4 Lessons from the Biggest Event I’ve Ever Planned

Phew! I don’t think I’ve ever put as much work into one event as I did for this year’s 10th Annual Hispanic Choice Awards. This year’s show took place at the historic Merriam Theater in Philadelphia on Saturday, October 5, 2013. With over 1200 guests, an outdoor red carpet, and a huge after party, it was the most spectacular event that I have ever produced. Now that I have had more than 2 weeks to decompress and revel in a post-show glow, I am now in the space of reflection, critique and improvement; an important part of any event planner’s process.

For the project managers and event planners among you, I have narrowed down 4 takeaways for taking on a large event or logistics-packed project that will guarantee success:

1.Three Cheers for Volunteers!

Volunteers can be Godsends if utilized effectively! My first year doing this show I had 10; that did not work. We all ran around like headless chickens and my feet were throbbing by the end of the night. This year I had over 50 amazingly talented professionals on my team. While volunteers are music to planners’ event ears, if they are not properly trained and managed, they will be a heap of stress. Provide all volunteers with orientation (in person preferred, but virtually or via phone works too) before the event takes place. Do a thorough run-through of what volunteers can expect, FAQs, role-playing and team introductions. You’ll thank yourself later.

2.Quicky Packets:

Any great event has a master event packet, or “quicky” packet, as I like to call them. These are critical resources and anyone who plays any role in the show (stage runners, registration table volunteers, greeters, assistants, etc.) must receive one. Be sure to include any information that pertains to the show so that an event worker can turn to it without having to stop and ask questions. Always include a timeline, important contacts list, photos of VIP guests, dressing room assignments, room layouts, and a list of volunteer assignments. To minimize waste be sure to condense pages to one page by using smaller font and selecting print regions. Also, make sure to print double-sided. The earth will thank you later!

3.A+ Timelines:

This probably seems obvious but after being in the industry for 10 years, I am still surprised to see how inefficiently I have used timelines in the past. Timelines should be extremely detailed but easy to read. Keep them to one page but include details about people movement (ex: guests move into theater, Performer 1 in sound check,) major events beginning or ending, and anything that requires multiple hands on deck. Color coding is essential as well. If there are several sound checks throughout the day, for example, make the words “Sound Check” one color. Do the same for meal breaks, start and end times and speeches. It requires extra minutes beforehand but you’ll thank the time Gods later for the time you saved not answering questions.

4.Alone Time:

I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. A lot of producers and planners I have come across often run around nonstop on the day of their event. They try to be everywhere at once and are often frantic or bossy. They don’t usually eat, they barely take time to put themselves together and their brains are usually running a mile a minute. I’ve been there and I understand that when it comes time for a show, things must be done correctly no matter what. However, for the first time, this year I built in alone time for myself and for my business partner, into our individual day schedules. This actually ended up easing the craziness and bossiness. It may just be 5 minutes or 10, if you’re lucky, but I would strongly recommend that every event manager build this in. This small block did a world of difference this year and it was only 8 minutes! Do not use this time to check emails, make calls, scarf down food, or do your makeup. Just sit and be with yourself. I sat in my dressing room looked in the mirror, prayed, and organized the table I was working on; it was perfect. I ignored 2 knocks at the door, 1 phone call and my urge to respond to 4 urgent emails. I took deep breaths, smiled and regrouped. I had never felt more relaxed at an event I planned. Do it. You’ll thank me later.
Follow these 4 tips and I guarantee you’ll save yourself many headaches.

This year’s show taught me so much about something that I’ve been doing for over a decade. I love the way this Entrepreneurship Road continues to take me down new paths even when I think I’ve learned it all. This year was the first time I actually felt completely calm with not much to do on the day of a big event. For the most part, I walked around and observed; it was the greatest quiet victory I have ever experienced.

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