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The Octagon 8: Tips for Event Planning

Planning an event can often feel like a daunting task. Scouting locations, accommodating guests, planning menus and coordinating vendors all in a timely manner can turn anticipation for your fun-filled celebration into a heavy weight on your shoulders.

We’ve noticed an influx in requests for our event management services. Most recently, we were commissioned by the Baton Rouge Mayor’s office to help them commemorate the 2016 flooding in our area. The goal was to develop an event plan and manage a memorial service, providing the community with an opportunity to reflect and heal. The night celebrated the resilience of our city, featuring guest speakers from local church pastors who faced flooding in their churches to Governor John Bel Edwards.

We love the opportunity to plan and execute events for our city and our clients. Our Event Management team has an 8-step process to guarantee a seamless event, whether it be a large scale corporate celebration for hundreds or a small, intimate gathering.

1. Brainstorm

An often-forgotten step, getting all our idea and thoughts down on paper during a brainstorming session is key to executing a successful event. No idea is too big or outrageous. We save pictures, samples and lists of all our unique ideas for décor, menus and entertainment to create a vision board and bring the ideas in our heads to life.

2. Get Organized

After we’ve got our creative juices flowing, we get organized in order to execute the event.

  • State your objective – Why are you planning this event? What is the end goal? What must happen for this event to be successful? Setting an objective and keeping it at the forefront during event planning will ensure consistency and happy attendees. When planning an event for our clients, we keep their motto, mission and brand in mind. We plan our events to be up to par with the level of work or service our clients provide to their own customers.

  • Define a timeline – Set benchmark dates that are realistic and allows for ample time to order décor, supplies, food, etc. Sticking to a timeline avoids stress and a pileup of work in the few days prior to the event.

  • Define a budget – We always work with our clients to develop a realistic budget and ensure they’re getting the most bang for their buck. We then use our budget to eliminate the impractical things from our brainstorming list. Get the essentials first: tables, seating, catering, lighting, etc. Things like décor, floral arrangements and giveaways should be selected secondarily. While attendees would love a 5-star meal, they probably wouldn’t enjoy eating it on the floor…

  • Utilize Event Planning and Event Management tools – There are so many free and paid event management software that industry professionals, and new comers, alike can use to execute a successful event.

3. Contacting Vendors & Location Scouting

If we can’t do it ourselves we utilize our relationships with locals to get our clients top notch service for the lowest price.

  • Location, location, location – When selecting a location to host our events, we look at it through the eyes of the attendees. What’s the first thing they should see as they enter the event? Can this venue be transformed into what our client is looking for? Will the attendees get that “wow factor” at this location? Professionals in the event management industry often have connections and relationships with popular venues and can get you the best location for the best price.

  • Contact necessary vendors – Event management specialists know the local vendors and can point you in the direction of what will be most popular with the attendees based on their demographic. We’re in constant contact with our vendors after initial meetings to ensure they’ve processed requests, have made necessary preparations and are ready to execute their services the day of the event.

  • We always double check to make sure we’re in compliance with all local and state laws. Some of our events are big and bold… but those require special permits. We check that any insurance, licenses or permits necessary to execute your event are obtained.

4. Secure Partnerships and Publicity

Who doesn’t love free things? Securing sponsors or partners who can donate goods, services or money means free stuff for you, and free advertising for them. Everyone wins!

  • Our team identifies local and national organizations and businesses that align with the theme of our events and values of our clients.

  • Create a public relations/marketing plan - Including a public relations or marketing plan into our timeline is imperative for events open to the public, but can be equally as effective for private events. If your event is free and open to the public, sending press releases or hosting media days is ample to raise community awareness and getting people to attend. If your company is hosting an invite only event, inviting the media and press to cover your event amounts to free advertising and public awareness.

5. Stay on Track

We provide weekly status updates to our clients on the progress of their event coordination.

  • Be flexible – It’s important for event planners and event coordinators to remain flexible and change plans according to budget and time restraints. We never run out of ideas and ways to create your perfect event.

  • Define team roles – It takes an army to execute an event… luckily, we’ve got an experienced team equipped for success. Giving defined roles, tasks and expectations to team members ensures smooth sailing. We like to use this model for defining our Event Management team:

  • Event Planner or Coordinator – The Event Planner is the creative and logistical lead. They meet with clients, develop the event plans including theme, floor plan, itinerary and hiring vendors. This person follows up with clients and vendors, serving as the liaison between all parties involved.

  • Event Manager - The Event Manager is on site the entire day of the event to provide direction to vendors, set up and take down, and to manage any crises along the way. The Event Manager provides logistical direction the day of the event and serves as the point of contact to make decisions and handle any emergencies during the event.

  • Event Photographer/Videographer – Takes pictures and videos to document the event!

  • It is important to note that these roles often overlap and all team members work together to create a seamless event!

6. Final Preparation

We always walkthrough the venue one last time just before an event to ensure it’s ready.

  • Finalize the schedule for your event – We like to start our day of event timeline from as soon as we arrive on site to break down and cleanup.

  • Develop an emergency or crisis plan – Developing a crisis plan is the key to creating a perfect event for your attendees. Brainstorming potential issues, designating team members to handle accordingly and discussing protocol in the event of an emergency beforehand helps to alleviate stress and prepare team members. We always hold a staff briefing meeting the day before our event.

  • Organize everything you’ll need into clearly labeled boxes for transportation to the event site. We think this trick alleviates unnecessary questions and makes set up run a lot smoother.

7. Execute

  • Time put into preparation should result in minimal work during the event.

  • Our team remains on site and alert, catering to the needs of our clients and attendees whenever necessary.

  • Even with countless hours spent on preparation, hitches the day of the event still occur. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected and are always ready to improvise. The best event management professionals are always calm, cool and collected.

  • Our team likes to use walky-talky radios during events. This allows us the stay in contact with each other from various parts of the venue and eliminate catastrophe before it even happens. We call it “putting out fires.”

8. Evaluate

It’s important to measure the successfulness of your event to improve your skills and be better prepared for your next event. We always offer the opportunity for our clients to follow-up with us.

  • Get feedback from your client – What worked? What didn’t? How satisfied are they? Listening to feedback, both good and bad, from clients helps us grow and makes our future events that much better.

  • Send follow-up survey to attendees – We always want to see what the attendees thought. This research allows for better insight into the demographic of the event and can be used in the future for planning similar events.

The Octagon Media team has experience planning everything from small corporate meetings to concerts for legendary artists. Visit our website for a full list of services offered by our team of advertising and marketing professionals located here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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