Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Your First Event

event management Jul 28, 2023


I am often asked for advice from entrepreneurs who are considering launching an event. 

Amy Guy, Founder of The Nail Tech Org who produces MANI-Fest, the UK's largest event for nail technicians asked: 

What are three of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid
when they are planning their first event?

Honestly, I wish more people would ask me this. Here are three of the most common mistakes I see:

Mistake 1: Hosting An Event Before You Have an Engaged Audience 

As we all know, people buy from people (and brands) they know, like and trust. If you want to see ticket sales go bonkers from that first announcement, then you need to build, and more importantly, get to know, your community first. 

What do they want to hear about? What are their pain points? What would really entice them to spend money and time out of the office by attending your event? 

Unless you invest heavily in a speaker lineup so recognizable that sells your event...

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The Case For Swinging Big - Even If It’s a BIG Risk

event management Aug 11, 2020
On all but one occasion, I have and will continue to have my clients approve a speaker prior to contracting them. While I believe my recommendation(s) are always on point, at the end of the day, it’s their event and budget and I always want to walk into an event knowing that my client is as excited about their speaker lineup as I am.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… tell me about that ONE time… so let me share a story.
For a while, I had wanted to meet Sir Richard Branson and have him keynote one of my events. When I was contracted to produce Apttus Accelerate, a multi-day tech conference, I met with Apttus’ executive team so I could better understand their goals and vision for the event. It was here I learned that their CEO at the time viewed Sir Richard Branson as a mentor, though the latter didn’t know it. BOOM! I thought, “Here is my opportunity to make both of our dreams come true.”
So without...
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Tips for Selecting A Keynote Speaker Who Will Keep Your Audience Engaged

event management Jul 09, 2020

Whether you’re delivering a virtual, hybrid or in-person format, securing the perfect keynote speaker is critically important to your event's success. From helping create pre-event buzz to boosting ticket sales, this one decision has the power to make or break your entire event.

So how can you ensure you get it right? 

Follow my 7-step process for choosing the right one:  

Step 1: Meet with the client to understand their event goals, vision and any speakers they have in mind.
Step 2: Investigate all of the speakers suggested by the client. Reach out to any who accept direct inquiries to gauge their availability, interest and fee.
Step 3: Set up a meeting with a speaker bureau/agency (or a couple of them) to relay all of the information learned at the initial client meeting and uncover their recommendations. While they should know their stuff, don’t just take their word for it. Conduct your own research on each suggested prospect, watch recordings of past...

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How To Plan A Team Building Event That Doesn’t Suck

event management Jul 09, 2020

As employees begin heading back to the office you may be tasked with planning a team building event to boost morale after months of working from home. 

Team building events can get a bad rap, so to help you plan an event that doesn’t suck, here are: 

  • Seven factors to consider BEFORE you start planning
  • Popular activities for groups large and small, and 
  • Two ways you can seamlessly incorporate team building activities into larger programs 

What are the main considerations that should be considered when planning a team building event? 

No matter the size of the group, here are seven factors that must be considered BEFORE you start planning your activity: 

1. Who is the audience and what type of activity will they enjoy? (i.e. Not everyone is an athlete and others aren’t artistic)
2. When and where will it be held? Will it be onsite at the office or offsite at an external venue? If offsite, is the venue easily accessible? Will...

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Step 7: Market Your Event

In 2019, I witnessed an alarming number of clients and event organizers struggling to drive attendance to their events. When I jumped in to help, I noticed many of them were making the same simple mistakes over and over again. The advice I offered was simple but yet often overlooked: 

It all comes down to this riding principle: Don’t make assumptions and stick to the basic principles of a solid event (aka have a very clear understanding of your 5 Ws): 

1. Who is your target market?
2. Where do they consume their media?
3. What is your event elevator pitch (one paragraph that defines what the event is and why it’s being held?) 
    - What are the top 5-10 features that are going to excite attendees?
    - What makes your event different to any other event in the market? 
    - What problem does your event solve?
4. When are all of the industry and/or competitive events being held? Where possible, I always advise teams not to...

