Event management: universal tips for upcoming event managers

Irfan Qureshi

Irfan Qureshi

If you go on the Eventbrite website, you’ll see there are over 4,000 marketing events, 800 UX events, 600 project management events happening just this year, in the UK alone.

Some events will be great, and some will leave their visitors disappointed. Memorable events don’t just happen by luck. A lot of detailed planning is required to make an event great! The devil is always in the detail and sometimes what we think is common sense (e.g. letting visitors know where the toilets are) is forgotten.

If you are planning on organising an event (conference, meet up, etc.), I think you will find these tips valuable – even if your conference has nothing to do with marketing, UX, tech or other sectors that Futureheads cover. Although the needs of each event are usually slightly different, the tips in this article are universal.

1. Target audience: Do your audience even want it?

Is your event idea unique or are there others already doing a good job of organising similar ones? Before you spend the time and energy organising it, make sure this is something people will want to attend. Whether the tickets are for sale, or it’s a free event, you need to know there will be an audience!  

2. Timing: when to run the event?

Check the calendar. It’s best to avoid scheduling an event on or too close to holidays or large industry events as your target attendees might prefer going to an established event rather than yours.

3. Event type: community, networking or trade show?

Are you organising a small event for people in your sector (community event) or a customer appreciation event (networking meetup)?

  1. Community events:These are content-heavy events, with many speakers and workshops. In the UX world, there are UXPA, IXDA, and our own Be Kaler’s UCD. In the Creative world, there’s Glug, Design+Banter and so on so forth. The primary aim of these events is to bring people together who share commonalities in their work. 
  2. Networking meetups: These are content-light events with fewer speakers. The key aim is to bring people together for meet and greets.
  3. Trade Shows:These are content-heavy events, with many speakers and lots of pop-up stands for exhibitors to sell their products to visitors.

4. Event management manual: in case you fall under a bus

You can plan for months and months, but the day-of will always be hectic. Also, as the event planning goes on, you might find other teams pitching in to help, but they have no clue about important contacts, who the caterers are, etc.

The best way to handle such incidences is always have an event guide/bible/wiki. This will contain information on

  1. Key contacts (venue, internal, etc.)
  2. Suppliers (which company is handling catering, security, ticketing, etc.?)
  3. Timings/schedule (what happens when?)

5. Bladderful is stressful: Pacing and signposting

Each has different needs and styles but don’t try to cram too much into an event. You should have enough breaks between sessions for your visitors to use the facilities, get something to drink and talk a bit more to each other. 

As tempting as it can be to give your visitors great content, your pacing is critical. All of us need to get up, grab a coffee, check email, make a phone call, talk to other attendees and pee!

Whether you are serving drinks and nibbles or not, everyone needs to pee. If you have workshops or seminars in your event, ensure they are not too long (over 40 minutes) and that there is a small break between each session.

6. The devil is in the detail

Every little thing counts. From the design (branding, badges, posters, etc.) to general organisation (where are the toilets? Are you catering for vegetarians? Do you have staff dedicated to answering questions from visitors?).

The details are critical for your event’s success in the long-run because if your visitors liked how well-produced your event was, it means they are more likely to come back for the next one.

Try to see the event from the perspective of every external person – speakers, visitors, hosts, security, etc. Also, if in doubt, just ask someone.

7. People

It goes without saying that people are your most important asset in delivering a smooth event – your team, volunteers, venue, caterers, suppliers, hosts.

There’s a lot to do and don’t expect just one person to handle it all - speaker hospitality, designs, budget, marketing & promotion and more. Try to structure a leadership team where 1-2 people take responsibility and lead a team each.

Do not underestimate the amount of time you will spend on back-office tasks – answering emails, chasing up speakers and doing your normal day job.

8. Feedback

Paper feedback forms and digital feedback forms – some suggest doing one or the other. I recommend both.

Paper feedback forms at the event are a must. Although not everyone will give you feedback immediately or at all. The ones who do fill them out will be either very happy or very disappointed. This is the most vocal bunch of your attendees.

Now, the digital feedback form will have more responses. Ensure that it’s not more than a day after the event. You want the attendees’ thoughts while they are fresh in their minds. So, have a form ready beforehand.

This digital feedback should show whether the negative feedback given through the paper forms is a trend or whether it was a limited set of visitors. This gives you an opportunity to learn about what went wrong and create a benchmark score that your future events have to match and beat.

Tools that you can use are:

  1. SurveyMonkey
  2. Typeform

These are just a handful of tips that will help you in polishing your event and making it better. If you are interested in seeing us cover event management in more detail, feel free to contact me at irfan@wearefutureheads.co.uk.