Event Planning 101: How to Avoid Disaster

This past weekend, my colleagues and I executed the last step in our internship for the term by hosting an event that we had been planning for the past few months. The event was on behalf of Nancy Hughes, founder of StoveTeam International and recipient of the 2011 Purpose Prize. It took place on Sunday at King Estate Winery, and everyone was extremely pleased with the outcome.

Nancy and Sanya

Nancy and her protegé, Sanya. Courtesy of Whitney Taylor at: http://whitneytphoto.com/

That being said, every event has its glitch(es), and ours was no exception. (Based on my general life problems, of course they were mostly technology-based. Darn 21st Century.)

After finally winding down from the excitement of our event, I have come up with a few pointers for any future event planners out there.

First, know your audience. We decided to use Paperless Post®, an online invitation service that allows you to personalize the invite. While this is a really wonderful option for the tech-savvy young adult, it was not so great for our fifty-and-over audience. We had a number of people that opened the invitation but failed to RSVP, assuming that opening it was enough for our count. Luckily, because my colleagues and I are human vacuum cleaners and will eat our weight in food, we had already overestimated the amount of food we would need, so the fact that about thirty more guests arrived than expected was already accounted for. Moral of the story: research your guests and think about their demographic.

StoveTeam Table

Our table displays. Those information cards were a pain to keep in place. Courtesy of Whitney Taylor at: http://whitneytphoto.com/

Second, have your technology straightened out. This seems to be a recurring theme in today’s world. While we had all of the right pieces, the one thing that we had decided was not in need of a trial run was our speaker set up. When the video that had been produced on Nancy’s behalf began playing without any sound, we had a minor panic attack. Again, luck was on our side as our photographer was able to turn around and pick up compatible speakers before the guests arrived. ALWAYS try out your technology before hand, even if it seems like a no-brainer. Lesson learned. Well, kind of. I’m still struggling with my iPhone. Oh well.

Also, bring a toolkit. My colleague (and roommate, actually—fun fact), is one of the few college girls I know who has a toolkit handy everywhere she goes. It includes nails, a hammer, twine, duct tape—you name it, she has it. And we ended up needing every single one of those items.

Finally, have plenty of visuals. Again, this is an area that we did not neglect, and I am extremely happy that we were over prepared for this. We had photos from the StoveTeam trips, framed awards, statistics, and informational posters for our guests to enjoy. Oh, and plenty of sunny sunflowers, because they can brighten up any room and put a smile on even the gloomiest face.

My experience interning for Nancy was unforgettable, and seeing so many people in one room to celebrate her accomplishments was an inspiration. Although our event had its glitches, it was certainly a hit, and Nancy left smiling!


Kevin, Krista and myself after the successful event. We made it! Courtesy of Whitney Taylor at: http://whitneytphoto.com/

For more photos from our glorious photographer and fellow Allen Hall PR colleague, visit: http://whitneytphoto.com/. While you’re there, take a look around–she has an awesome portfolio!


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