Managing events has more than its fair share of frustrations and stressors. From last-minute changes to procrastinating clients, the profession isn’t for the faint of heart. Luckily, executing a successful event makes everything else (like the crazy long hours) worth it.
If you’ve been feeling a little fed up lately with a certain aspect of the job, don’t worry — you’re not alone! Here are the biggest frustrations experienced by nine of your fellow event organizers.
1. Waiting for the event to be confirmed
Have you ever watched the booking window rapidly close for your venue of choice, simply because the event has yet to be given the green light? That’s a frustration Charlie Howes, founder of Nude Life and marketing executive at Chillisauce, has a risky solution for.
“The venue choice will be one of the biggest and foremost factors in a successful event,” Howes says. “If a stakeholder is holding up the confirmation of the event you are less likely to get your first choice venue, especially during busy periods. This could affect the standard of your event.
“Do you confirm the venue first or the event? Sometimes I’ve had to take a risk and book the venue first – depending on how confident I am the event will pull through. Luckily this hasn’t backfired on me, yet!”
2. Last-minute changes
Nailing the details from napkin color to lighting is critical for an event’s success. But sometimes clients or partners have last-minute changes, which can push the whole plan off course. Mike Walker, managing director at MGN Events, laments the effect this has on budget.
“It has often taken months to get to a certain point where everybody is happy with the final arrangements — and then the goalposts are moved,” Walker says. “This is often by a senior member of the client team who wasn’t involved. It can be extremely difficult to re-message and sometimes re-brand an event at very short notice without wasting money and blowing the budget.”
Keith White, head of PR & SEO at Dobell Menswear, offers advice for handling day-of changes. “Sometimes it’s about exploring the ideas with them, to see if the changes are possible,” White says. “If something can’t be done, you need to explain why and set their expectations there and then. They’ll likely appreciate the fact that you tried, and get back to enjoying the event itself.”
“Sometimes it’s about exploring the ideas with them, to see if the changes are possible,” White says. “If something can’t be done, you need to explain why and set their expectations there and then. They’ll likely appreciate the fact that you tried, and get back to enjoying the event itself.”
3. Not having enough details in an event brief
If you’re organizing an event on behalf of a client, getting an event brief that’s missing key information is a common frustration. Corinne Tatham, agency sales manager at Bluehat Group, often faces this frustration.
“Without knowing the client’s desired outcome or purpose for the event, it’s difficult to best tailor the event to their needs,” Tatham says. “The more information on the ‘why’, the more bespoke I can be with suggesting the perfect options, making our partners look even better in front of their clients.”
4. Procrastination that hurts the budget
Event organizers know that schedules are key to keeping everything on track and running smoothly. But clients aren’t always so wise. John Fisher, managing director of FMI Group, wishes everyone could keep their promises about delivering decisions on time.
“Procrastination is the thief of time, so they say,” Fisher says. “Most corporate executives think six weeks is a huge amount of time to get ready for the sales conference. But all event planners know this is very tight.
“From deciding on the theme to who is actually going to speak, delays eat away at the effectiveness of the budget. You end up paying rush rates simply because the decision process for almost anything to do with events takes so much longer than you expect.”
5. Creating attractive pitches
For Catherine Godsland, managing director of Out There Events, one of her biggest struggles is putting together a pitch that showcases her team’s creativity — without giving away their best ideas for free.
“As an agency, one of the biggest frustrations we face happens while pitching for events,” Godsland says. “Protecting your creative ideas so that a client doesn’t just use the ideas themselves is always a risk. We strongly believe that ‘ideas’ are only part of the picture, it’s the delivery of these ideas that is truly the key.”
6. Hidden fees
Sometimes a venue or vendor isn’t as forthcoming as you’d like them to be about the breakdown of costs, to the point where they’ve hidden extra fees for things in the contract. Being diligent and a skilled negotiator is how MGN Events’ Mike Walker handles this frustration.
“Some venues can be crafty about hidden charges for extras including rigging for lighting, onsite tech crew, security, and even electricity,” Walker says. “These charges are usually buried inside the T&C’s and are hard to spot. Avoid a nasty shock when the bill comes in by negotiating hard to get a better rate.”
7. Clients underestimating how long things take
One of the biggest frustrations for Lizzy Gaskin, director at Right Angle Events, is when clients contact her team for quotes in the morning and expect to receive responses in seconds.
“We often have clients contact us in the morning, with two hours until they have to present their ideas to their managers or CEOs, needing quotes immediately,” Gaskin says. “Our account managers have to jump on the phone to get quotes from venues and suppliers (as day delegate rates and hires change based on date and time of year).”
Megan McIntosh, senior events coordinator at BIG Partnership, is similarly frustrated by how little time clients think it takes to plan an event.
“We also regularly find that a lot of people underestimate the amount of time, effort and stress that go into planning an event,” McIntosh says. “However, part and parcel of the job are time management and organizational skills – turning things around efficiently is what we specialize in.”
8. No-show guests and speakers
Finding out on the day of the event that one or two of your speakers are no-shows is a frustration BIG Partnership’s Megan McIntosh recommends dealing with by padding the guest list in preparation.
“There can be a number of frustrations that occur in event planning, the first and perhaps most noticeable on the day being no-shows,” McIntosh says. “A key tactic is to always oversubscribe an event in preparation for the dropouts which are inevitably going to happen.”
9. Changes to the guest list
What do you do when your guest list changes quickly close to the day of the event? For Griselda Togobo, managing director at Forward Ladies, the answer lies in working closely with the venue to adapt.
“If there’s a sudden drop or spike in numbers after everything has been confirmed, there could be a worry about space,” Togobo says. “We work closely with our venues so they’re able to accommodate us if we have changes in the numbers of guests.”
And for Walker, the solution is implementing a cut-off point.
“Last minute additions to the guest list can also cause a major headache,” Walker says, “especially if badges have been printed prior to the event. If the numbers are large, it can also mean changes to the food and drinks order. We have a cut-off point where numbers are finalized and the list is closed — but there are always last minute additions and changes.”
10. Keeping a balanced budget
Budgets are one of the most frustrating things about event planning. Updating regularly and using formulas in your spreadsheets can help you get more mileage out of your budget — but small errors can cause big miscalculations.
“Another frustration can be costs – they are often underestimated!” McIntosh says. “But we are used to working with a variety of budgets, from lavish to shoestring. We are always looking to get the best deal for our clients and will negotiate with suppliers to ensure they receive value for money.”
11. Planning for the unexpected
No matter how much preparation and planning goes into an event, you know there’s going to be an element of the unexpected on the day of. To help prepare (as much as you can), White recommends writing out different scenarios in advance.
“When running events it’s the unexpected elements that seem to have the ability to blindside you, at the last minute, that cause the most frustrations,” White says. “I’ve run a few events where this happened. You have to write down every possible scenario, well in advance of your event, so you can formulate a plan B.”
To find out how to solve your biggest event planning frustrations, check out The Event Organizers’ Ultimate Guide to Productivity.