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Ten Ways to Streamline Your Association's Event Planning Process

When planning and executing an event, it is important to be efficient and keep things running as smoothly as possible. The following ten precautions will save you from many headaches:

1. First things first: book your venue!

You can be so busy with other association activities, that booking venues for your upcoming events may be the furthest thing from your mind. There are certain times of year when venues are especially busy: post summer holidays, pre-Christmas and during the end of the fiscal year – May and June.  If you are looking to hold your event during any of these periods, you must start contacting venues early to secure your date.

2. Create a timeline and task list

Before you jump in the deep end, make sure you prepare a timeline and task list for your event that you can refer back to throughout the process.  It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, but you will thank your lucky stars when you have that to rely on as the big day approaches.

3. Do away with paper forms

If you want to increase event efficiencies, start with your registration process. Collecting paper forms, transferring data to spreadsheets and following up for payment can be timely and complicated. It doesn’t have to be this way! Online event registration systems can save you and your members a lot of hassle. Contact details, payment information and dietary requests can be confirmed with the click of a button and members can often log back in to update their registration. All event registration systems are different, so take the time to scope out options that meet your specific needs. You may want to investigate our association management software, Dashboard.

4. Start promoting early

Most professionals’ schedules fill up quickly. In order to ensure you have the greatest turn out to your events possible, make sure you provide members with plenty of advance notice. Even a ‘save the date’ stating there will be more details to follow solidifies the date in their mind and creates anticipation.  Collecting registrations early on will also help you get an idea of how big your event will be so that you can adjust venues as need be. 

5. Set registration and cancellation deadlines

The days leading up to an event can be very busy, so setting deadlines for registrations and cancellations is necessary. In order to prepare materials such as handouts and giveaways, you need to know how many guests to expect. You also need to provide venues your guarantee with at least 48-72 hours’ notice, so it is wise to set these deadlines at 72 hours prior to the event.  You can typically increase numbers by a few, but reducing is an issue – if guests are allowed to cancel within this time frame, the association will be out for their meal costs, which is never a good thing.

6. Keep attendees informed

Advise your guests of any important information prior to the event. If you are holding your event at a private club or golf course, a dress code warning is imperative. You will also want to advise guests of registration times, to bring cash for draws, and their team mates or starting holes if it is a golf tournament. One email can save you from phone calls and reduce questions at the door.

7. Confirm final details with venue

Just like you, venues are busy planning many events so it is easy to forget minor details if they were not recorded in the event contract. Touch base in the days leading up to your events to re-confirm any details or additional requests, such as table set up requirements. A walkthrough of the event space may also be helpful to visualize the set-up.  

8. Always arrive early

You never know what surprises can come up on the day of an event. The room may be set up incorrectly; maybe you forgot important items at the office. You will also want to perform a thorough AV test to ensure all equipment is in good working order. Encourage your speakers to arrive early as well, so they can get comfortable with the set-up. 

9. Greet guests in an organized fashion

The registration desk is your attendees’ first impression of the event. Ensure you have attentive staff and/or volunteers ready to handle the crowd. Name badges that have been laid out alphabetically contribute to a streamlined process. You should also have print outs of attendance lists and methods of collecting payment in case people show up un-registered at the door. Find out where the bathrooms and coat racks are as soon as you arrive, and be prepared for any and all questions!

10. Prepare an agenda with timelines

In order to ensure the event stays on track, a day-of agenda for volunteers and MCs is necessary. This should include any important announcements, speaker names and bios and sponsor recognition.  Everyone has busy lives and you don’t want guests leaving early if the event goes over its scheduled end time. This may also cause problems with the venue if they have another group starting promptly afterwards. A jovial MC who can pleasantly move speakers along will be a great asset to your events.

This may seem like a lot to keep in mind but a lot of it is common sense and will come with experience.  As long as you build these items into your event planning task list, you will have nothing to worry about! 

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