9 Ridiculous Event Planning Mistakes We Made so You Don’t Have To
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Remember the first event you ever planned and all of the things you wish someone had told you first? Event coordinating is a jump in heart first career choice and just like you, we started day 1 in the trenches and learned while we planned. The journey has not been perfect but thankfully, you only forget to schedule the cleaning crew once before you learn your lesson.
Here are the 9 mistakes you can now avoid to take your planning from ‘make it work’ to ‘slaying the game’.
Mistake #1: Forgetting to fuel my body...and then running out of gas
A big lesson I’ve learned is to make sure to hydrate – and eat! You’re on the go all day long and it’s easy to forget to drink water or stop for minute to have a quick sandwich.
I remember my first couple events on hour 12 I felt so crummy and exhausted and then realized I hadn’t stopped to eat or drink all day! No wonder I was shutting down! As the event planner you are so critical to every component of the event that you forget to also take care of a critical piece – yourself! Now I always carry a bottle of water and snacks in my backpack (amongst other essential event items - sunscreen, hand sanitizer, hat, extra phone charging battery) so that I never end up dehydrated or hungry.
Also, when you stop to give yourself a break, you are able to take in your surroundings and realize what a great job you are doing and how amazing the event is! If you spent the entire 12 hours running you never would have noticed that!
Mistake #2: Testing the limits of my (not-so-trustworthy) memory
If you ever catch yourself saying ‘I’ll remember that’, most likely, you won’t.
The event industry is constantly moving and changing every day, every minute. There will be new things that pop up that need attention and even the smallest detail of ‘Can you send this one email’ will quickly slip your mind and can be harmful. Your memory is not as good as you think it is, especially when you have a thousand and one things to do, give yourself a break! Three words, WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Whether it’s a notebook, planner, your notes app in your cellphone, even the back of your hand. Write down everything as it comes, so you have a home base to go back to if you think you forgot something. Trust me, it WILL become your life savior.
Mistake #3: Dressing as if event planning is a desk job
I have to admit, this is a lesson that I’ve had to learn more than once. And, I’ve been making this mistake since my first day on the job! I showed up for my first day as a Public Relations/Event Assistant Intern wearing a fresh Bebe (remember that brand?) pencil skirt dress that was better fit for a Board Room than the pre-Street Scene planning whirlwind I was walking into.
Within just a few hours of running around the Gaslamp Quarter performing my assigned errands, including feeding the meter of the Chef downstairs and NOT my bosses car as requested (2nd Mistake of the Day), I had split my dress ¾ of the way up my thigh and had blisters on my feet from the 4 inch snakeskin pumps I thought made me look sooo professional.
I got a stern kick in the rear from Day 1 that Event Planning is much more physical work than you would assume. From placing linens on 60 tables in a ballroom to chalking out booth spaces on a street you will always be on the move. You should find a wardrobe that can take you from presenting in a Board Room to organizing a storage room in the same morning….and sometimes this means a pair of comfortable flats in your tote bag.
Mistake #4: Trusting my husband with the alarm clock on event day
There’s nothing like waking up to realize that you are not only late for an event but early morning tv…It was Mardi Gras and I had set the alarm clock for 4 am but woke up stunned as the clock read 5 am. I screamed, literally, as my husband casually yawned and let me know that since I had not gotten up, he assumed I did not need to and he turned off the alarm…I mean are you kidding me?!
Every cuss word came rolling out of my mouth like a truck driver on a cross country long haul whose breaks just went out on the final miles over The Grapevine grade into LA! In my frantic rush to get to the site, I lost my cell phone in the toilet bowl and drug a half charred Christmas tree (yes in February) 15 miles on the freeway (long story…).
Learn from me, it’s always wise to set a back-up alarm or have a buddy call system with a colleague for early morning call times. Especially if you have a husband that likes to hit the Snooze…
Mistake #5: Assuming anything…it makes an A$$ out of U and ME
The world of event planning has SO. MANY. MOVING. PARTS. It can be easy to really lose track of what you are told or what you need to do especially the week/day of an event. It can be so easy in a fast-paced environment when you are stressed trying to get things done before a certain deadline to rush through things without asking questions or reassuring yourself and others that the way you are completing a certain task is correct.
I have learned the hard way that many of the mistakes or miscommunications I have made throughout event planning could have easily been avoided without assuming and if I would have just asked my dang questions. So, never assume, because if you do, you’re most likely wrong and NEVER be afraid to ask those questions!
Mistake #6: Expecting people to follow through with out follow up
There is nothing more exhilarating for a PR junkie than a live TV spot. You are essentially setting up an entire "mini" event in the wee hours of the morning to give your potential attendees a sneak peek of what's to come.
A lot of work and coordination goes into creating every live TV spot from chefs and bands to stilt walkers and cowboys, it only takes one miscommunication or forgotten phone call to lead to a hiccup. I can't tell you how many times in my early career I had to use my car to light up a dark street because my venue was locked; I’ve been part of a segment when my talent oversleeps (I've bobbed for apples, dressed in costume, danced in the background - you name it, I've done it for my clients).
So do yourself a favor and never take that reminder call the day before a live segment for granted - it will save your bacon! Bonus if you can do an Irish gig, sing a song and have a trunk full of themed props/costumes to liven up your shot in a pinch ;)
-Nat aka Go Go Gomez
Mistake #7: Choosing Sides in the Phone VS. Email VS. Text Game
There are so many ways to communicate with your clients, vendors and participants. But LISTEN UP…although it is fine to have natural tech tendencies it is super important you disrupt these patterns intentionally during your work.
If you’ve been emailing someone for weeks without a response, pick up the phone! As a millennial myself I get it, I’d prefer to live in the Rabbit Hole of Email-Land too, but I now focus on efficiencies. If I can get a project resolved in a 5 minute phone call, I will choose that any day over 10 emails over the course of 2 days.
Does that mean calling is always better than email? Heck, no! When your message will not require a ton of back and forth or when you are sending detailed instructions, email is your go to gal. Email allows people to go back to reference the specifics of your communication and is helpful in limiting mistakes. Often, I will follow up a casual phone conversation with specific detailed instructions, and if I had done this from the beginning of my career it would have stopped my flawed flyer order of 1,500 instead of 15,000.
What about text, you ask? Text is great for short immediate chat matters. It’s a superstar addition to the team but not a standalone all-star.
Mistake #8: Speeding my way into a rabbit hole of mistakes
Event planning is one of the most fast paced work environments ever. As an employee at a small event planning company I find myself wearing lots of different hats with various responsibilities. One of the BIGGEST lesson I’ve learned is too SLOW. MY. ROLL! I found that when I rush or when others rush there ends up being multiple mistakes that could’ve been avoided if I’d just slowed down and took my time with my tasks (like when I sent out an eblast saying "BUT TICKETS NOW"). Like the old saying goes "The turtle will always win the race," cause as the rabbit you WILL find yourself going back to fix your avoidable mistakes and therefore taking much longer on any give task.
Mistake #9: Making clients work for it
It’s pretty obvious that when someone hires you to coordinate their event they are looking to you to make their life easier, but what was not as apparent was all the ways I could simplify the work on their side by taking a few extra moments on my side.
Previously I would send something off for approval, knowing that I had previously sent the accompanying reference document and the other link they needed to make a decision. But…I was relying on them to put together those three pieces before responding to me.
Now I make sure that when I send anything for approval, I have collected all relevant pieces into one concise package so they can easily respond to me within moments. The bonus here is that not only are you making their life easier, but you have also just sped up your whole process by increasing the rate of response.
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