This article originally ran on PR Daily in January of 2017.
Coordinating galas—or even intimate, exclusive parties—can be daunting for communicators.
Why is it that confident PR superstars—who can flawlessly write, tweet and dazzle editors each day—seem to shake in their boots at the phrase “event coordination?” Why is it so mystifying to plan a party for our clients when we already know their audience so well and we talk to their targeted journalists every day?
PR events are a different beast from having friends over for beers and a beanbag toss. Not only must we get the invitation list, venue, décor and spokespersons right, we often have to ensure that overbooked journalists attend. In the meantime, we have a full plate of other client work to handle.
Events can be a big undertaking, but they can also be a dazzling representation of our clients’ products, culture or messaging. By approaching each event with a few guidelines, you will have reason to celebrate:
1. Set expectations and a budget. Work with your client to specify expectations. This includes everything from the “look” of the event to the estimated attendance to the results. Set a strict budget, and assign numbers to each line item. If a client has champagne taste but a wine cooler budget, find a balance of “making it work on a shoestring” by offering alternatives so you can meet the goals.
2. It takes a village. This can’t be a party of one. Pull your team together, and assign roles. Who will secure the vendors and work with them throughout the process? Who will be in charge of inviting guests and journalists? If everyone is given a job at the onset, there shouldn’t be confusion later.
3. Be organized. Keep your checklists as close to you as the bachelorette holds on to that final rose. You will need a vendor list, complete with addresses, emails and cell phone numbers. You will need a tasks list, with associated deadlines. You will need a guest and media attendance list. These lists are your bible.
4. Set yourself apart. Ask yourself: “What would tear me away from the office, or my bed on a Sunday morning, or binge-watching ‘Game of Thrones’?” Brainstorm ways of making this event unique. Look at Pinterest for inspiration. Find an unconventional venue, such as an old theater or art gallery, rather than the typical boardroom. Get customized décor and props on Etsy. Be creative; take risks.
5. Something will go wrong. Even when you do everything right, something will go wrong. The caterer gets lost and shows up late. An on-site demo malfunctions. Breaking news halts TV crews from stopping by. The first tornado in 100 years touches down in Brooklyn the day of your event, and the entire New York City transportation system is suspended. (That actually happened.) You’re not being judged by the things you cannot control. You are being assessed by how you handle the pressure and come up with a quick solution.
6. Follow up. The event is over, but your work has just begun. You should follow up with attendees, providing information and imagery to keep the event on their minds. You also must connect with those who were interested in the event but couldn’t attend. Debrief your client, and make sure all goals were met. Keep on it; don’t lose steam.
The most important tip of all might be to reward yourself. You did it! You no longer have to shake in your boots.
Be proud of your work; put keepsakes from your event in a scrapbook. Post your celebration on Instagram; let everyone know you conquered the beast.
Finally, rest up; your next client event is right around the corner.