17 Common Event Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Event planning consistently ranks as one of most stressful jobs in the U.S. Whether planners find themselves forced to work with difficult personalities, try to juggle juxtaposing requests, fix event planning mistakes, or balance dozens of last-minute event changes, event planners have plenty of reasons to feel stressed.
It can be hard to avoid the busy work environment and crazy work schedules many planners find themselves facing but identifying and avoiding common planning faux pas can help avoid some of the unwanted stress. We’ve accumulated a list of some of the most common mistakes that event planners make and how they can be avoided. From online tools, resources, and event planning software options to tips from the experts—this list has it all!
Before we dig deeper into the discussion of individual errors, here are some big-picture strategies to help you avoid common event planning mistakes:
- Keep up with event planning trends and technological developments to stay ahead of the competition.
- Pay attention to your business trends, such as changes in ticket sales or community support, to catch potential issues or identify repeating concerns.
- Continue to focus on the ever-changing expectations of venues and event attendees, as they often fluctuate with the times.
- Contact experts and industry leaders for advice, tips, and to learn from their experience.
17 common event planning mistakes and how to fix them
1. Not starting early enough
Leah McCrae, Director of Strike Productions, believes one of the most common mistakes event planners make is failing to allot enough time to successfully plan and execute an event. She explains, “You can have the best caterers, the most wonderful venue, amazing artists and magnificent décor, but unless a practical time plan is followed, the result won’t meet the expectations of the client.”
Securing a venue too late, skipping an event walkthrough, failing to practice tech cues, or making last-minute setup changes can negatively impact an event’s success. Accepting event planning gigs with a quick-turnaround time could also lead to presenting less than your best work.
Create a long-term event planning timeline to ensure that each part of the planning process gets the focus it deserves.
2. Ignore competing events
Clients often approach planners with specifics in mind for an event, such as the date, location, or event design. While planners want to meet the wishes of their clients, it is important not to book dates blindly. Agreeing to a date and booking a venue without further research could cause complications that harm event success, accommodation availability, and the attendee experience.
- Are there other events, conferences, or retreats taking place?
- Will the area be busy in general due to holiday travel?
- Are you planning an event in a vacation destination?
If so, restaurant reservations, transportation, and other local accommodations may become more difficult to book as the event approaches. Research local events that overlap with your function. Search AllEvents, Eventbrite, Ticket Master, and even Facebook Events to find competing happenings in the area.
3. Neglecting to test your technology
Any event that includes digital presentations, sound, or lighting cues should be rehearsed prior to the big day. Failing to practice cues or ensure that presentations are working properly can cause disruptions during the event, which could harm the professional credibility of the corporation, brand, or team producing the event.
Whether hosting a live, virtual, or hybrid event, rehearsing is an important part of the planning process, especially when digital technology or media are involved. While rehearsals are critical for virtual event success, they are also a vital part of in-person event success.
Complete a run through of the event, start-to-finish, multiple times prior to the event date. Not only can rehearsals help speakers and presenters become more confident, but they also ensure that the event planning team catches and corrects technical issues.
4. Ignoring local policies and regulations
Rules and regulations can vary from town to town and city to city. Event planners who fail to research local policies, regulations, and restrictions could end up paying expensive fees for violating policies. They could also receive a ticket or risk ruining strong relationships with other venues.
- Will your event interfere with a parade route?
- Will you need to obtain a noise permit?
- Are their venue parking regulations, or street-parking restrictions?
Ask the event venue about potential complications, restrictions, or zoning issues that could interfere with the event. Connect with event professionals who work in the area and ask about legal requirements event planners should know.
5. Choosing not to offer discounts or promotions
While offering one ticket price for all event tickets may sound like the simplest option for event planners, choosing to do so could end up costing you profits. Planners looking to sell more event tickets tend to mix up their strategies by including a blend of offers, tiered ticket prices, or time-based promotions.
