The event you’ve been planning for months has finally arrived, you and your team are anxious to open doors and welcome your attendees. You’ve put so much detail into the planning process, and everything seems in order. Yet, some events do fail, a lot of things can go wrong, and it’s sometimes too late to fix anything. An event is a real-time entity, so once it’s done, it’s done. Some aspects can be fixed as the event is taking place, but others can’t. Having things go wrong can be avoided, though, if you know which are the most common mistakes that event planners make. In this article we’ve put together the top 10 mistakes in event planning, so that you’ll know what not to do if you want your next project to be a success.
1. Not planning enough time in advance
Timelines may look plentiful on paper, but often in reality everything takes more time than you imagined. Not starting planning with enough advance can lead to your entire event being doomed to fail. Keynote speakers, artists, venues, are the main pillars of your event. Most likely, the ones you want to book already have an agenda set for a few months to a year in advance, so that’s the amount of time you’re looking at if you want to make sure your event is going to happen in the formula that you projected.
How to avoid it
If your event revolves around specific names and places, don’t set the final date of your event before you check the availability of your desired speakers, artists, and venue.
2. Over (or under) estimating the number of attendees
Not doing a realistic set of calculations regarding the expected number of attendees can lead to various types of disasters. As far as the venue is concerned, too few guests in a too large venue will lead to a general impression of “flop”. Too many guests in a venue that is too small will lead to everyone being unhappy to be crammed in a tight space. In both cases, attendee experience will suffer greatly. Same goes for catering, too much food ordered and too few people to consume it will be a waste of budget. Too little food for too many people will, again, make guests unhappy.
How to avoid it
Set clear objectives in terms of the number of guests and have a precise strategy of how to reach them. Of course, no-one has a crystal ball that will say exactly how many people will attend the event. Which is why, as far as the venue is concerned, have cancellation policies in your contract (and a plan B, and a plan C) and be prepared to change the venue if the number of people registering for your event is dramatically different than what you expected.
If changing the venue is absolutely not an option, set up a maximum number of tickets available, to make sure you don’t go over capacity. On an online event management platform (such as Metooo) you can easily do this when you create and publish your event. Moreover, on Metooo you can set up waiting lists so if additional places become available, you can fill them up right away. A waiting list will also increase the overall appeal and desirability of your event.
If your event includes catering, set up a flexible order policy with your caterer, starting with just an estimate at contract signing, and adjust to the final quantity just a few days before the event, when almost all your guests have already registered.
3. Not using technology in the event management process
In 2019, the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality still exists among some event planners. But the truth is, given the complexity of events nowadays and given the rising expectations of attendees, you do need technology to make sure that your workflow is streamlined and that customer service to attendees is at top notch level. Not using technology can lead to precious information being lost and organizing team members not efficiently communicating with one another on various parts of the event project. It can also lead to poor attendee experience (not getting answers to questions in a timely matter, long waiting lines to enter the event venue, etc.).
Another common mistake some event planners make is to think that incorporating tech into the event management process is just a useless cost, when in fact what it does is lead to an efficient usage of human and material resources and actually reduce cost.
How to avoid it
If terms like chatbot, AI, or Virtual Reality still look daunting, start incorporating tech into your event with the very basics. Use an online event management platform for your next event. Event management platforms may seem like the norms to most, but it’s incredible how many event planners still don’t use them, although they integrate most of the fundamental parts of the organizational process. On a platform like Metooo for example, you can:
- create a beautiful event website and personalize it with all the information on your event (dates, times, schedule, speakers, sponsors, photos, videos, etc.)
- sell tickets through safe transactions and allow your guests to pay by credit card or PayPal
- send stunningly designed RSVP email invitations to entire mailing lists at once
- manage attendee check-in within just a few seconds per attendee, thus shortening waiting time at the entrance and reducing queues at a minimum
4. Not allowing enough time for set-up and clean-up
Again, a mistake related to timing, but this time within the actual event schedule. A common mistake when the event schedule is designed, is to not allow enough time for the venue set-up and clean-up. Often times, the venue itself is booked for a certain number of hours/days without keeping in mind how long it would take for the A/V and lighting equipment or catering to be installed. Often times, speaking sessions are too close one after another to allow for proper cleaning. And then some more: we’ve seen events where the actual dismantling of the set-up starts when some guests are still at the venue!
How to avoid it
Having technical staff roaming among guests, rushing to plug power cables or sweep floors, or, even worse, having the decor taken down while guests are still seated for desert, is the surest way towards attendee dissatisfaction. And it’s so easy to avoid, by booking the venue for a sufficient amount of time and by inserting setup and cleanup time slots when elaborating the event schedule. Your budget might resent it, but yet again, a budget well spent makes attendees happy!
5. Not allocating the right tasks to the right people
Many event organizers think that if they themselves have what it takes to know how to plan an event, simply delegating some tasks to whoever is available means “creating a team”. But instead of easing their work as project managers, this could do more harm than good. Not allocating the right tasks to the right people (who should have the right skills and experience to handle them) can lead to a wrong execution of parts of the project, and to the need for the project manager to have to fix errors done by incompetent team members.
How to avoid it
As soon as you defined the event objectives and have an outline of the main areas to be planned (venue, logistics, marketing/PR, administrative, etc.) create a team that includes members who are skilled and experienced in those specific areas. It might be tempting to work with interns and/or volunteers, for budget constraints, but even with them, a selection process is due, to make sure they have the skills for the areas they are assigned. Also: if your event poses complex technical challenges, or required highly specialized technical skills, it is better to outsource this part to an event production company that will be able to deal with every tiny detail.
