I think that everybody has attended some event – no matter how small or big. A birthday party, baby showers, farewell party, conference – all of them are events and someone made a special effort to make them happen. Event management is an art that for some comes naturally and some struggle with, but there is one universal part in all – most guests don’t know how to appreciate it or the work that it has taken.
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Occasion dictates mandatory elements
Although event management seems like a super creative task, it actually comes with a punch of unwritten rules or in other words: guests’ expectations for this event. People are kind of hooked on traditions and even if we really don’t know or even care why some traditions are the way they are. We still expect them and are disappointed, when they have been left out. So everything starts with event planning, research, and having a great event planner.
For example – birthday cake – I think none of us could imagine a birthday party without a birthday cake. Even if you don’t eat cake – you expect there to be one. But do we really know the history of birthday cake? This type of thing comes with all events and an event manager has to be aware of them. Whether it’s a baby shower, games night, wedding, seminar, or conference – the event manager has to make a checklist of mandatory elements and build the event around them, because traditions create expectations.
Events first impression – invitation
The invitation seems a small and not very crucial part of the planning. This small piece of paper or square on the screen is often overlooked and ends up with just a lineup of information – date, and place. What else could be important? But the truth is that invitation is the first impression of the event. This is the first thing the guest will see, this means that if a guest has a choice that is it. If the invitation is plain and boring – there is a good chance that the event will be plain and boring.
Another common mistake is starting with an invitation. Although it’s important to give them out as soon as possible events basics have to be settled before. The first things are of course when and where. The invitation should give a kind of preview of the event – is it formal, casual, romantic, outdoors, or indoors? Do we expect guests to bring something – if the event dictates gifts or flowers you might want to hint to guests about what is preferred. For example at weddings often flowers are used to create decorations in the event venue so they should be in a certain color type to match the event style. Or maybe the birthday girl is allergic to pollen and we don’t want any flowers.
If there is a more formal event like a conference when guests have a choice we want to influence them to come. So we need to give out some teaser – the wow effect of the event. This can be a special performer, raffle, or a gift for attendants. Add it to the early invitation.
Yes, we can send out several invitations and it’s pretty common at big conferences and trade shows. The first invitation and marketing wave includes the date, time and duration, venue and general name, and wow effect. And you can note that the full schedule will be revealed on 1, 2, 3 DATE. This is also a great way to test the interest in the service so event managers have a chance to analyze feedback data and if needed learn from it and adjust services or operations.
Event management demon called – catering
At the same time needs to be considered all the possible or most common allergies, food beliefs, and preferences. I honestly haven’t yet figured out which way it’s easier to plan a table – for strangers or friends and family. Most catering offers a fixed selection of foods to ensure that they are able to make it of good quality. And if the event budget is tight – there are group menus to choose from. Not to mention, that there are areas with very limited options for catering – the farther they come – the more they cost. Every event manager will try to make the best choice for all the guests.
And when event catering is self-made by the host – sorry, it’s just rude to complain about not having 100 different options. If you are on a strict menu for whatever reason – you can ask ahead politely about your allergies etc so you can prepare accordingly – bring your own or eat before depending on the format of an event. But bear in mind – if you happen to be the 15th person and all others ended their questions with demands – the host may not be happy.
Ranting about food
As a guest it’s easy to complain that I am allergic or vegan and believe me, guests do that a lot. But as a guest – have you even once looked around you? How many other people are there besides you? And then tried to imagine creating a food table that will suit all of them. I get that it sucks when there is a big table of food and there are only a few things you can or like. But believe me – nobody is 100% satisfied with it – so find what you can and if asked, leave feedback.
Don’t storm to the event manager and start ranting. Unless you are in a place with an open and working kitchen – the chances are that there is absolutely nothing anybody can do about the menu. I know it sucks – I have left a dinner party at a restaurant hungry with a stop at the first Mcdonald’s I saw. And it wasn’t even that they didn’t have food. They had and I could choose personally my plate – just it turned out to be super fancy and meal sizes were for bikini models on diet I guess. After that, I don’t go to any event, even to the restaurant*, without eating enough to last the event in case there isn’t suitable food for me.
*With exceptions of places where I am familiar with food choices for certain.
I have heard the complaint about rude event manager several times. And not because they did or said something rude but because they didn’t engage in long discussions. Here is a little secret. Doesn’t matter if is it a family event or a formal business conference – the host is working. Every event has a schedule and the host is the one who will have to keep an eye on the clock and all the activities.
For example in seminars there are often several speakers and coffee breaks – the host must ensure that if one speaker wraps things up quicker than planned – the next one is ready or vice versa and that coffee breaks are ready for a scheduled time. It’s constant tracking – time, topics, people’s locations – and of course besides all that they will have to remember to greet every single guest. Don’t demand long conversations at least until formal parts are over. And if you see a host browsing in the corner – don’t interrupt, there’s probably something that needs to be taken care of.
