Event Planner Essentials – So, what’s in Your Black Box?

Assorted color plastic container on stainless steel rack photo

Skift Take

Making a list and checking it twice, or several times, is essential when assembling all the necessary gear prior to an event, but what are planners’ “must-haves” for ensuring a stunning event experience?

As the opening ceremony looms closer with every minute, the task of packing massive plastic shipping containers and crates with the various accouterments needed to produce and conduct a memorable event. In addition to banners, power cords, stationery, and various tapes, planners shared the essentials they hold near and dear for keeping themselves and attendees safe and entertained.

Get the Gear!

Planners new to the events industry should also consider creating a mobile office that includes typical items from three-hole punches to UPS items, including envelopes, labels, and stamps, in the event that an attendee doesn’t receive important materials while on site. “Setting up an office is important,” said Sherry Huss, head of community at Freeman. Planners new to the meetings industry might focus only on the event floor and overlook more subtle items that make the magic happen behind the scenes.

Bringing an ample selection of power cords and various adaptors or convertors may seem obvious enough, but these types of items can truly make or break a situation in a pinch. “You never want to be caught off guard,” Huss continued, adding that having to scramble for an additional cord can derail presentations or impact displays and signage. 

Another subtle savior in a planner’s bag of tricks is various types of fasteners, including various tapes and zip ties. “There’s always a use for zip ties,” Huss said. Unforeseen issues, such as bothersome cords strewn about, can create potential tripping hazards. The best way to deal with these is to tie them together and move away from foot traffic. Huss also suggests bringing gaffers and blue masking tape to secure items such as hanging banners when needed. 

Other important items include small safety cones and single measuring wheels that are available with digital displays. These items can help planners map out the event space, especially when outdoors and using tents, to ensure everything fits where it should.  

Personal Baggage

“Bring a backpack,” said Andrea Milrad Heilweil, vice president, sales and marketing at the Hutton Group. Items such as stain sticks and scissors can come in handy in case of a dreaded spill or wardrobe malfunction. “You never know when you’ll need these random items,” she said. Milrad Heilweil also mentioned instances where swag items such as T-shirts were too large for certain attendees, so she used scissors to make quick alterations.

“Pack a well-organized binder with event info and contacts and don’t rely solely on what’s on your phone,” Milrad Heilweil suggested, noting that it’s not ideal to resort to tapping around your phone when you need specific information quickly accessible. “Paper still has its place,” she said, adding that being well organized can help conserve paper. 

For meeting planners who have made a full migration to devices using tables or laptops to track various documents, Huss suggests having more than one device in the case of a malfunction. “This is the biggest challenge,” Huss said. “You need a backup.” 

Safety First

Events can be a fun time and maybe too much fun for some. Having Tylenol or Motrin on hand can help relieve the pain of any attendee who went too hard in the paint during a cocktail party or dinner the previous night. Attendees also frequently need band-aids for random knicks and scrapes, so having those readily available can also help, Milrad Heilweil explained.

With weather patterns around the planet being anything but typical these days, meeting planners organizing events outdoors should pack in anticipation of the unexpected. Huss spoke of organizing events primarily set outdoors at destinations including Boise, Idaho, where temps reached over 100 degrees and other instances when unexpected rain storms tormented attendees.

In cases of extreme heat, Huss suggests bringing items that will aid in keeping people from becoming dehydrated. Nuun tablets come in the form of small tablets with various flavors and help replenish electrolytes. Other important items can help keep attendees healthy are Emergen-C packets and menstrual items.  

When heavy rains appear on the horizon, having a supply of ponchos can save the day. Problematic weather conditions can also create the opportunity to provide attendees with additional swag, such as branded ponchos. 

Stifle the Hangry 

Keeping appetites satiated is important for attendees and planners alike. Packing small snacks such as granola bars and bottled water is always a good idea. After all, a simple snack can mean a lot for those working behind the scenes.

Larger items, including mini-fridges and microwaves, are handy when working in a space that doesn’t have access to a kitchen. Having these items on hand can keep planners from having to leave the site, helping to save time and money.  

Fun and Games 

Who doesn’t like toys? “Those little green army men, a puzzle or silly string are a great way to take your mind off the reg desk and can be a great conversation starter,” Milrad Heilweil said, adding, “it helps bring everyone down to the same level.”

Carry thank you cards. In an age where all aspects of life reside in the digital realm, a “hand-written note can be very impactful,” said Milrad Heilweil. “I’m a bit of a stamp nerd,” she added. “If you’re going to mail a thank you note, using a unique stamp can help make a greater impression.” Huss echoed that sentiment. She noted that leaving a thank you card in an attendee’s room can have a big impact. If, for some reason, that is not possible, it’s time to use the aforementioned UPS supplies to get that note out while still onsite. 

Make Your Case

Simple plastic moving crates will suffice for any items that are less prone to damage. Durable cases with custom die-cut foam are better for fragile items. Huss suggested Anvil Crates, which can be custom-ordered to fit any item, including printers and office supplies.

Planner Checklist

Office Supplies/Stationery

  • Zip ties
  • Misc. office supplies (hole punches, post-it notes)
  • UPS envelopes, labels, and stamps
  • Various tapes


  • Backup device
  • Multiple power cords 
  • Adaptors/Convertors
  • Bluetooth speaker

Personal Items

  • Backpack w/ scissors, stain removal stick, sanitizing wipes, etc.
  • Various toys and party favors
  • Thank you cards 


  • First aid kit
  • Pain relievers 
  • Electrolyte tablets
  • Panchos or large garbage bags
  • Bottled water
  • Snacks


  • Microwave
  • Mini-fridge
  • Travel cases

See more planner checklists here.

Photo credit: Romina BM / Unsplash