Five truths about event planning

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 22, 2009 in event planning

I plan to write more about event planning soon, byt there are a few quick things I would like to note until I have time to write a post:

  1. What can go wrong, will go wrong. The best thing to do is be prepared and stay calm. One guest complimented me on my demeanor. He said that demeanor shows a lot about a person and I showed that I can roll with things even when things aren’t quite right.
  2. You don’t get to enjoy the event. I took about three bites of my food and I was back up again, checking on the buffet and going around the room. My job was to make sure things ran smoothly and enjoying myself was low on my list of priorities. Luckily, the waitress was nice enough to give me a to-go bag of all the food served. I enjoyed the food after the event.
  3. The event will probably start late. You can’t control what time people arrive, even if you tell them to get there early. It helped that I built extra time into the schedule to help with this.
  4. Event planning is harder than it looks. My friend Jena told me this last year after she planned this same event. I didn’t quite believe her until I was in her position. I’m sure some things I did was criticized by others. But until someone is completely in charge of planning an event, I’m not sure they have much room to talk. You don’t know the hassles and stresses of event planning until you’ve actually done it.
  5. If you expect it to be simple, it won’t be. I bought 10 glass vases from the local dollar store. Several of them started leaking after being filled with water. You wouldn’t expect glass vases to not be able to hold water.

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Event Planning is Unpredictable

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 25, 2009 in event planning, PRSSA

Event planning is one small aspect of public relations. I’ve met a lot of people who say they would love to go into event planning. There also are people who have no experience in it, but think it’s just fun and easy work.

I’ve been planning an event called Member PRemier, which is an annual luncheon for PRSSA members, families and friends. It has been quite the rollercoaster. With just one month left to go, I’m starting to feel the pressure of the event.

Here’s a short list of how it has gone so far.

  • October: Five months to go and no worries. Set date. Find venue and food. Still relaxed.
  • November: Struggle to get members to commit to joining the committee. I don’t want to plan this by myself! Play with budget. This will cost how much?! Choose the name First ImPRessions.
  • December: Not much accomplished. There was one meeting that nobody came to. Put together information on online collaboration Web site. It’s very cool, but everyone is to preoccupied with exams and holidays to care about helping me plan the event.
  • January: Get a few people to join committee. Learn to delegate better. Have outline for the program done. Have sponsorship opportunities outlined. Assigned projects to people. Must get all of this stuff approved by adviser ASAP.
  • February: Go crazy. Advisers want location changed. Go someplace bigger, they say. Call several places. E-board votes: we’re sticking with the original location. Adviser says to change event name because it’s too similar to another name. Edit everything. Find and contact keynote. Design save-the-date cards. Design invitations. Copiers say invites are the wrong size. Fix it. They need more changes. Fix it again. Finally, invitations are to press. Edit the budget and decide on cost to attendees. Start pitching sponsorships. Decided, with one month to go, that event planning is unpredictable.

And as crazy as it sounds, I still kind of like planning events.

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The Role of Public Relations in Driving Strategic Business

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Nov 10, 2008 in event planning, National Conference, PRSSA, Public Relations, Strategic Planning

2008 PRSSA National Conference

The Role of Public Relations in Driving Strategic Business
Kathryn Oldham, Director of Corporate Communications, Little Caesar’s Pizza

Kathryn Oldham spoke at the conference about strategy. She suggests using strategic documents to keep programs on track. These documents demonstrate thorough thinking and planning when you are presenting to company leaders. Strategic documents allow you to track the roles and responsibilities of others, helps keep people informed on program details and help measures results.

Ask the following questions to develop a strategic document:

  • What do you need to know?
  • What do company leaders need to know?
  • What does your extended team need to know?
  • What types of issues and challenges might the program face?
  • How do different aspects of the program fit together?
  • Who needs to be involved

A strategic document should contain the following:

  • Overview
  • Key messages
  • Event schedule
  • Media plan
  • Story angles
  • Internal communication
  • Identification of open issues
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Contacts
  • Budgets
  • Lessons learned (afterward)

The overview should contain the five W’s and the H: who, what, when, where, why and how

Key messages will be what you want the media focus on and broadcast.

The event schedule should contain names of who is in charge of certain duties and their deadlines.

The media plan should be strategically focused on how you will develop media interest, get on their calendars. You should prepare releases, b-roll and interviews.

Story angles need to be made interesting for a variety of segments of the media. What would local be interested in? National? Niche?

Internal communication is important in building pride within the organization. This might include working with internal newsletters, Web sites, voicemail, etc.

Open issues are issues that need to be addressed. For the Veteran’s program, open issues included reaching out to social media, materials, locations, rehearsals, weather, parking, travel, budget and contingency plans.

Roles and responsibilities are important in determining who is in charge of what, especially if you are working with agencies.

Oldham suggested you follow up with the media with thank you notes. As we all know, relationships are extremely important in PR. These relationships come in handy when you are trying to expand a story to get more coverage or if you are trying to get coverage of media opportunities such as anniversaries, grand openings or awards.

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Event Planning Advice with Dennis Gaschen

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Nov 9, 2008 in event planning, National Conference, PRSSA, Public Relations

2008 PRSSA National Conference

Event Planning
Dennis John Gaschen, APR, Public Relations Counselor, Professor, California State University, Fullerton

The event planning session at the conference was packed. I showed up a few minutes early and managed to find a seat, but several people who walked in after me sat in the back on the floor. Since I am planning an annual event for parents this semester, this was one of the most useful sessions I attended.

Start with a destination, Dennis Gaschen suggested. What is the goal? What do you want to achieve? The special event is the vehicle to get you there.

After you determine the purpose of your event and then determine your budget and time line. Start at the due date and work backwards.

Gaschen said to be sure to check the dates – check with the school or site, check religious dates, check for sporting events and check what happened on and around that date last year.

Next, don’t book the site before you visit. For newly opened venues, give them six months to work the kinks out before booking an event. Also find out what sort of extras are included with the venue, including parking, AV services, set ups, etc.

You can never have enough publicity, according to Gaschen. Every event has competition, so focus on the benefits you event has to offer and give people a reason to attend. “Make it sexy,” said Gaschen.

You can never start planning too soon, said Gaschen, and you should always build in contingencies and check references. You also need to get everything in writing as soon as it is decided. Store everything in a function book.

Never leave things to the last minute. Gaschen describes the event planner’s role as a firefighter. “You’ll be putting out fires,” he said. You need to be able to focus your attention on this rather than on finishing last minute details.

Although it’s good to save money, Gaschen warns against trying to save too much money. It is better to negotiate and know what you’re getting.

Other facts and tips offered by Gaschen include:

  • Facilities usually prepare 10% more than the guarantee.
  • Invitations need to be mailed seven weeks before the event.
  • Bathroom to person ratio should be 50 to 1.
  • Hors-d’vores per person, if dinner follows, should be eight.
  • Ratio of guests to wait staff at a formal dinner should be 10 to 1.
  • The seating availability for a fraction of guests at a cocktain party should be one-third.
  • Minimium square feet per person for a cocktail reception should be 8′.
  • Ratio of people who prefer white wine to red wine is 60/40.
  • The maximium number of people to be seated at a 72″ round table is 12.

Planning is important. Gaschen said nothing ever goes according to plan. Things take longer, cost more, don’t work, look different and other things come up. He attributes this not to Murphy’s Law, but the Gaschen’s Law: “Everything will go bad…and you will be blamed for it.”

Do you have any event planning or management advice, tips or comments?

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