Common event ticket pricing strategies include:
- Limited-time discount offers
- Promotional codes
- Referral codes
- Loyalty discounts
- Batch ticket pricing
- Bundled ticket offers
- Tiered admissions (i.e., General Admission or VIP)
- Early bird registration specials
Generating excitement early in the promotional stages but failing to keep the momentum going is a common mistake new event planners make. Keep the momentum high throughout the entire process by creating a schedule of pricing strategies leading up to the event. Early bird registration offers, “last chance” reminders, and other dynamic ticket pricing strategies help boost ticket sales. These strategies can be used to build a steady buzz all the way up to an event.
6. Failing to keep track of changes and updates
Changes are an inevitable part of event planning, and they can happen at any time during the planning process. Event setups get expanded to accommodate more attendees, catering issues arise due to product shortages, and technology requirements can evolve based on the needs of presenters.
Take advantage of free event planning software that makes it easy to communicate event updates. Assign tasks and send updates to reflect changes, delegate responsibilities, or make quick changes to the event layout.
Other free event management software systems include:
- Wild Apricot
- Planning Pod
- Ticket Tailor
7. Disregarding the benefits of a solid backup plan
Just when you think you’ve prevented every possible hiccup, something will inevitably go wrong. Event planners are expected to be able to take an event that is veering off course and put it back on track without losing their cool.
If it rains at an outdoor event, will you panic or will you have a tent prepared to shelter guests from the elements?
One of the best ways to avoid getting caught off-guard during the event planning process, or during the event itself, is to create a backup plan. Factor in potential setbacks and have a solid plan in place to tackle them should they arise. Always leave room in your budget for unexpected expenses and create a Plan B in case any event details fall through.
8. Not staying in touch with attendees prior to a free event
While pre-event communication is always recommended regardless of the cost of attendance, the no-show rate can be as high as 50% for free events. Staying connected with guests prior to a no-cost event, however, can help reduce the number of no-shows.
By sending registered attendees event reminders, agenda updates, or exciting behind-the-scenes event footage, planners can continue to ramp up anticipation for the event post-registration. Create a mailing list to keep in touch with registered attendees and invite ticket holders to follow social media accounts related to the event.
9. Having inefficient check-in procedures
Inefficient event check-in procedures can lead to long lines, late start times, and unhappy attendees. To streamline the check-in process at an event, prepare as much as possible in advance by:
- Sending check-in details in a pre-event email.
- Training event staff to maximize efficiency.
- Making the check-in process touchless and paperless.
- Stationing digital self-check-in kiosks around the event entrance.
- Using a comprehensive check-in app to track attendees and communicate with event crew.
Utilizing mobile-friendly event check-in software makes it easy to communicate last minute changes, keep guest information accurate, and get real-time social media information about event attendees. Mobile check-in software is built to protect sensitive information while allowing you to access your entire attendee list on-the-go, from anywhere.
10. Losing sight of the main objective
It is easy to get caught up in growing registration numbers, social media engagement numbers, potential profits, and other success metrics that can cause you to lose sight of the primary objective. Do not let registration or media success overshadow the ultimate goal of your event. Define event goals and objectives that make an impact early in the planning process.
Additionally, some event planners easily get distracted by “shiny things,” like new technology or an exciting guest. Do not let a popular keynote speaker or social media contest prevent you from promoting the core values of the event or brand.
11. Planning too many activities
When event planners over-stuff an event agenda, it can lead to decision fatigue in attendees. If presented with too many options, or potential activities, attendees may become overwhelmed. This can cause them to shut down and choose not to attend the event rather than be faced with the stressful decision.
Offering optional break times that overlap with scheduled activities could place unnecessary pressure on event attendees who are afraid of missing out. Avoid attendee FOMO by scheduling periods of downtime that do not coincide with any other events or activities. Planners can also create multitrack agendas that allow attendees to view multiple potential event schedules at once and choose the activity structure that works best for them.
12. Hiring event staff without the right skills
Lasso reports that live event staffing will never be the same, with finding talent the biggest concern for the industry. With a smaller applicant pool to choose from, it is important to properly review the skills and training of potential team members.
