How to overcome short event lead times in 8 steps

Short Event Lead Times Best PracticesThe Great Recession started a trend that has caused many sleepless nights and short fingernails for event planners and event venue managers alike. Because revenues and income dropped for many companies and individuals, event budgets got a lot tighter and people were reluctant to commit to a big event 8-18 months out. Instead, they often waited to the very last minute to call their event planning professional to start the planning process.

The positive that came out of this was that event planners and managers came through for their clients in a very big way, proving they can amazing things with short event lead times. The negative was that this practice has become business as usual, and so now, after the economy has recovered, clients continue to give planners as little as 4-8 weeks of lead time to pull together events.

Although there is some disagreement as to whether lead times for big events has gotten longer , the general consensus among event planners is that event lead times for all events - and especially medium to smaller events of short duration (1-2 days) - are dramatically shorter than they were 6 years ago.

There are certainly many disadvantages to shorter event lead times - including higher printing costs, higher last-minute airfares, difficulties of getting group rates at hotels, fewer venue options and a smaller pool of speakers and entertainers (many of whom are already booked). But these drawbacks have not deterred clients from waiting to get the ball rolling (and sometimes for very legitimate reasons).

So what is an event planner to do? Try to change client behavior by educating them on the drawbacks of short event lead times (and possibly lose clients to other planners who will gladly work with short lead times)? Or find better ways to deliver on short-turn events without having an anxiety attack every time?

Our opinion is that the horse has left the barn on this one, so here are 10 proven tips for overcoming short event lead times.

#1 - Get budget sign-off early
The minute a client calls, your first objective is to get them to commit to a overall budget and sign off on it. That way you know what you have to work with and can break down the budget into line items that they can then sign off on in short order.

#2 - Push clients to make big decisions upfront
With a short deadline, there's really little to no time to mull over big things like geographical location, theme, keynote speaker, entertainment, meal options, etc. So sit down with your client and have them commit to these big ticket items early so you can start the research and RFP process immediately.

#3 - Streamline your proposal process
Now is also not the time to send out 50-page proposals to your venues and vendors that could take them weeks to reply to. You need their proposals in your hands in a matter of days, not weeks, so shorten your RFPs so that vendors can read them in one quick sitting and be very specific about your requirements so they can formulate a reply fast.

Oh, and since you will have very little time to negotiate, ask for their best price out of the gate.

#4 - Clearly define roles and responsibilities in your internal kickoff meeting
Your team needs to function like a Swiss watch for short-turn events, so from the first meeting each team member needs to clearly know what areas of the event they are responsible for, what their goals/objectives are and who they report to. Confusion and fuzzy processes are your enemy, so eliminate them whenever and wherever possible.


Another best practice for overcoming short event lead times is having the right tools to help you streamline your processes. Planning Pod event management software lets you build templates for task lists, contracts, proposals, itineraries/schedules and much more so you can be pre-prepared for all your short-turn events.

Try Planning Pod free for 30 days and see why thousands of planners manage their events with us.


#5 - Templatize as much as you can beforehand
Yes, there are certainly tasks and processes that cannot be known until you begin the planning process. But there are many other tasks and to-do's that can be put into a template beforehand so that when the event starts, you aren't building a task list, you are simply assigning due dates and people to tasks.

#6 - Focus on securing a venue first
With short-turn events, everything starts with the venue. If your event is happening within 4-8 weeks, many venues will be booked up already, so you may need to broaden your search to alternative venues if more traditional settings don't pan out.

Event venues have also become accustomed to short lead times, so most of them understand the pressure you are under and will work with you to expedite the process. But be prepared to send out more RFPs - especially if your event is a larger one with many attendees - because you will most likely receive more "no bid" replies than you would if you were booking an event 12 months out.

#7 - Prioritize and compromise
Even for events with short lead times, some clients expect the world, so you will have to disabuse them of this notion and manage their expectations. They will have to make some tough decisions and they certainly will not get everything that they wish for. So have a frank discussion with them on things that they are willing to sacrifice and other things that they must have. And for their must-haves, let them know that they may have to compromise on many of those, too, if they want their event to happen at all.

By working with them to prioritize their wish list, this helps you know what you can negotiate with vendors and venues. You will have to make more compromises when you are given a short event lead time, so know beforehand your minimum requirements before you start negotiations.

#8 - Establish a "hot line" with your client
Games of phone tag and long email chains regarding event decisions will work against you with short-turn events, so make it clear to your client that you need to be able to access them and get a fairly immediate reply regarding critical decisions. Decision makers cannot simply "disappear" for hours or days, and you need to establish a way to reach them to get immediate responses.

In addition, many clients often have multiple decision makers for their events (this is especially true for non-profits, which often have to run event decisions by an entire committee), and this arrangement is counterproductive for events with shorter lead times. In these instances, the client needs to appoint a single decision maker who has the authority to make decisions for the group.

