Dear Darla: A Guide to Great Events

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When you want the best advice from a professional event planner, just

ASK DARLA

Dear Darla,

Earlier this week I received a voicemail at 8:30 a.m. from my boss.  It said “Jane, just got off the phone with corporate, we need to have an all hands meeting with the sales department first week in June…please have some options for me for the staff meeting.” Click    …… Darla, I don’t even know where to start on such short notice!  Can you help me?

Frustrated in Fresno

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Dear Frustrated,

Of course I can help you!  We’ve all been in that predicament before, and there are definite steps to get you on the right track.

The first thing you have to do is gather more information so that you can make informed decisions.  I suggest that when you are seeking answers you have a note pad handy, write everything down!

Darla’s Data:

Before you start, I encourage you utilize technology that will simplify your planning process. Excel has some great templates to use, or check out the latest apps for your phone, PC or Mac.

One of my favorite apps is Google Drive, which works across platforms from Mac to PC to Android to Iphone. You can store your documents, photos, music, videos, etc., all in one place. It syncs with your mobile devices and your computer, so if you make a change from one gadget, it will automatically show up if you were to access it elsewhere.  You get 5GB of data storage for free, which will cover you for at least a couple of events.  Saved documents will be stored for 30 days.

I recommend creating a folder for each event. You can add word documents, check lists, budgets and photos. This app allows you to share one folder at a time; which makes information sharing with your co-workers, vendors and clients a breeze.

Once you are ready with your technology of choice, here are some important questions for your client:

  • What is the date of the event?  Try to also have a couple alternate dates if possible.
  • Start and end times?
  • What is management’s objective for this event?  Be specific:To get all sales staff to attend? To get the sales staff pumped up?  To launch a new project? To unveil a new pricing structure? To present awards for sales well done? Team bonding?
  • What is the flow of this meeting:
    • Theater (come and hear what we have to say)
    • Classroom (come and take notes)
    • Banquet (take notes, work in groups)
    • Cocktail (casual party atmosphere)
  • What is the look and feel management has in mind? Functional or motivational?
  • How many sales people are expected, support staff and management?
  • Do you need separate areas for upper management to meet? (Also known as a “pullout room”)
  • Are they all local or is traveling expected?
  • Will they carpool in, or one car per guest? (city parking can be a real challenge)
  • Do I need to arrange for rooms, if so, how many?
  • Do I need A/V?
  • What is being presented?
  • How many presenters?
  • How many screens?
  • Wifi needs?
  • Are we recording this presentation?
  • Do you need badges or just check-in?
  • How long is the event, will guests have the ability to get up and move?
  • Are there any special food requirements for the guests?
  • Meals? Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and cocktails?
  • What is the size of your guests?  Not the number; the actual size! Are they all very tall? Small? Orlarger in the seat area than a standard chair can hold?
  • Do I need to make special arrangements for some guests?  Are your guests in wheelchairs? Do they have other aids to help them, such as a service animal or other apparatuses?
  • What is my budget? 

The answers to these questions will give you a great foundation to start calling venues, catering companies or a professional event planner.

Use the internet to locate new and interesting venues.  I recommend creating just one email that will be sent out to several locations via BCC (blind copy).

In your email, explain your urgency.  Ask for photos and detailed information. There are also companies such as such as www.Cvent.com   and www.Eventcentive.com that can help you create an online RFP (request for proposal) to send to venues. Be aware some of these requests do end up in the end users junk mail, so you may need to follow up with a phone call.

Once you’ve narrowed down viable options, it is important to physically visit the venue, tour the facility, see the room you would be renting, check out the restrooms and kitchen.  You want to eliminate any surprises on the day of the event.  Being prepared is the single most important factor to make your event a success.

You are ready to get started! Good luck on your event!

Don’t miss next month’s informative edition of “Dear Darla” on Strategic Seating Secrets.

Darla Arndt is a professional event planner with more than 20 years’ experience.  She is currently the Director of Event Sales at Club Auto Sport, where she oversees all aspects of event planning from initial booking, to creating and developing memorable events, to negotiating contracts, marketing strategies and staying at the forefront of industry trends. “Dear Darla” is a guide to great events, that Club Auto Sport created to better serve our customers.

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