Event management crew’s silent language
After my own experiences as an event manager, I have started to notice a lot more in all events. One of my favorites is the crew’s silent language – crew members can be across the room with music blasting and the dance floor full of people – they will communicate!
The bigger the event – the bigger the crew and the more things depend on timing. For example weddings and the first dance. Being a guest it may seem really spontaneous (with very good a host!), but when you think about it – it can’t be. All the other activities have to be done, the band/DJ has to be ready with the right song, newlyweds have to be ready, and the guest has to be in right place. It usually means that there is an agreed on time-slot and the host signals everyone involved heads-up before the announcement.
The same applies to everything that needs to be done – set up, taken away, moving. The crew knows exactly what their tasks are depended on – for example, if there are meals switched after the first dance – the dance is a signal to the cleaning and waiting crew to clear and set up the next course while everyone is busy watching the dance and joining in. When there are several performers in the event they each have to know the lineup and how the previous performer will start to sum up so they know to be ready on time.
Things will go wrong – accept it
No matter how much you plan and prepare – things will go wrong. Accept it in advance, and make your peace with it so that when it happens – you can keep your calm and resolve this. It can be anything from the guests being late due to a snow storm, a performer being late, you getting hurt, or anything else. There are a lot of options but the important part to remember is that in this split second it feels like everything is ruined and the event is a huge failure. It only feels!
During my event management experience, all the above-mentioned have happened. On-time of starting we hade 10 guests of 50 – due snow storm in the night, the rest joined one by one later. I got 2nd and 3rd degree burns 2 days before 150 people conference. One of our performers spoke twice as fast knocking over ALL schedules. But guess what – no one complained about these in feedback. Our performers were fascinated by the snowstorm and happy that people made it and how engaged they were. Guests were happy to have a warm place and thrilled performers.
In the end, what matters is the emotion and experience guests get – how you greet them, talk to them, what is happening around them – do they get something out of it? New experience? New friends? New certificate. Just something out of the ordinary day. So keep calm and resolve the issue – everything will be fine.
Also to help you out even more I have put together a workbook for event planning:
11 thoughts on “Event management is an art”
What an excellent observation! Running an event successfully is like a skillful dance; it requires precision and practice. 🙂
I love the dance metaphor! It’s so true 🙂
I don’t think I’d be able to do a big event as an events manager, not by choice anyway. It sounds like a lot of hassle and a lot of stress. Things I like to avoid. I can’t believe you did that as a job. How did you cope? Did you get a lot of over demanding clients?
To be honest I wasn’t fully informed when I took the job and by the time I found myself prepping for the first 100people conference – it was too late 🙂 The first ones were harder, I kind of learned on the go everything. I have been blessed with pretty cold nerves – sure that helped 🙂 There have been some complainers in every event, but I have dodged the over-demanding and entitled/spoiled clients.
Although I haven’t managed an event in a long time, your post brings me back to those days. Setting things up, having a planning, inviting people, dealing with their complaints. It was fun and such a great feeling when it was over and it all went well. Not necessarily according to plan, but good enough.
What I really liked here is how you addressed the guests to take more things into consideration before complaining. People do their best and sometimes your special needs aren’t thought off. Try to enjoy it anyway.
Thanks for this lovely read. Brought back many fond memories.
Yes, the “over” feeling is great. So pumped it feels like you can move mountains and yet, at the same time the total fatigue of being drained lemon.
This was a very fun post to read – and educational. It gives me the sense you really do enjoy event management and the buzz it brings. Your eye for detail and perspective are amazing. I pinned your invitation template, it’s useful to have a guide, thank you. I like the aesthetics part of events but I’m not so strong on information detail, so this was a very useful post for me. I was also amazed by the fact people go and complain about the event manager and food. I ran some events at uni but planning and those super important details I delegated to someone else. It is indeed an art that doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
Thank you! I tend to like the small details part more and happily, would have delegated the talking with guests pre-event and during the event to someone else. People can surprise us and not always with good sides. Some complaint about food, some about time, some about chairs – but thankfully not all, so it’s usually possible to focus on the positive feedback to pull through the event.
This is a detailed post on events management. I have had some experience in this area, and I found it very stressful. You seem to take it all in your stride ☺️ Now, my only experience is kids’ parties! But many of your points still apply lol Timing, expectations and people thinking you are being rude 🙄 Thanks for sharing. Jade MumLifeAndMe
There are periods of event prepping that are stressful, but luckily for me not the whole thing. And kid’s party – that’s a stressor 😀