Many of the above best practices involve the participation of your client, but if you clearly document their responsibilities upfront and make them aware of every contingency, it will make your and their lives easier so you can provide them and their attendees the best experience possible.

Average event budget eclipses $20K; minimum budgets becoming more popular with event planners

Event Budget 2014 Study -Event PlannersAccording to a recent study conducted by Planning Pod event management software, 69% of the 218 independent event planners who responded said that their average event budget exceeded $20,000 (U.S.). The events they planned ranged from small parties and weddings to meetings and corporate events.

Among these respondents, 20% said that their average budget fell between $20K-$30K, 24% stated between $30K-$50K and 11% between $50K-$75K.

In addition, almost two-thirds of the professional event planners polled (62%) now require at least a $5,000 budget to take on the event, with 24% reporting that the minimum budget they would work with is between $10K-$20K and 11% stating the minimum budget falls somewhere between $20K-$30K.

“This is all very interesting news, mainly because we have seen the average event budget increase by several thousand dollars over the last 12 months,” said Jeff Kear, co-owner and founder of Planning Pod. “We have had thousands of events planned with our software over the last year, and the rising budgets we have seen are promising for both event planners and for the industry.”

What truly bodes well is that many event planners are now able to turn down smaller jobs with smaller margins and are picking up larger jobs and clients. “That minimum budget requirement is a very telling statistic because it gives you a good sense of how much more selective event planners are becoming, and you can only be selective when business and budgets are on the rise.”

And when it comes to large budgets? For 36% of planners, their largest event budget over the last 12 months was more than $100K, with 18% saying their largest budget fell between $100K-$199K, 16% between $75K-$100K and 14% between $50K-$75K.

“Yes, there are some event planners who manage multimillion dollar event budgets, but the wide majority of event professionals plan lots of smaller events,” said Kear. “In fact, 57% of the people we polled were planning at least 15 events at any given time over the last year, and average attendance at those events was between 100-300 guests.”

Over the last year or so, much has been written about the events industry trending towards smaller, local events. In addition, more than a few studies have shown how optimistic events professionals are about rising event budgets and revenues. This study reflects these trends but also offers a valuable perspective from the professionals who manage event budgets and are responsible for coordinating every type of event vendor and contractor.
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43 critical items in event planners' on-site kits

Event Planner On-Site Kit for Day-Of-EventEvent planners are supremely prepared people, so it didn't surprise us that many of the hundreds of event planners we spoke with have a handy on-site kit that they bring with them every time they are on location at an event.

The average number of items in an on-site kit was 15-20 items. I guess the only thing we didn't ask was "What do you carry all these items in?" ... although whatever it is, I'm sure it's very stylish ;)

Here is the list in its entirety, broken down into categories ... if we are missing an item that you think is vital to pack for your on-site days, just provide it in the comments below.

Tools, Etc.

  • Allen wrenches
  • Box cutter
  • Duct tape
  • Extra hooks
  • Gaff tape
  • Glue gun
  • Hammer
  • Leatherman / Swiss Army Knife
  • Measuring tape
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire

Office Supplies

  • Double sided tape
  • Extra nametag stock
  • FedEx envelopes
  • FedEx labels
  • Hole puncher
  • Paperclips
  • Post-Its
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie
  • Stapler
  • String

Medical Stuff

  • Aspirin
  • First aid kit

Personal Hygiene / Cleanliness

  • Baby wipes
  • Bug spray
  • Clear nail polish
  • Cough drops
  • Mints
  • Stain stick

Electronic Stuff

  • Batteries
  • Extension cords
  • Flash drive / USB sticks
  • Laser pointers
  • Mini flashlight
  • Mobile charger
  • Power strip
  • Printer cartridges

Food

  • Bottled water
  • Snacks
  • Tea

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When you use Planning Pod event management software to manage all your event details, it always travels with you because our software is compatible with all tablets and mobile devices.

Try Planning Pod for free and discover why thousands of event planners don't go anywhere without it.

Top 8 Traits of Successful Event Planners

Top Traits of Successful Event PlannersIn the last few years we have met many event planners who have recently started an event management business, and often we wondered if some of these people knew the rollercoaster ride they were in for. We love event planners and admire what you do, mainly because most people can't do what you do and don't have the unique skill set required to accomplish what you do every day. Which got us thinking ... what do event planners themselves think are the most important traits for an event planner.

So we quizzed our customer base of thousands of event planners as well as quite a few event planning and event management groups on LinkedIn about what are the most important traits that an event planner can possess. Without further ado, here are those traits...

