While lead times of a few weeks have become common, for the purpose of this discussion, we will define last-minute planning as anything with less than a 2-month lead time. (The reasons will become apparent as the discussion evolves.) Corporate event planners would do well to take a leaf out of the book of their association event planning colleagues and encourage clients to use an annualized approach to the planning cycle.
Here's why to avoid last-minute event planning.
It may be challenging to find dates when all key players are available. Calendars get filled up really quickly. Plan early.
Best Practice: With a long term approach to planning, save the date notices can be sent out early and you can avoid the scramble to sync agendas.
You'll explode your travel budget.
Even with a 2 month lead time, the most affordable categories in economy and premium economy classes are sold out on some airlines.
Best Practice: Aim for at least a 3-month lead time when booking airfares.
It will take a lot more work to find a venue.
Recently my company encountered the following scenarios when sourcing venues for clients.
- Venues for Christmas Events: In January, 2013, one Toronto hotel already had all Fridays and Saturdays in November and December, 2013 fully booked.
- Cooking Event Venues: In January 2013, a Toronto cooking event venue had extremely limited availability until May, 2013. That's a 4-month lead time.
- Desert Resorts in Oman: With a 2-month lead time, one desert resort had no availability for a 3-night stay until August, 2013. Others had only 1 set of dates available.
Hotels in Popular Convention Cities: In February, preferred dates for a client in October and November, 2013 were already sold out at some properties.
Last-minute scrambling to complete logistics will increase the likelihood of errors.
Best Practice: Be strategic about meetings and events. Stephen Covey's principle "put the rocks in first" applies just as much to organizations as families. Value added activities like conferences, team building and corporate events need to be worked into the plan early when the strategic plan is being formulated.
Attendees, speakers and facilitators will be exhausted upon arrival.
Only the longest and most convoluted routes may be available to some destinations. To avoid a negative impact on performance, more rest days will have to be allocated.
Best Practice: Aim for at least a 3 month lead time when booking airfares.
Corporate event planning is one of the few sectors in our industry that uses a last-minute approach to planning. A change in mindset is never easy, but it will make a huge difference in the quality of events. Initiate a dialogue by tweeting and sharing this blog post with clients and colleagues. Let's make long-term planning the new standard in corporate event planning.
If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself planning events on short notice consult Event Planning: Handling Last-Minute Requests.
Remember, searches on the Cvent Supplier Network can relieve some of the pressure of sourcing event venues and hotels at the last minute.
Photo Credit: Frank Lindeck