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Step 6: Outline Your Project Plan & Event Timeline

Two (of the many) factors to consider when planning an event, but specific to this step are:
1. Holding your team members accountable
2. Keeping things moving forward

How do you do this when all you see is a mountain of to-do’s and no idea where to start? You break things down into smaller, more manageable tasks by creating a project plan and event timeline. 

Here’s how I do it:

1. Select Your Project Management Software 
Just like I outlined in Step 5: Create & Manage A Budget, while there are many project management software options on the market, I rely on the simple, yet effective, Google Sheets for every event I produce. Why do I choose Google Sheets over a purpose-built software program? In case you missed Step 5, here are just a few of the reasons:

- GSuite is a one-stop-shop for my entire team - including our clients and vendors - and the fact that it’s a live document ensures everyone is well-informed and up to date on how we’re...

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Step 5: Create & Manage A Budget

Budget management is one of the most critical aspects of event management. 

In Step 3: Define Your Event Scope, you stated your anticipated profit or allowable spend (approved loss). Now it’s time to line item costs for each aspect of your event, factoring in your anticipated revenue streams to ensure you can comfortably deliver your vision on-, or below-, budget. 

Here’s how I do this:

1. Select Your Budget Management Software 
While there are many budget management software options on the market, I rely on the simple, yet effective, Google Sheets for every event I produce. Why do I choose Google Sheets over a purpose-built software program? 

- GSuite is a one-stop-shop for my entire team - including our clients and vendors - and the fact that it’s a live document ensures everyone is well-informed and up to date on how we’re tracking against our profit goal or allowable spend in real time. No need for multiple versions to be floating...

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Step 4: Source A Skilled & Experienced Support Team

The foundation of success on event day relies on a simple, yet uber important element: a team of skilled and experienced event and marketing professionals.

Whether they are internal or external support, you’ll need more than just yourself to plan, manage and deliver your event. But how do you know who is the right fit? 

Here’s my three-step process:

1. Conduct An Initial Vetting Meeting 
Armed with the event scope you created when completing Step 3: Define Your Event Scope, you should now know exactly what it is you’re planning to deliver and which aspects of the event you require additional support with.

Set up an initial conference call with all potential contractors or third party agencies so you can shortlist your favorites PRIOR to sharing your event scope with them. This will help ensure you’re receiving honest answers rather than those potentially guided by what they think you want to hear. 

Use open-ended questions as this provides the...

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Step 3: Define Your Event Scope

Your Event Scope is a high-level document that outlines your who, what, where, when, why, and how clearly for all parties involved in the event. 

The key is to keep it simple and straightforward. Just like the Grandparent or Neighbor Test with your messaging (we’ll get to that in Step 7), your goal is to be able to hand this to a new team member or stakeholder and, after reading it, they should be able to explain: 

1. What you’re planning
2. W
hy you’re planning it
3. For whom you’re planning it
4. Where and when it will take place
5. How you’re going to deliver it 

Here’s a simple template I use to outline my Event Scopes. 

This should include all of the logistical details like the event name, date, location, timing, venue, address, website and attendee estimate, as well as contact information for you, the project lead.  

Mission & Goals 
Here, you simply copy and paste the mission and goals you...

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Step 2: Outline Your Event Goals and KPIs

A common question I receive is “How do you measure the success of an event?” 

The answer is simple: It’s a mixture of hitting the mark on both qualitative and quantitative KPIs.

However, to know whether we hit them, we first need to define them. 

Qualitative Goals

Prior to the initial kickoff meeting for every event my team produces, we sit down with the client to outline the goals they’d like to achieve. On the qualitative side, that includes things like attendee feedback, testimonials, overheard onsite conversations and thoughts on programming, as well as the overall energy of the room. 

Quantitative KPIs

When it comes to quantitative KPIs, we are talking about elements like attendee growth or retention, sponsorship dollars, revenue targets, press hits, or overall attendee and stakeholder feedback. 

If exact targets (i.e. dollar figures or percentages of growth) had not previously been cited, this meeting is the perfect time to get...

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