#1 Being prepared and planning for contingencies
I can only name a few events off the top of my head - Woodstock and the New Testament Loaves-and-Fishes thing - that were huge successes without adequate planning. Truly the success of every event is in the details, and the best event planners are also the ones who have a complete system for how they go about preparing for events and that accounts for absolutely everything.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Staying one step ahead"
  • "Having a Plan B, C and D"
  • "Foreseeing potential threats and risks"
  • "Confirmation of details and vendors"
  • "Triple check everything"

#2 Having passion for what you do
Event management can be massively stressful and require loads of overtime, and event planners are not nearly as well compensated as they should be for dealing with the all-too-frequent penny-pinching clients and sometimes overly petulant attendees. So you better be passionate about your profession and thrive on all the challenges that stand between you and a successful event. Event planners just starting out need to be aware of all the pressures involved and be certain that this is what they love to do, because it can be hard and trying at times.

#3 Flexibility
In an era of shrinking budgets and shorter lead times, event planners must be very agile of mind and be able to put things together fast as well as change course quickly. I like to think of event planning as trying to build a house on a beach with shifting sands. Things are always moving under you and changing constantly, and your challenge is to build this amazing experience amidst constant change and often turmoil.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Adaptability"
  • "Resourcefulness"

#4 Staying level headed while under fire
This is an extension of the previous trait. Event planning is not for those who are quick to freak out or panic. Clients, vendors and attendees are all looking to you for guidance and to set the tone of the event, and those who can smile through adversity and stay calm while scrambling to fix things make the best event planners.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Keeping your composure"
  • "Looking and remaining calm"
  • "Thinking on your feet when the unexpected happens"
  • "Being calm and collected"
  • "Patience to put all the pieces together"

#5 Having a vision
Most people think that, when it comes to event planning, having a vision applies mainly to event design, but in truth this applies to the entire gestalt of the event. Vision in event planning includes being able to see all the disparate elements of an event coming together, including the event theme, targeted attendees, venue, city, design/decor, speakers, entertainment, cuisine, sponsors ... the list goes on and on. And the key here is having a vision that delivers on what attendees want and expect.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Envisioning how the event positively impacts those benefiting from the experience"
  • "Focus on the experience of the attendee"
  • "Ability to see the big picture"

#6 Attention to detail
Even the smallest events have hundreds of details, and for large events I have seen event budgets that spill into thousands of details by themselves. As an event manager, you have to not only track all these details but know when they change and know how one change in one area affects things in other areas of the event. When building our event management software tools, we talked with hundreds of event planners and built the tools they said they needed, and even now we are amazed at the sheer number of details entered into our event software every day.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Understanding how the little pieces fit together"
  • "Thinking about all the small items involved"

#7 Ability to listen and understand your clients' goals
Many people think that a great event planner is one who is very vocal and barks out orders constantly, but in fact the opposite is true: the best event planners are great listeners who take in lots of ideas, input and advice and then act on this. Great event planners also realize that the true purpose of an event is to achieve your client's goals and deliver the best experience to the intended audience.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Ability to read clients and determine their true goals"
  • "Understand client needs and wants"
  • "Giving total confidence to your clients"
  • "Selflessness - it's about what the client wants, not you"
  • "Listening - to your clients and to your audience"

#8 Humility
We were initially surprised when this one ended up in the top 8, but after you think about it this makes sense. A savvy event planner understands that the event isn't about them, their needs or their ego ... it's all about the client and the audience and delivering the best experience to them. In fact, ego and drama and showboating only get in the way of planning and managing a successful event because they make the event about you, not about the client or the audience.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Honesty and sincerity"
  • "No hidden agendas"
  • "No information hoarding"
  • "No grandstanding or drama"

Do you have any event planner traits to add? Make sure to include them in the comments below.
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The best event planners also use the best tools to help them stay prepared and on top of all the little details. Try Planning Pod's 26+ event management software tools today and see why thousands of event professionals rely on us every day.

Top 13 factors for choosing an event venue

Event Venue Selection TipsPossibly the most important decision an event planner can make that will affect the outcome of your event would be the venue that you choose. Yes, cuisine and entertainment are also important factors, but the venue sets the scene; dictates many choices related to the event; and influences the experiences of your guests probably more than any other factor.

In addition, when looking at the thousands of events already planned using the Planning Pod event management software, for a wide majority of events, the venue is either the #1 or #2 expense (food and drink being the other). So not only will the venue influence many decisions and affect attendees' experiences, but it also consumes a large portion of most event budgets, adding more pressure to making the right decision.

We asked hundreds of event professionals on LinkedIn what they would consider the most important criteria for choosing a venue for their events, and here are the most frequent responses.

1. Budget - Cost is often the main factor people use when considering or ruling out venues, and of course the price tag of renting out the venue must fit within your event budget.

2. Space specifications - This would include things like space/room capacity (including lobby and exhibitor space if you are planning a meeting or convention); load in/out amenities; and technical capabilities (like lighting, electrical, A/V, etc.).

