I’ve recently completed work on two events that happened to take place on the same day. That wasn’t the original plan, but when you have great clients, you make sacrifices. Both events were very successful (and luckily, one was a luncheon, and one was in the evening), but leading-up to it, I experienced an inordinate amount of stress. Most likely, this kind of double-header won’t happen again, but it got me thinking about how I should manage my stress levels going forward. If I’m experiencing stress, and I’ve been planning events for over 15 years, then I think some smaller non-profits are probably experiencing the same thing. Here are my tips:
1. Plan ahead as much as possible. Even if you think you have a lot of time, you don’t.
Get started as early as possible so you have room for last-minute changes closer to the event.
2. Consider hiring a professional to help you. I know I’m tooting my own horn here, but
when you hire someone to manage your logistics, it frees you, and your team, up to focus on what’s really important – building relationships with your donors.
3. Take 10-15 minute walks daily. Even if you don’t have time for a serious work-out
(and who does, really?) getting some fresh air each day will really help you chill-out
for a moment.
4. Take a yoga class. I’m actually going to start a new yoga regimen next week, and I’m
so excited to have an outlet and time for myself.
5. Acupuncture – this is a recent discovery for me. I was dealing with sciatica pain, for
the first time, leading up to those two events, and I needed relief that medication
couldn’t give me. One session made all the difference, and what do you know, the
pain was virtually gone once the events were over.I’ve learned that I need to be
proactive about taking care of myself so that I can be the best I can be for my clients.
Going forward, having some sort of de-stressing plan in place is going to help me deliver the best results possible to my clients. If the stress is too much, you are doing something wrong. Take a step back and call me for assistance!
Planning events can be exhausting, time-consuming, and expensive, and volunteers can either help alleviate these issues or make them worse. It is the job of the organization to set expectations and roles & responsibilities for their volunteers when it comes to planning an event.
I've worked with event committees throughout my career, and while they are an integral part of an event's success, they are not utilized effectively in most cases. When you think about an event committee, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Picking a menu, designing floral arrangements, and designing the invitation, correct? Those are all the correct answers for what volunteers think they should be doing, but that is not the best way for them to be helping the organization they care about.
Nowadays event attendees want to go to an event and see that their money is going to help the cause not feed the people in the room, so the focus of the event committee should not be on these details. They need to be more "outward-facing" not "inward-facing", meaning, they need to serve as ambassadors for the organization to the rest of the community. They need to spread the word about the event, and even more importantly: your organization, and recruit people to come. There's no sense in worrying about the menu if there's no one their to eat the food, right?
It's a difficult balance when working with volunteers because they are giving you their time, and you want to show them your appreciation, but that does not mean that you bend to their every whim. Organizations must be upfront with their volunteers on how they can best serve the agency, from the start, and provide them with the education they need to go out into the community. Don't expect them to know what to say; educate them and empower them to work for you, and they will feel like they are apart of something bigger than just one event.
Isn’t it always the case that once you think you’ve made a decision about something, you have a unique experience that causes you to completely change your mind? For such an organized and decisive person, I had to take a moment to realize that this great feeling I felt, helping someone plan an 80th birthday party for her father, was something I wanted to experience again and again.
I’ve spent the last few months trying to define what I want LW Events to be, and the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to put limitations on myself. Most of my experience lies with non-profit events, but I’ve realized that planning social events can be so much fun, so why not do both?
I’m excited to announce that I will be taking on social clients for the 2018-2019 year, and I’m really looking forward to sharing in everyone’s birthday milestones, weddings, and bar/bat mitzvahs. I know these events are the most important days in a family’s life, and I want to partner with families to ensure that they actually have fun at these events and not feel stressed-out.
For non-profits, I have even more exciting news! I’ve developed a 4-part process to help them achieve success well beyond just one event. The process includes:
I’m so excited about this because it really defines all of the important pieces of event planning for a non-profit and builds-in the most important parts that they don’t always think about: strategy and follow-up.
Having worked inside non-profits for over 15 years, I know the struggles and where the holes are. So many times non-profits are short-staffed and just trying to reach a fundraising goal, and that leads to so much focus on events, sometimes too much. In my experience, most of these organizations get so wrapped-up in the event planning details that they don’t stop to think about why they are doing the event and if they are achieving goals other than just hitting their numbers.
If you’re going to spend so much time, energy, and money on an event, get more out of it than just one thing. I want to build this strategy into the planning process so that once an event is over, non-profits have a plan to capitalize on all the goodwill they created at that (perfectly planned) event.
It’s going to be a great year!
People fall into one of two categories: those that think planning an event is easy breezy and those who know that planning an event takes real work. I come across both ends of this spectrum all the time, and many times clients fall somewhere in between. Here's my take on the biggest mistakes non-profits make when planning an event:
5. Details: Events are nothing without all their details, and while those are extremely important, I've seen many non-profits get stuck on finding the perfect venue, negotiating with a caterer, or worrying about napkin color (I've seen it all). Your donors probably don't care about this as much as you think they do. Instead of worrying about these details, hire a professional to manage them for you, and that will leave you time to focus on your messaging, engage with that "hard to pin down donor", and figure-out how the event fits in with your big picture plans for the year.
4. Run of show: Most people don't realize that what happens on stage at a professional event is choreographed with a timed document. After spending time and money to get an event organized, it would be a shame if the program does not run smoothly. A clear run of show will keep everyone on the same page to ensure that your messaging is not overshadowed by an awkward exchange at the podium.
3. Explain your why: When you're passionate about your work, you live in it every day. It's easy to forget that most people attending your event are there because a friend has asked for their support. Remember that you have a captive audience, and it's your job to ensure they leave your event having a better understanding about what you do. Be creative and tell a story; don't just list off statistics and numbers.
2. Post event follow-up: I get it, you're busy... I've worked at non-profits most of my career, and the truth is that all of them are understaffed with a long list of tasks to accomplish every day. When it comes to a big event, it's usually an "all hands on deck" mentality, and while that's great for event day, most of those hands will disappear as soon as the event ends. Don't make the mistake of not outlining a follow-up strategy as part of your planning process. Events are supposed to be springboards for building relationships, and the real work starts the day after an event for it to truly be successful.
1. Goal-setting: This should be the #1 priority when starting to plan an event. Most non-profits are busy with the day-to-day tasks of getting things done, and when they plan their events they tend to focus on just the event planning details instead of why they're doing the event. Events are not the most cost-effective way to raise money. Know why you're doing the event, set goals, and work backwards to accomplish those goals.
Contact me to learn more about being more strategic about your events!
In January it was officially 1 year since I re-launched LW Events, and I can't believe how much has happened during that time. I've met countless professionals who have really helped me move forward, and I'm so excited about the year ahead.
I recently sent a survey, to over 500 people, on what worked and didn't work for their events in 2017, and the results were very interesting! I'm happy to share them here, and welcome any follow-up questions/discussion.
Good luck with your 2018 events!!!
Lisa Wein, Consultant
I have loved event planning for as long as I can remember. Whether it's a fundraising gala, wedding, or a corporate meeting, I get a thrill when the event is perfectly planned and the client is happy.
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