31 October, 2011

Small Budget Event

We had an open house at work last week for our new CEO. Almost 100 people came. They were from agencies in the city we work with, friends of the Center and various other connections.

When it comes to planning an event there are a lot of things to consider.
  • Theme
  • Colors
  • Goals for the event (a key and often overlooked step), 
  • Budget
  • Food
  • How you want people to mingle and move (This was going to be a lot of people's first time to the Center, so we had tours and staff to direct visitors). 
  • Volunteers - you might need them more than just on the day of the event. For each step along the way think of what needs to be done. If you can delegate - do it!

It helps me to come up with a list (to the left). We actually had two events last week, but I am just going to focus on the Open House.

An event is like a mini project management task.
  • What needs to be accomplished for the event to be a success? For you to gauge that, you have to know what a "successful" event is.  
  • How are you going to get there? Write out steps and name who has to be there for each step along the way. 
  • Are you going to stay inside or outside of the company? We could have done the flowers ourselves, and sure, there are a lot of things that can be done internally. But take into consideration cost of supplies AND the time of your employees. With the flowers, when I added in the time of my going to get the supplies and the cost of my (plus one or two other) people's time to assemble them - it was a no brainer. We went with an independent florist. And the flowers were amazingly beautiful!
  • Who can help with your event? We went with independent companies for both our flowers and the cupcakes. It saved us the time of our employees, they were cheaper than a larger organization, and it helps them to get exposure. Do a favor and put their cards out so people can see who made what they are enjoying.
We had a small budget for the event. So we chose to focus on a few key touches. We started shooting for the moon - our ideal event would have welcome banners, wine, more decorations through out the building, dishwasher safe serving pieces, etc. Our budget would allow for a few key decorations (like the flowers) that could carry the theme across a wide space. When a budget is tight prioritize what you need and what you want and proceed accordingly.

We chose to do food in-house, because the cost of catering would have been more than doing it ourselves.
Look at numbers. Don't assume. I did a Costco run and made a list of every food item we would buy. I multiplied that out. Sometimes the prep things you can do before hand will save you money later on.

Get help. Give people the chance to be involved. We have a dedicated crew of people who help with every event, but this was a key event for the whole building. And so I opened it up and had people sign up so it all didn't rest on four or five people and it lets people get connected. Get supervisors to require their staff to sign up, pull on people's hidden talents. This only works well if the executives at your organization get that it is not just up to the admins to pull an event off. I had most of our executive staff helping with clean up - that says something. 

We spaced the tables out to get people to move around the Center. In hindsight we should have had our CEO in the room with the food, but we'll do that next time. Here are a few pictures from the night.

In the end, have fun. I have been doing events for almost fifteen years. Just because you are the organizer doesn't mean you need to be stressed out. If you are, then you are probably not delegating enough. And, one final thing, don't bark at people all night. If you treat people like they don't matter then no one is going to help you. So if no one is stepping up to help, you might need to ask if you are hard to work with or tend to be a bit micromanaging. People are willing to help people who treat others with respect. Just saying.

Any other tips you have? What have you found works or doesn't in the events you've plan? Any secrets you'd be willing to share? 

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