3. Day/time availability - This factor almost goes without saying, but it's a good rule of thumb to have several day/time options in mind (or at least be somewhat flexible with day/time of the event) before you start reviewing venues so you don't immediately limit the number of venues you can consider.

4. Appropriateness for type of event and client goals - This may be the most subjective feature listed here, but it may well be the most important. And it first requires you to know precisely the needs and goals of your client so you can match up a venue with those specifications.

5. Security - An often overlooked but very important factor, this includes not only a venue's security personnel but also things like security doors and limiting venue access to only guests/attendees (because who really needs event crashers).

6. Other groups using the venue at the same time as your event - If you are planning a sit-down conference with speakers, you probably don't want a loud wedding reception next door disrupting your event. So make sure any simultaneous events at the venue (or even nearby) won't conflict with or interrupt yours.

7. Customer service - Not only does the venue need to be responsive to your needs prior to the event, but it also needs to have adequate support staff on site during the event to respond to the needs and requests of you, your staff and your attendees.

8. Travel convenience - The location of the venue needs to be conveniently located for your attendees and within a reasonable distance so as not to require excessive travel; otherwise your attendance may suffer.

9. Parking and proximity to transportation options - On-site or nearby parking options for your guests are important (and cost of parking for your guests can be a deciding factor here). In addition, proximity to airports and public transit is also important if you have many guests who aren't driving their own car to the event.

10. Accessible for persons with disabilities - This would include ramps, elevators and other amenities for those guests with physical disabilities as well as older guests who aren't as mobile.

11. Nearby amenities and entertainment options - Attendees often need or want to partake in fun activities outside of the main event, so finding a venue that has entertainment and recreation options in house or nearby can be critical to your attendance numbers.

12. Reputation - Ask other event planners and vendors regarding their experiences with the venues you are considering. In addition, look at online reviews in forums and on sites like Yelp, Wedding Wire and Trip Advisor to round out your assessment of a venue's reputation and track record.

13. Vendor restrictions - Some venues have a list of exclusive vendors that they will allow to perform work in their venue, so make sure if you are using outside vendors that you can bring them into the venue and that the venue will amicably work alongside them.
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Track all your venue details - including budgets and amenities - as well as hundreds of other details with Planning Pod's 26+ easy-to-use event management software tools. Try them free today!

10 Best Practices for Building Event Websites - INFOGRAPHIC

When it comes to building an event web site, everything you do should be focused on 1) maximizing traffic to your site and 2) maximizing the number of registrations or RSVPs via the site.

With those two goals in mind, here is an infographic that lays out 10 best practices for building event websites for all your events.

Feel free to post this infographic on your site by cutting and pasting the code below into one of your Web pages:

<a href="https://www.planningpod.com/"><img alt="Infographic on building event websites from Planning Pod" src="http://blog.planningpod.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Event-Website-Best-Practices.png" /></a>

Event Websites Best Practices

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Build attention-grabbing event web sites for all your events with Planning Pod's event website builder tool ... plus use or 26+ other tools for managing your event details. Try Planning Pod free today!

31 Must-Follow Event Planners and Event Bloggers on Twitter

Must-Follow-Event-Planners-BloggersPart of being a professional in the events industry is staying up-to-date on the latest trends, innovations, technologies and best practices. Thankfully for all of us, many event management pros and publications give liberally of their time and advice and make it easy for the rest of us by sharing this information on a daily basis.

Here are 31 event industry influencers and event bloggers who we follow regularly and who we recommend you follow, too.

Note: The event planners, event professionals and event publications below are put in order based on number of Twitter followers as of May 1, 2014.

Dina Manzo
Twitter followers - 379K
Blog | @dinamanzo
Highly sought after interior designer and now event planner offers all sorts of great tips and advice (plus you can catch her HGTV show “Dina’s Party”). Excellent eye for style.

David Tutera
Twitter followers - 124K
Blog | @DavidTutera
David is practically an industry in and of himself, with a TV show, books, product lines (including his own wedding dress collection) and, yes, even an event planning/production business. He guides where the industry goes, so his words carry considerable of weight, especially in the wedding industry. A must follow.

Mindy Weiss
Twitter followers - 87.8K
Blog | @mindyweiss
A true renaissance woman, Mindy does it all - plan amazing parties, write books on event planning and design, even create great event decor products. Lots of great design ideas every week on her blog.

Leila Lewis
Twitter followers - 47.2K
Blog | @weddingPR
One of the few PR professionals who specializes in promoting event and wedding planning firms. Totally worth checking out if you are looking for a great person to help you build your business ... or if you're simply looking for great tips and ideas for promoting your business.

Colin Cowie
Twitter followers - 44.9K
Blog | @colincowie
A superstar event and wedding designer and a man with exquisite taste. Worth following just to see his designs alone, and he is always on the leading edge of event design.

