Common Event Planning Mistakes: How to Avoid Disaster

September 20, 2018

The employee resource group has been organized. The company has given its support. The membership is ready. The next step: putting together the event. Should be easy, right?

But not quite as easy as you think. If you’re like me, you believe everything should just come together. After all, everyone is on board. People seem to know what they’re doing. But I’ll let you in on something you probably already know: things never go as planned. Not entirely. So, there are certain precautions you should take in organizing that event, whether it’s your first or your thousandth. Although, to be honest, if it’s your thousandth, you probably know more than I do.

The first mistake many organizers make is to fail to plan. You can’t assume, and you can’t guesstimate. After all, putting together an event is no simple thing. Planning everything ahead of time—the location, the time, the schedule, the furnishings, the technical requirements, the supplies, the food, the announcements, etc.—is a must. How will you let people know about it? How many people will be there? Will there be a guest speaker? Where will the chairs and tables come from? Will there be food? How much? Who will bring it? All of these things will need to be decided ahead of time to ensure that you have the budget and materials you need.

In a similar fashion, the second mistake is failing to clearly define roles and assignments. With all those various needs and responsibilities, you’ll need people to handle the details. Who will take care of each of those aspects? And who will be responsible during the event for handling issues? Who will help with setup? Who will handle the technical glitches? Who will work the help/service area? A lot of these things depend on the size of your event, but large or small, assigning roles and being clear about who will take care of what is a necessity, unless you want three people figuring out why the microphone isn’t working while members and visitors mill around because there’s nowhere to sit.



A third common mistake is to be inflexible. The event is going to change. Between the day you start planning and the opening of the event, things will go different than you expected. The number of attendees will change, and speakers will back out, and rentals will fall through, and times will change, and a dozen other things will come apart. Now, don’t panic—not all of these things will happen, and maybe none of them. But something outside your control will be altered, and you’ll need to be prepared. Be flexible; have back-up plans. Try to anticipate the things that can change or go wrong. Then, should they do so, you’ll at least be somewhat prepared and will have a contingency plan. And that can make a huge difference.


Last but not least, don’t make the mistake of ignoring the details! A lot of this can fall under the purview of your other plans, but sometimes the little things make the biggest differences. Is parking adequate? Are the bathrooms in working order? Has the heater or air conditioner been iffy lately? Can you see the stage/screen from every seat? Are the name tags organized? These details, if considered, can really set your event apart!

There are no guarantees in life, and nothing is foolproof, but if you avoid these common mistakes when planning your next event, you can at least ensure that, if something does go wrong, you won’t be the fool. Plus, if something goes wrong and your careful planning helps you sail through it, then you’re the hero who put together a spectacular event despite the trouble that fate threw in your way. And let me tell you from experience: that can be a wonderful thing—nearly as wonderful as an event that goes off without a hitch.

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