Tearing your hair out because of last-minute changes? You are not alone. Event planners often express frustration about the frequency of change. It's a major contributor to event planning's reputation as one of the most stressful careers.
The 80-20 rule used to mean that 80% of events would be executed as planned. Today, it's the opposite. In fact, events rarely go completely as planned and it sometimes seems as if 99% of the time there are changes. It is not unusual for corporate clients to make changes up until the day of the event. This makes it difficult to plan catering, activities, logistics and guest room requirements.
When we previously looked at the types of changes event planners encounter, I promised to return with change management strategies. Today we will focus on strategies for managing pre-event changes.
1. When possible, negotiate with event venues for permission to submit final numbers closer to events.
Our company used to require final numbers one month prior to the event. The frequency with which clients make changes has increased significantly and we have had to make adjustments.
2. Schedule a final logistics meeting or conference call with the client two business days prior to the event. Get final sign-off.
This should capture most of the last-minute changes.
Work this meeting into your plan early in the project. Schedule a back-up meeting time, in case unforeseen circumstances prevent your client from keeping the original appointment.
3. If the client will agree to it, go to a paperless environment and provide all hand-outs on USB drives.
4. To take some of the stress out of last-minute changes, outsource all event-related photocopying and printing.
Cultivate a reputation with your local Staples or printer.
5. Reproduce material closer to the event.
While most Staples outlets and printers work on a first-come, first-serve basis, when a relationship has been established, some will allow you to reserve a block of time to reproduce and collate the material closer to the event date.
At my company, we used to print the participant material at least two weeks in advance. This was within my zone of comfort. We reduced it to one week and still found that numerous last minute changes and re-work were required.
Now, for small events, we print the material one to two days prior to the event. For larger events, it's three to four days. While this is not ideal, it has significantly reduced the amount of re-work. It has also reduced the number of times material was inaccurate by the time it rolled off the photocopier.
6. Email the event logistics checklist to event staff in draft form four to seven days prior to the event. Email the final checklist the day before the event and print it off only at that time.
This adjustment has reduced the level of confusion among event staff who previously had to deal with numerous changes.
7. Schedule your final event staff briefing for just before set-up. Double the amount of time you usually schedule for it.
Photo Credit: stuartpilbrow