Preston Bailey
Twitter followers - 40K
Blog | @prestonrbailey
If you have been in the events industry for any length of time, this man needs no introduction. Exquisite event designer, and he provides very down-to-earth, practical advice.

Event Industry News
Twitter followers - 25.3K
Blog | @EventNewsBlog
Based in the UK, this online magazine give you the latest news on the events industry on both sides of the pond and covers a wide variety of issues. If you want the latest or want a different take on pressing issues, you need to check them out.

Jordan Ferney
Twitter followers - 25K
Blog | @ohhappyday
You won't find a brighter, happier, spunkier, more DIY event and party blog on the Web. Jordan has so many crafty, fun ideas for decor, gifts, table accouterments, etc. that it's amazing to think she has at least one great post a day.

Marley Majcher
Twitter followers - 19.7K
Blog | @ThePartyGoddess
Marley has a great business head about her, and her blog and social media posts offer a wealth of excellent insights and ideas about running a small business (and especially an events business).

Plan Your Meetings
Twitter followers - 16K
Blog | @PlanYrMeetings
From industry news and best practices to advice from planners, this online magazine keeps the ideas flowing on a daily basis. Great takes on what's happening in the industry and also a nice directory for finding vendors. Always a helpful resource.

Camille Styles
Twitter followers - 15.7K
Blog | @camillestyles
From deep in the heart of Texas, Camille offers up great ideas on entertaining, parties and much more, and she and her staff are always coming up with tasty tidbits on food, decor, style and much more. Great ideas here for all you event design pros.

Kristin Banta
Twitter followers - 15.3K
Blog | @KristinBanta
Kristin is tireless, or at least she seems to be, with all her TV appearances, gorgeous weddings and film industry fetes. But the driving force behind this is her creative vision, and you can take it all in via her Twitter feed.

Saundra Hadley
Twitter followers - 13.7K
Blog | @planningforever
Hello, Midwest. I like Saundra's style (Chuck Taylors and all) and her blog is so down to earth and practical when it comes to event planning, decor and life. When you want a calm, collected voice of reason who offers great insights into the business, tune into Saundra.

Endless Entertainment
Twitter followers - 13.4K
Blog | @helloendless
... has endless guidance, tips and insights into the nuts and bolts of pulling off great events. They are an event production company, but the breadth of their posts span everything from do's and dont's of event tech to how to build an itinerary. And their marketing manager Kaitlin Colston is their social media guru who always has interesting information to share.

David Adler
Twitter followers - 13.1K
Blog | @davidadler
As founder and CEO of BizBash, David is always on top of the events industry and always has something interesting and creative to say. I've got BizBash on my Digg reader and it is always reliable for great updates on the latest in event design and industry news.

Jeff Hurt
Twitter followers - 12.3K
Blog | @JeffHurt
Conferences and meetings are Jeff's forte, and his breadth of knowledge in this area is amazing. If you want to know the latest conference and meeting planning trends as well as best practices, look to Jeff first (cause everyone else follows him).

Liz King
Twitter followers - 11.2K
Blog | @lizkingevents
Liz is the queen of event social media and the person to talk to about all thing regarding event technology. She's based in the big apple, and her Twitter feed offers a plethora of great links and tips on how to best use technology for your events and event business.

Nikki Finnie-Slater
Twitter followers - 10.7K
Blog | @NikkiRecherche1
Sharp, classy event planner from the UK, Nikki provides a great running summary of what's hot and interesting with weddings and corporate events in both her tweets and her blog. Check in on her frequently.

Julius Solaris
Twitter followers - 9.5K
Blog | @EventMB
Julius is the mastermind behind the Event Manager Blog and responsible for some of the best, most focused content on the Web regarding event management and planning. You should bookmark his blog and read it every week ... because all your peers are doing the same.

Kasey Skobel-Conyers
Twitter followers - 8.9K
Blog | @blissevents
Another planner from the heartland, Kasey shows you how all the details matter in her posts. Great sense of style as well as a good balance of insights for both wedding and event planning.

Special Events
Twitter followers - 7.9K
Blog | @special_events
Full of the latest events industry news as well as features on best practices and trends, this magazine is another source you should consult regularly to see what's happening and what your peers are up to.

Jill La Fleur
Twitter followers - 7.8K
Blog | @lafleurweddings
When it comes to destination weddings and events, this is the person to follow. Jill offers up lots of tasty morsels of information regarding managing, planning and designing events all over the world.

Smart Meetings
Twitter followers - 7.2K
Blog | @SmartMeetings
Not just a source of industry news, the Smart Meetings blog also has great posts from industry insiders who offer up ideas and opinions on everything related to meetings and conferences. A great source to consult for anything related to corporate meetings and events.

Meetings + Events Media
Twitter followers - 6.8K
Blog | @meetingsmags
The tweets and posts coming from M+E are excellent and go far beyond the comprehensive resource directories the company provides in terms of industry news and event planning tips. And whoever posts for them on Twitter is excellent at finding nuggets of wisdom on the Web.

