Being an event planner can also be called being a researcher. The mantra is research, research, research and then research some more. The best event planners put aside time to do their homework. So, start by reading all you can about the latest technology and industry trends. Because you will certainly be expected to be creative on demand and spill out brilliant ideas that no one has heard of before at a moment’s notice.
Then research your audience. What are their demographics? What are their roles within the organization? What are critical topics to them? What do they value about the organization? Because you will need to be prepared to customize all of your event communications specifically to them. All of this research and information will come in handy not only during your planning process, but also when you need to make valid points to upper management. Summarizing your findings will help support your goals and objectives.
Finally, research every possible scenario to make everything in your power as convenient as possible for the attendee. I have participated in many post event meetings and the feedback is always consistent. Mostly it was some small detail that was overlooked that will ruin the event for an attendee. For example, there were no good vegetarian selections on the menu, the agenda was too compact, I sat in a hotel banquet chair for 4 hours and it was really uncomfortable, I had to walk 3 miles to my breakout sessions and I have blisters on my feet, the audio was way too loud, I got lost twice because there was not enough event signage, etc. You get the picture.
So think about whether the attendees are going to be sitting in general session for long periods of time and whether a more comfortable seating selection (something besides a typical hotel banquet chair) would be better. Provide ample breaks for attendees to rest. Consider the transition time between sessions. Have extra coats and heat lamps for your outside event in case the temperature drops. You cannot please everyone 100% of the time, but attendees really appreciate those little conveniences.
The only way you will be able to think of everything is to gather your troops around you. Never attempt to do it all yourself. You need support as even small events can have hundreds of details. Form a diverse committee. Include folks that have different roles within your organization. They do not necessarily have to have event experience. Creating a diverse team that offers different perspectives often results in great ideas and brainstorm sessions. If possible, include 1 or 2 committee members that have actually attended a past event or will be attendees at the event you are planning. Their input is imperative. Hire experts! Hire lots of experts. And be sure to include your vendor partners on the committee as well. They are a big part of your success as everyone working on the event needs to be immersed in the objectives and the details.
Look for my next event post on key insights into evoking emotions and thinking differently.