By Cheryl Hill, events manager, Forever Manchester
Events management is an art. To run a good event you need to think of many elements, and sometimes one or more of those elements can leave you up a creek without a paddle, potentially jeopardising your event. Here are some common challenges of being an event manager and how to avoid them, or at least reduce the risk of occurrence.
If there is something I’ve learnt to do in my time as an events manager, it’s how to stretch a budget and get more bang for my buck; whether it’s sourcing a drinks sponsor to cover a cost by providing the product or finding a sponsor to pay for your event. Working for a charity, the profit is the money that goes to support the cause we work towards, so I can’t just break even or make a loss. It affects people’s lives.
Try and think of everything, not just the venue cost but also the cost of getting there, bits and pieces you might need, and expenses. There will sometimes be costs you can’t foresee, so you are better overestimating. Give yourself a buffer.
A constant battle is getting venues to do what you ask of them. You need to be prepared to double, triple and even quadruple check the confirmation document you’ve been sent and then reiterate it all on the day of the event.
You are one of many clients, you probably aren’t at the top of their priorities as the staff working on events at most venues also have additional roles, so nit-pick and question everything you’re unsure about. I once went for a menu taste, picked it all out and then on the day they served all the wrong food. I didn’t check and assumed the venue knew. I won’t make that mistake again.
The issue with sorting out dietary requirements is that people don’t really understand what a dietary requirement always is. In a nutshell (pun not intended), it is a restriction to what someone is able to eat, either through lifestyle choices or through physical intolerance. It is not picking out things you don’t like because mushrooms aren’t for you. I loathe sending out menus prior to events. I’ve had it all, from “I can’t have anything that comes from an animal with feathers” and “Oh I’m lactose intolerant… except for hard cheeses”.
My only advice is to make sure you ask attendees to your event about their dietary requirements ASAP and specify the above definition, otherwise you’ll be scrambling about contacting people individually and you’ll waste a lot of time.
The biggest fear for anyone working on an event is no one turning up. It isn’t so bad for events where attendees have to pay, as they want their money’s worth. It is the free events that cause me palpitations. The key is in the selling, and investing a little to make it work and reminding your attendees that it is actually happening. For example, the free monthly networking event I used to run had a welcome drink for the first 50 people and we put on local musicians.
That brings me to my next challenge, and that’s being unique; creating something that stands out from the thousands of events that are happening. Regularly I have to choose between three different events on one night. How can you create that pull that brings people to you over someone else? Always try and find out what else is going on, and think about the audience you’re trying to appeal to.
Everyone who thinks being an event manager is easy
I understand that coming up with creative ideas is fun part of being an event manager, but it is one small aspect of the role. You need to have a lot more about you to make it work and have the ability to spin a significant number of plates at any one time. I actually agree that most people can cobble an event together, but will that event be well attended, create a profit and be an enjoyable event for both the guests and the people running it, most likely not. It is a nuanced business that takes tact, common sense and getting off your butt and getting stuff done.