Meetings and Conventions Magazine
Twitter followers - 6.8K
Blog | @mcmagtweet
An industry mag that is always on top of the meetings scene, providing timely news, guidance and insights. Add to that an active Twitter account and a number of great bloggers, and this is a source of information you can't ignore.

Keith Johnston
Twitter followers - 6.6K
Blog | @PlannerWire
An avowed coffee and event tech junkie, Keith is an event industry veteran who has pretty much seen and done it all. His posts give you a good sense of what is truly worth reading in the industry, and he approaches his craft with a great sense of humility and joy. Fun to follow.

David Stark
Twitter followers - 6.5K
Blog | @davidstarkinc
... is crazy creative. Just one visit to his Web site and you will see what I mean. And that creative passion flows through his posts and blog. Excellent ideas and tips for both social and corporate events.

Adrian Segar
Twitter followers - 5.3K
Blog | @ASegar
A true innovator in the conferences space, Adrian is at the forefront of attendee-driven conferences and meetings. His blog posts are extremely insightful and incorporate ideas and tactics from other disciplines (like physics and psychology) to shed light on how to better plan and manage meetings. His blog is required reading for this industry.

Jerri Woolworth
Twitter followers - 4.4K
Blog | @JerriWoolworth
VEGAS, baby! Jerri is a bona fide luxury planner putting together stunning events in Las Vegas and beyond. Her honest, direct advice is backed by many years planning intricate, complex events, and when it comes to high-end bashes, she has ideas galore.

Nicole Jensen
Twitter followers - 4.3K
Blog | @NicoleJensen
A social media maven with a love of events (and soccer, to boot), Nicole shows what it's all about when it comes to social media marketing. Follow her lead and learn how to use social media to both market your events as well as your event management business.

PCMA Convene
Twitter followers - 4.2K
Blog | @pcmaconvene
From the experts who bring you Convene magazine are these tasty morsels the offer via Twitter and their Web site. Perfect for the meeting planner, their posts and articles provide interesting insights into both the industry as well as on planning meetings and running a meeting planning business.
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Follow the lead of 1000s of your event planning peers ... try Planning Pod free for 30 days and discover why more event planners run their events with our 26+ easy-to-use online tools.

5 ways to grow your events business by giving back to your community

Event-Business-Growth-Via-CommunityOne of my good friends (whom I met in a leads group years ago ... very fitting for this post ) once said that networking isn't about getting; it's about giving. And anyone who has had any success with networking has learned this over and over again. Once you start passing along leads to other people, making introductions and generally helping all your business friends out, the leads start rolling in to you.

As anyone who has been involved with event planning or event management for a long time knows, giving of yourself to your peers and your community is far and away better than any marketing tactic or sales pitch. When you freely give of your time and wisdom and sincerely want to make other people's lives better, people instinctually open themselves to you and want to see you succeed because they like you and because you have earned their respect and loyalty.

We all have our strengths when it comes to how we help others out, and as an event management professional, by now you probably know where your strengths and passions lie. You should follow those instincts in how you give back to your community, because if your heart isn't in it and your commitment isn't steadfast, you are wasting your time (and probably not making a very good impression, either).

With that said, here are five proven ways you can give back and lay the groundwork for lots of word-of-mouth and referrals.

1. Organize a community event
Events like fundraisers for schools and local non-profits as well as recognition/award dinners for community heroes are worthwhile because they do truly build community. And with your event management skills and connections in the events industry, you have the tools and abilities to make these events a great success.

Volunteering your time for such events does deserve serious contemplation, though, because you need to make sure you can spare the time and that it doesn't cut into your billable work. If it does, you could end up resenting the people for whom you are trying to help, which could sour the whole relationship. So make sure you and the organization you are assisting have a clear understanding of your role and what you can and cannot do. And also make sure you get proper recognition for your work in the form of being an in-trade sponsor.

2. Refer business to local companies in the events industry
As an event planning professional, you are in the rare position to hand out work, and sometimes lots of work. Your clients look to you to find the best vendors for their events, and often you are referring jobs that bring more revenues to other vendors than you may see yourself.

I have always been a huge advocate of helping local entrepreneurs because I know how difficult it is to start and grow your own business from scratch. By farming out jobs to capable, reputable local events businesses, you are fostering the growth of your local industry and keeping the money in the community, and what better way to give back than to make sure great local businesses thrive.

Oh, and if you do refer lots of business, you will most certainly get referrals back.

3. Offer steep discounts for charities and local emergency personnel
If you don't have the ability to offer your services pro bono, you could consider providing a big discount on your services to local charities who need a seasoned event professional.

And you can also show your support of local police, firefighters and military personnel by giving them steep discounts for their weddings and parties. People appreciate and remember these displays of goodwill and gratitude, and there's really nothing better than both feeling wonderful about helping someone and having them refer their friends and colleagues to you.

