Event Management

I Am a Good Event Planner But Nobody Shows Up

Skift Take

Are you a good event planner with dwindling event numbers? You may be making some of these common newbie mistakes.

Planning an event and driving traffic to it are two different skill sets. The first requires meticulous attention to detail, while the latter involves marketing and people skills. The first falls in the introvert’s wheelhouse, while the second speaks to extroverts.

So how do you cultivate both sets of skills to become a great event planner? By avoiding these common mistakes.

12 Mistakes Top Event Planners Never Make

While “never” is an absolute that may not be fitting for most of us, seasoned professional event planners avoid these things as best they can because they understand how deeply it can affect their events and attendance.

Going It Alone

A top event professional knows the importance of working with a great team. They know they can’t do it all on their own so they find gifted professionals in every area to help them do more and give their clients greater value.

Pairing with the Wrong Team

As much as a top event planner knows the value of a good team, they don’t risk their own reputation on someone they’re not sure of. If they need to, they audition team members before working on a big-name event. Once they have a good team in place, they work hard to keep it cohesive and running like a fine machine. If they err by selecting the wrong group, they cut them quickly.

Following the Shiny Object

Event planners need to be thinking about innovation when it comes to their event but they also need to know when being the industry guinea pig is not their next best move. Cutting edge is good. Bleeding edge involves pain. There are times when the shiny object can make your event amazing but there are also times when you realize that shiny object was just tin foil. Top event profs recognize value and good risk from glimmering goofiness.

Believing the Event Name Markets Itself

Even the large events like SXSW and Comic Con still market, even though they sell out every year. They don’t assume each year will bring the same crowd. They create personalized landing pages and email campaigns like the rest of us.  

Not Knowing Your Attendees Part I: Early Bird Registration

Typically early bird registration involves a large discount on your event. You’re asking people to pay way in advance of the event and for locking that ticket in, you pass along a discount to the participant. However, discounts aren’t always drivers, particularly if the attendee isn’t paying for it. You need to know your audience in order to understand what they will respond to. Sometimes early access to selecting their track/sessions is a bigger draw than a discounted ticket.

Competing Against Something Huge

There will be times in your career when your event is held at the same time as another large event. It’s inevitable but much of this can be avoided, especially if it’s an event that draws local attendees. Check the calendar for holidays, non-profit galas, huge sporting events, and anything else that would fight for attendees’ attention. You don’t want a small turnout because of another much anticipated event on the same night.

You also don’t want to arrange an event and book a venue only to find a huge event in town that is taking up most of the hotel rooms. This move looks amateurish to your attendees.

Not Knowing Your Attendees Part II: Marketing

Today’s effective marketing must be personalized and the technology exists to make attendees at any-size conference feel like more than a number. But if you don’t take the time to figure out who your ideal attendee is, it’s difficult to know who you’re talking to. Most newbie event planners make the mistake of trying to cast a wide net for their events but the riches are in the niches and finding that ideal attendee will help you create an effective messaging campaign that will hit the target every time.

Being Unprepared

Call it Murphy’s Law or a trick from scouting, but preparation is one of the key tools for every successful event planner. Always prepare for things that could go wrong. Have extras of everything. Create a backup plan or two. Ask yourself what is the one thing you’re ready for and then go cover that base, even if it seems silly at the time. Once you’ve thought of it, it’s out there. If you don’t prepare for it, you’ll hate yourself when that very problem arises.

Scheduling Every Minute

Attendees aren’t robots and a full schedule with no downtime isn’t always a good thing. Give people time to organically connect with others without them feeling like they’re derailing the schedule.

Expecting a Keynote to Sell You

A great keynote will sell your event (or at least talk about it) but if you’re going outside your industry or all the way to Hollywood, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with someone who’s going to float in and out of your conference. Plus they may bring a new audience to you but it might not be your ideal audience. S/he may personally sell a few tickets but if that’s the sole reason you selected her/him you may be disappointed.

Not Asking Your Keynote (or Session Leaders) for Content

One of the ways to get people excited about your event is hearing your keynote or session leaders talk about the topics they plan on addressing at your conference or event. This builds an audience early on and keeps people engaged who have already registered but are simply waiting for the event. Ask your keynote and session leaders to share content they have on your channels. Most are glad to oblige.

Leaving Event Promotion to the Last Minute

Savvy event planners aren’t merely recruiting attendees for a moment in time; they’re looking to build community around the event. Keeping attendees excited about the event before, during, and after will increase your return tickets purchased and improve word-of-mouth marketing. Look at your marketing as a three-step process: getting people excited, showcasing the excitement at the event, and creating a referral culture and community that keeps people networked outside of event time.

In Conclusion

Event planning takes a lot of skill but if you’re making any of the mistakes above, you’re sabotaging your own efforts. Instead, avoid these mistakes and you’ll see a larger, more engaged audience at your next event.