Keep smiling: 3 event-planning musts
Event planning is inherently stressful. Whether you’re knee-deep in coordinating a meeting for four or a professional luncheon for 400, you’re constantly inundated with minutiae and decision-making at every turn. It’s easy to grow job-weary, your only respite a perpetual daydream that plants you on a beach made of cash, sipping an Arnold Palmer.
It’s taken a few years of professional experience as a program coordinator, peppered with a bit of failure, but I’ve hammered out three event planning musts that help me de-escalate stress, capitalize on my brainpower to expand and improve events, and allow me to enjoy the programs I’ve planned.
In the beginning, say yes
When you’re brainstorming for a new event or program, don’t limit yourself or your teammates. Say ‘yes’ to every idea. You don’t have to follow through with them; you just have to get them up on the drawing board. The habit of positivity during the brainstorming process opens you and your colleagues up to more creative, inspired idea generation.
You might be thinking, “Floating ideas that are unattainable is a waste of time!” It’s true you might not be able to wrangle a unicorn petting zoo for your organization’s annual meeting, but getting that idea on paper brings levity to the planning process, and it’s a reminder that it’s OK to think big. You’re going to come across streaks of brilliance just by allowing yourself to say yes. Yes spurs ingenuity, taking you further than no, which only serves to shut you down.
In the thick of it, ask for help
I have a confession; I’m not a great delegator. If I know how I want something done, why not just do it myself? Here’s why: the micromanaging mindset is a direct route to a quick burnout, and scattered along that route are plenty of potholes – stress, failure, frustration.
It pays to be an expert at harnessing volunteer support. When you use volunteers to aid in planning and executing events, you set yourself up to avoid the burden of having to do it all on your own.
Bonus tip: Be good to your volunteers. Clearly communicate tasks, expectations and deadlines. If volunteers are ill-prepared, it sours their experience with you, and they’ll be unlikely to help you out in the future. If you empower your volunteers with all the tools they need to succeed, they’ll be excited, engaged, and invested in an event’s success, which in turn means they’ll be invested in your success.
In the after glow, say thank you
This tip is a no-brainer. Always, always say ‘thank you’ to the folks who helped you pull off your event. Everyone loves feeling appreciated, and saying thank you is an easy way to build rapport with vendors, volunteers, sponsors and colleagues.
How you say thank you is important, but even more important is that you make the ‘thank you’ a consistent and mandatory step in your event process. For each event I plan, I block off time on my calendar to say thank you. Immediately following an event, I send out a note of gratitude via e-mail, and within the week of an event’s end, I send out handwritten thank you notes. Choose a method that works for you, and stick to it! (Click here for more on the mannerly arts)
There you have it, folks! Say yes, ask for help and say thank you. I’m confident if you work these tips into your professional life, you’ll enjoy your job as much as I enjoy mine. Now, back to that Arnold Palmer.
Laura Morrison is the program director for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, where she’s worked since graduating from UNC’s School of Journalism in 2008. On her days off, Laura performs improvised comedy at DSI Comedy in Carrboro.