4. Support local sports teams, clubs and organizations
Often it is very inexpensive to be a sponsor of a local team, club or organization, and if you don't have the resources to fund them with cash you can also contribute by donating your services for managing an event.

One big advantage of sponsoring a local team is how much visibility local sports teams have in the community. Local middle school, high school and club team events are often some of the largest events within many communities, and they unite and bond community members closer together because they span religion, class and race. Being a part of and associated with such a unifying experience can only solidify your position as a community leader and a trusted businessperson.

5. Feature local businesses via social media and your blog
In your position as an event professional, you naturally make many connections with influential business leaders. And you probably already have a considerable following via Facebook and Twitter if not on your blog.

I hate to say this, but often social media posts and blog posts are self-serving and self-aggrandizing. This doesn't mean that those posters are inherently narcissistic people; social media is simply a natural place to talk about what is happening in your life.

But if you take a different tack and start celebrating local businesses in your posts and your blog, people will take notice. You could interview local business leaders, pass along discounts from these vendors, even talk about how they are helping people in the community. However you promote those businesses, just make sure it is sincere.
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Planning Pod is online event management and planning software that streamlines how you plan events and saves you time with busywork so you can spend more time growing your business. Try it free for 30 days.

5 insider tips for identifying the best event software for you

Best-Event-Management-SoftwareI have been using and buying software for almost 30 years now (as well as helping to build it for the last 10), and what a strange journey it has been. I can remember buying my first computer like it was yesterday (well, almost); it was a Commodore VIC-20 on which I played interactive games like Voodoo Castle and built my first primitive programs in BASIC. Then I moved on to building spreadsheets on the Apple IIe, using the first MacWrite and MacDraw programs, slogging through server-based software like early versions of Statistics Program for the Social Sciences (or SPSSX for those of you who geek out for this kind of stuff) and then in the early 90s moving on to oh-so tedious electronic typesetting applications for printing presses.

So if that doesn't give me the geek cred I need to provide some tips on evaluating event software and technology, I don't know what does.

But seriously, my business partner Steve and I were buying, trying, testing software for years before we started building it. And we have definitely used some great programs and some complete duds (which then motivated us to build better tools than the rather mediocre ones we were forced to use at times).

For the sake of full disclosure, we do offer our own event management software product, but I don't want this post to be about our software.  In fact, no one piece of software is the perfect fit for 100% of a target audience; this is why there are many event planning apps out there that are successful. Different strokes for different folks.

Instead, I wanted to put myself in the shoes of an event professional and talk about what criteria I would use to evaluate and find the best event software options if I were out there looking for myself. So here are 5 things I would personally look for when evaluating and deciding on the event management and planning software.

1. Something that fits your specific needs
This is by far the most important and probably the most obvious criterion for evaluating software, but it still needs to be said. The important thing to note here is that you first should come up with a wish list for what the software needs to do for you, and you should do this BEFORE you look at your first piece of software.

That is, don't be biased by the existing features on what is already out there but instead come up with your own list of desired features and functions and see if anything matches your needs. Having your wish list ready will allow you to quickly weed out the options that don't meet your minimum requirements and focus on those that do.

2. Solid help resources and support
Before you pay for anything, find out what the application's help resources look like (such as help documentation, tutorial videos, etc.) and what kind of support the event software company offers to get you up and running (like training, email/phone support, etc.).

We made a BIG mistake a decade ago in a previous business when we signed up for a $400/month Web-based software that had paper-thin help documentation and email support with a 2-4 day response time (no, that's not a misprint). I fault that ridiculous application for practically all of my hair loss.

3. The development arc of the software (and philosophy of the software company)
Does the application look a little dated? Is it coasting on past success? Has it offered updates lately? And do those updates really improve the product? And on the flip side ... How much experience does the company have? Will it be in business next year? Does it have the infrastructure to support your needs? And what version of their software are they currently offering?

These are all questions to have in mind when poking around the software's web site and questions to ask other people in the industry who have used the software (getting peer opinions is a critical part of software research). Basically, you are looking for an event software company that has lots of energy and ideas as well as the experience, desire and commitment to improve its products.

4. Value for what you get
This can be more subjective, because a bargain for one person is a rip-off to another. For example, I once paid $500 for a piece of Web marketing management software that, frankly, ended up doing about 10% of what I needed it to do; hence it was a horrible value for me. On the other hand, I pay $10 a month for online appointment scheduling software that does 150% of what I expected it to do and makes my life sooooo much easier, so it is an incredible value to me.

This brings me to my next point. Price isn't the only way to gauge value ... you also need to consider how much time the event management software will save you. Any piece of event software you invest in should make your work life easier ... that's the whole point of it. So you should consider price and features as well as time savings and convenience when determining the value of the software to you.