6. Not having a contingency or crisis management plan
Your event may be threatened by forces that are beyond your control. It is, fundamentally, no-one’s fault for rainstorms, snowfall, power blackouts or equipment malfunctions, over-energetic attendees/fans, terrorist attacks or the Third World War. But if your event has to suffer it is absolutely your fault if you don’t have a plan B, or a plan for emergency situations. The ways in which your event might suffer can go anywhere from wet guests trying to find shelter from the rain, to serious material and human loss. So not having a backup plan or crisis plan can be a critical mistake.
How to avoid it
There are several steps to be taken in order to avoid this mistake. Ideally, you will take all of them:
- have a backup indoor space available, if your main venue is outdoors
- set up a security system in place (well trained staff and equipment)
- have written contracts with all vendors
- elaborate a crisis management plan (we wrote more in detail about event crisis management in this article, take a look)
- sign an insurance policy for your event
7. Not re-confirming and not double-checking availability
And when we say availability, we mean availability of everyone from your vendors to your artists, and from your speakers to your team members. Having written contracts with all of them does help, but it’s not enough. Anyone can suffer from an unexpected illness, have an accident, or book, by mistake, another event on the same day as yours. No-shows are one of the most common issues at events. Having one volunteer missing at the check-in desk is easily fixable. Having the logistic company or caterer show up at a wrong venue is a serious headache. And, finally, having to explain to your attendees that the main speaker or artist didn’t show up is the ultimate “event planner’s nightmare”.
How to avoid it
First of all make sure you choose reliable vendors, partners, speakers or artists, and check their references. Have them re-confirm and double-check availability of each of the people (and companies) involved in the event, a couple of weeks before the day of the event. Then reconfirm again and have a final run through all the details, two days before the event.
8. Going over budget
Not thoroughly calculating all the expenses during the event planning process can lead to serious trouble as the event date approaches. An easy mistake to fall pray to is spending more than budgeted on the first items you book for the event (venue, artists) which can lead to eventually not having enough funds for other items (logistics, decorations, catering, staff). The result? An event in an impressive venue but with poor attendee experience due to scarce food, lack of ambiance or insufficient customer service. Another classical event budgeting mistake is ignoring to include an “unforeseen” chapter in your budget. As good as your financial planning is, unexpected expenses may arise and you have to be prepared for them.
How to avoid it
First of all, build a realistic budget after having asked for cost estimates from all your potential vendors. Consider even the tiniest and apparently insignificant items in your event (like staff transport and stationery), because they quickly add up. Have a concrete, tangible plan for how you’ll finance your event, and don’t start planning it on promises and hopes alone. If all or part of your funding is from selling tickets, start selling as early as possible, to generate cash flow. Use an event budget template (like this one that we created for you, and that you can download for free) to make sure you don’t miss any details.
9. Neglecting promotion
Publishing your event and thinking that tickets will sell by themselves or just through word of mouth is just purely naive. The offer when it comes to any kind of events available at any moment nowadays is so vast, that your event will not stand out from the crowd if it’s not promoted correctly to your target audience. And not even a limited budget is a reason good enough for neglecting event promotion.
How to avoid it
When you build the event budget, make sure you allocate a sufficient and realistic amount to marketing and promotion. Favor web marketing tools over traditional, offline marketing which tends to be less cost-efficient. Define your target audience as precisely as possible, and only promote your event to that audience. Set up targeted ad campaigns on the main social media where your audience spends time. Build a solid mailing list way before starting the actual promotion of your event.
Make sure your speakers and partners promote the event too. Also, don’t forget to promote the event on your company website. If your event is set up on Metooo, you can embed the ticket on your website and on any other website.
And if you want to be sure you’re not missing on any type of activity that you can do to promote your event, check out and use our free event marketing checklist!
10. Not following up after the event
The fact that your event just came to a close doesn’t mean that your work is finished. Not following up after the event can lead to a variety of negative consequences. You will miss precious opportunities to promote future editions and to know how your guests appreciated the event. You will also miss the chance to secure sponsorship for future events because your current sponsors will be disappointed by your lack of communication. Moreover, your suppliers and vendors may never know what they could do to provide a better service.
How to avoid it
There are many ways to follow up, and there is no reason not to use all of them:
- since most likely you collected information from your attendees (on Metooo you can do this during the ticket sale phase, using the survey feature), you can use this information to contact them and ask about their satisfaction after the event
- collect all media coverage about the event
- send detailed reports to sponsors regarding attendee numbers and behavior, proof of their brand exposure, and photo and video material from the event, that they can use for their own promotion
- encourage your attendees to publish their experience at the event in every shape: photos, videos, posts on social media and on your event website (on Metooo your attendees can publish posts on the event website’s public wall, through the Storytelling feature)
- give feedback to your vendors regarding the quality of their service and what can be improved in the future
- give feedback to your team and send a full evaluation report to the main event stakeholders (the department that requested the event, your boss, or your client). To make sure you covered all aspects, use our event evaluation template.
These were the top 10 mistakes in event planning that we think are most commonly made. If you’re just starting out in the event industry, keep this article as a reference of what can be easily avoided in order to plan successful events. And if you’re already experienced in event management, keep this as a reminder that it’s better to prevent than to try to fix issues!