When you think of a successful event, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the canapés during cocktail hour (one of my favorite parts), the great entertainment that kept you on the dance floor until the bitter end, or the design that transported you to a different time and place. If it caught your attention, just know that the devil was most certainly in the details, and thoughtful planning during the lead time was key. Follow these seven ways to prepare for an amazing event, and create experiences that resonate with your guests, long after your party concludes.
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Create a Deck
Event Decks, usually created on PowerPoint, serve as a visual representation of an event from start to finish.
They include inspiration images that help flush out concepts before plans are put into action. Decks later house pictures of purchases and inventory grouped together to create vignettes, and act as a centralized place of reference on the overall design scheme.
For a deep dive on how to build an event deck and the advantageous of creating one, click here.
Imagine the Event Flow
Picture the event as if it were actually happening (talking through it out loud or with a friend can be helpful too). I usually sit down at a computer with the event deck on presentation mode, and pitch each slide from start to finish.
As I take myself through the flow, I consider the amount of time and labor required for set up, and for transitions during the event itself. I pose questions like, “who’s doing that,” “how is that happening,” or “when would this make the most sense,” and jot down notes on logistics.
Walking through the flow provides an opportunity to anticipate guest needs, and prepare for possible scenarios that guests may encounter. This reduces the chances of troubleshooting during the event itself.
Own Your Timeline
This is arguably the most important document in the planning process, and essential to the success of an event. It typically kicks off when load in or set up for an event begins, and ends when the last vendor departs and strike concludes.
Timelines don’t only keep your event partners, venue and planning team running on schedule during an event, they also act as a steady stream of consciousness when deciding on the best time for deliveries, when a space should be show-ready for your photographer to take room shots, or when a toast should begin.
Owning your timeline means that you’ll make thoughtful and intentional decisions as to how the event unfolds, in a way that creates a more enjoyable experience for you and your guests.
It also means that on the event day, you may not even need to reference the timeline because you know it all by heart (though, if you’re like me, you’ll probably check it anyway).
Maintain an Inventory List
It can be overwhelming to track and account for purchases once the ball is rolling and dozens of orders have been placed.
I’ve made the mistake of relying on email confirmations and shipment notifications alone to check the box that an item has been taken care of, and remove it from my to-do list without a second thought. It’s then frustrating when an item doesn’t appear in the box I expected it to, and I need to problem solve quickly to get that item in time for an event.
Queue the solution; an Inventory List that acts as a safety net, to ensure nothing slips through the cracks when it comes time to build an event environment.
Stage Event Materials
Stage event supplies all in one place, and organize them by section.
Think in terms of the event environment, and which items comprise each vignette. Keep supplies like food and beverage related items together (cocktail napkins, tableware, drink dispensers, straws, signature drink signage).
It’s helpful to reference your Event Deck to confirm where each item is intended to live. This allows for a turnkey set up process on the event day itself, and eliminates confusion or extra time trying to sort out where something is.
If space allows, take this one step further, and organize materials sequentially to coincide with the event flow. Start with items that might comprise a welcome moment and represent guest arrival, and move towards the next category that’s specific to your event, ending with guest gifts. This is a great way to triple check that all items are accounted for, and reveal any last minute purchases that need to be made.
Get Ahead of It
Use post-it notes to identify the purpose of each container, vessel, or tray. Unbox new shipments, remove labels, and assemble as much as you can in advance. Check off tasks sooner rather than later, and the days leading up to the event will be a breeze.
Group together your outfit in one section of the closet a few weeks out from the event. Remove the tags from any new clothes, and wash or dry clean, and iron or steam garments as necessary.
Gather shoes, jewelry and other accessories in a dedicated location for easy access on the event day. Make sure to try it all on, to identify any adjustments that need to be made.
Set Calendar Notifications
For Vendors: As soon as you sign a contract, plug the payment due dates into your calendar. Receive alerts when final payments are due to event partners, or when a cutoff date falls to make a decision (such as when the guest list is due to the calligrapher, or when menu selections are due to the caterer). This safeguards against incurring rush fees, or late payment fees imposed by vendors for missing contract deadlines.
For quick reference on the event day, add calendar entries of delivery windows for rentals, food and beverage, ice or any other deliveries that you anticipate. I always include the main contact and driver’s cell phone numbers in the notes section, incase a delivery is running late.
For Yourself: Build in reminders for personal tasks that can otherwise fall to the wayside when setting up an event. Carve out time for coffee breaks, lunch, an outfit change and refresh before the event starts to make sure these things actually happen!