommend a smooth process for collecting and tracking data without getting lost or losing data.
“Our rule of thumb is to have at least one registration staff person per 100 attendees checking in, one “floating” registration captain, plus one or two people dedicated to troubleshooting.” explains Kennedy Events’ Shelly Kim, event producer. “If you expect all your attendees to arrive at once, then we highly recommend having even more staff to greet and guide people through lines.
Just as important as having enough people at registration, be sure you have enough SPACE. If you don’t have enough table space to lay out all your pre-printed badges in order, or not enough space for registrants to set up to your badge printing kiosks, you are likely to experience bottlenecks and MADNESS!”
2. Sponsorship Fulfillment
Your sponsors are among your biggest assets. They make or break your event and their relationship with you is paramount. But again, an experienced event planner can manage those relationships with grace, adding value to the sponsorship benefits and saving your team a ton of time. Think of your planner as your in-house sales assistants and client relation teammates. .
Hand it off: From the moment a sponsor is committed, hand off all communications to your planners. A strong planner can
- design communication templates with your approval before you let go
- track and provide details to sponsors including
- name and logo collection and placement on website, program, signage
- social media handle collection and promotion
- payment processing
- contract status
- guests, attendees, ticketing, VIP party invites
- write and provide exhibit instructions, handling, shipping and receiving, parking info, etc.
- provide onsite concierge services
“I’ve worked with sponsors of all types – from Fortune 500 powerhouses to individual small donors, and noticed that it can be tough for you as the recipient of a sponsor’s generosity to make suggestions to them. For example, maybe your audience doesn’t really want branded mechanical pencils, and is more of a tablet stylus crowd. When your planner is in the discussion with your sponsors, they will make sure the sponsor is happy, and that their sponsorship is beneficial to everyone’s event experience.” – Scott P., producer, Kennedy Events
Give a little: Let your planner design the fulfillment spreadsheet for you and make sure you are collecting and communicating every detail. Have them oversee your exhibitor load in and load out and provide good service onsite.
3. Website Updates
Hand it off: If your website is built on a CMS platform (content management system, like WordPress, SquareSpace or many others), your event planner may be able to handle content updates from the schedule and FAQs to speaker bios, photos, and social media handles, and sponsor logos and banners.
Give a little: Budget too tight to hand off the website content management? Event planners can perform a simple review of your site design, content and architecture for ease of use and comprehensiveness. Or have your planner write the initial content outline.
4. Speaker Communications
Hand it off: Similar to sponsor fulfillment, event planners can manage all communications on your behalf with speakers, moderators, and panelists as well as special cases like VIPs, performers, and award winners. As soon as you’ve confirmed an industry leader for that afternoon panel, you can add their name to a spreadsheet and your planner can run interference from then on. Again, smart planners will have you approve the communication style, content and frequency so you can trust they are engaging with your presenters in a way that makes you shine.
Give a little: If you want to keep communications with your presenters in house, ask your planner to come up with checklists for what your speakers need to know before they arrive and what you need from your speakers to ensure a great presentation. Don’t forget the little things like day-of contact information, microphone type, and where they should gather to be escorted on stage! Ask your planner for more details.
5. Onsite Staffing or Volunteer Management
Perhaps you have a plan to press your entire office into service the day of the event to greet, check in, and help guests find their way, as well as to stage manage, play concierge to sponsors, and sell your products at your expo booth. Great use of people power. I approve.
By the way, we call this “voluntelling” instead of “volunteering” whitch makes your staff or colleagues “voluntolds.”
Or maybe you will recruit volunteers for your nonprofit fundraiser or for your business conference from a local business school. Also great. But do you have a plan for how to allocate them, make sure they know what they’re doing and how to do it best, and ensuring they do what’s been asked of them?
Hand it off: Experienced planners will be able to identify how many people you need in each role and location throughout your conference or gala. Contract with them to develop a list of roles, shifts and hours, responsibilities, and to train people in advance in writing and in person. Onsite, your planner should be empowered to move people, relieve them of duty, ask for more action or better behavior from them, freeing you up to network or see to other responsibilities.
Give a little: Budget definitely becomes a factor here, particularly at large conferences. At the least, have your planner confirm that you have enough people at registration and at points where guests could get lost and account for no-shows. Plus, be sure your colleagues or volunteers know who your planner is onsite and respects her instructions.
Bottom line: Expert event planners can think, act, and communicate strategically on your behalf. Make sure the planners you hire are reviewing both the big picture and all the little details for you, not just selecting napkins, hiring the caterer, and greeting the guests.
Do you have a conference, gala, fundraiser, or strategic meeting on the horizon? It’s not too late to get help with your fall or winter event! Contact us for a free consultation.