Hire individuals based on the skills and duties that you need to delegate to ensure that you are as prepared as possible for the event. From the planning team to the event coordination staff, successful event planners need to be able to rely on the skills of those around them.
Before hiring event staff, make a list of your own strengths and weaknesses. Which parts of the planning and execution process will you need the most help with? Refer to your event planning checklist to see which activities or goals are going to be the most difficult for you to complete. Focus on filling your team with a balanced mix of experienced professionals who have skill strengths that you lack.
13. Creating a complicated or confusing event layout
Planning professionals who rush through designing the physical setup of an event may end up with a confusing layout. Perplexing event floor plan designs can cause an assortment of problems for both event staff and attendees that include:
- Crowded seating.
- Activities starting late.
- Complicated vendor setup.
- Long lines that create congestion.
- Getting lost or missing event activities.
- Decreased levels of attendee satisfaction.
Create a diagram of your event layout ahead of time. Seeing a visual representation of the event beforehand can help planners catch confusing layouts or conflicting setups in time to make pre-event changes.
In addition to the main event space, include breakout spaces, meeting rooms, networking areas, and common areas in your event diagram. Visualizing the event in its entirety makes it easier to spot inefficient attendee routes and crowded event areas.
14. Waiting too long to confirm with event vendors
Confirming your event with vendors includes much more than simply booking the event date and paying a deposit. Planners should keep vendors looped in on relevant details and real-time changes, and ensure that they have a reliable avenue to communicate time-sensitive changes to event staff.
Event collaboration software helps planners keep vendors, suppliers, and even stakeholders communicating prior to the event. Invite vendors to your online event collaboration platform to quickly send reminders or communicate updates.
Event insurance can help protect event planners from vendor-related liability and expenses. Make a habit of documenting contracts, deposits, cut-off dates, and vendor communications to provide your event planning insurance representative. Thorough vendor documentation will help protect you from being held financially liable for last-minute cancellations or vendor disruptions.
15. Stop communicating with attendees at the end of an event
When an event wraps, planners need to know what worked and what did not. Future event sponsors, speakers, and participants will want to see how successful the event was, as well as the projected success of future events. While event planners may have ticket records and profit reports to assess an event’s monetary success, failing to follow up with attendees after the event can cause planners to miss valuable feedback.
Obtaining post-event attendee feedback helps event planners:
- Better plan future event budgets.
- Identify areas of improvement.
- Create more efficient event layouts.
- Improve future attendee engagement.
- Build more buzz for future events.
- Show stakeholders the value of an event.
82% of event attendees discuss their event insights with colleagues, and event planners need to know what they are saying!
Reach out to attendees with post-event surveys, online polls, or through event-related social media channels. Formulate a list of post-event evaluation questions that will bring in valuable feedback. Ask attendees what they enjoyed, what they connected with most, what they would like to see at future events, as well as what they would have changed about this event.
16. Fail to harness the power post-event feedback
Send event attendees a summary of their feedback, as well as future plans to implement requested changes. Making a commitment to implementing their feedback in future events will make attendees feel valued, heard, and could lead to repeat attendees!
Once you’ve received guest feedback, reviewed reports, and evaluated the event’s ROI, create a comprehensive event report. Include the layout of the event, the vendors and speakers in attendance, ticket sales, attendee demographics, guest feedback, and any other important information that impacted the event’s success. Share your event report with key partners and future exhibitions.
17. Refuse to admit when help is needed
Outside of stats, and facts and planning, one of the worst mistakes that an event planner can make is refusing to ask for help. If you’re in over your head, reach out.
Talk to your team, the hiring company, or the venue staff for assistance. Refusing to ask for help can lead to issues piling up or tasks being pushed until the last minute, causing burnout in event managers. It is better to ask for help—even if feels uncomfortable—than to keep quiet, risking event success and putting unnecessary stress on yourself.
Now you can spot potential event planning mistakes and avoid them!
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