5. Feel and vibe
This is even more subjective because it has to do with how using the software feels to you when you use it. Every piece of event organizing software has a learning curve (especially when you start adding on more and more features). And you will have to adapt to some extent to any event software application, whether you like it or not. Yes, this requires you to change your habits to some extent, and none of us like change all that much. So you just need to be prepared to change your habits to some degree if you want to use any kind of event planning application.

But how steep is the learning curve? And how much do you have to adapt vs. setting up the software to work with how you function? These are personal questions and require poking around the software and getting acclimated to its structure. Are tools and functions easy to find and use? Do you find yourself moving around easier after 30 or 60 minutes, or is navigation still a struggle? Is the layout clean, or is it cluttered and confusing? All these are great things to keep in mind as you try out different applications to decide which is the best event management software for you.

In the end, the best event software for you needs to rank well for many, if not all, of the above criteria. Best of luck in your search, and please provide any criteria you use in the comments link above.
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Want a good staring point on researching event management tools and trends? Try here. Then try our online event planning tools for free.

10 Do's and Don'ts on how to turn event issues and complaints into victories

Event Customer Support - Addressing ComplaintsVery few events happen in which there are no issues or problems encountered, mainly because there are so many moving parts when planning and staging an event. Frankly, any event that goes off without even a minor snag should be considered a miracle.

The problem with this is that very few people outside of the events industry are aware of this fact. Which is why some clients or attendees get so worked up about even minor problems or issues at an event. And in the case of events like weddings or parties, there are added expectations and emotions, which can magnify even the smallest of problems.

Simply put, people have no idea how complicated event planning and management can really be, and so they often feel compelled to lash out at planners and event staff when something goes wrong.

So how do you approach on-site event complaints, and how do you address the concerns voiced by attendees and clients? Here are some key do's and don'ts.

NOTE: I often take care of customer support for our online event management software, and I implement these techniques for addressing customer complaints and issues almost every day. I have also talked with dozens of event planners, and they also use these tactics when faced with an event crisis.

DO listen, listen, listen
If you ignore all the other tips here, make sure to remember this one. Listening to the person with a complaint is the #1 way to both understand the issue and start diffusing whatever anger or frustration the person is feeling. When confronted, most of us like to talk to show we are in control of the situation, but actually listening and asking questions and listening some more is the best way to get to the bottom of the problem. And it is the best way for the client or disgruntled attendee to feel like they are being heard and not handled.

DON'T get defensive
Is your main responsibility at the event to plan and manage it or to fight with your attendees? Defensiveness almost always leads to conflict, which is what you are trying to avoid in this situation. Putting up walls only heightens the anger and frustration of the other party, and it moves you further away from finding a fast and effective solution to the problem.

DO stay positive and in control
Even if the issue is something you're not sure you can fix completely, you still need to stay positive and communicate to the dissatisfied person that, once you are done talking, you will be looking into this issue immediately. What has happened has happened, and you need to make it clear that are now taking responsibility for finding a resolution.

DON'T act without having accurate information
Acting first without knowing ALL the details may actually make matters worse. So before you start running around and fixing things, talk to all the relevant parties (staff, vendors, other attendees) to collect more information, just in case you received inaccurate or biased information from the unhappy guest/client.

DO let them get their emotions out
The person facing you will be somewhere on the spectrum from a little annoyed to completely enraged, and you should let them feel what they need to feel and vent for a moment. However, if this emotion spills over into disrespect or even rudeness, you should remind the person that you are here to help them and that you can better help them if they remain calm and simply relate the relevant details to you so you can start addressing the problem.

DON'T make promises you can't keep
When you first hear about a problem, you often have no idea that you may be able to completely fix it. And if you say you can fix it and then cannot, you set your client/attendees up for more disappointment and yourself up for even more disparagement. Just say you will be looking into the matter immediately and will do everything in your power to make things right.

DO take a moment to evaluate the situation
Once you have collected information, take a moment to take a deep breath and consider the alternatives on how to fix the issue. In some cases, there may be only one option. But often giving yourself a chance to think provides an opportunity to reflect on the situation and may unearth another viable option or two that weren't immediately apparent.

DON'T start placing blame
Blame is as counterproductive as being defensive. It only adds emotion to a situation that already has plenty, and consider this ... the person or people you want to blame may also be the ones you need to help you fix the problem. And they will be much more amenable to helping you if they don't resent you.

DO communicate your course of action and provide updates
Once you have determined a course of action, communicate this to the disgruntled parties. Even if it's not a perfect solution, it will show that you want to keep them in the loop (which they will later appreciate once they have cooled down) and will give you a sense of how much damage control you need to prepare for later on after the dust settles. It also shows you have taken control and responsibility, which people respect.

DON'T let an imperfect solution ruin the event
Yes, you may not be able to completely salvage the broken signage or the fallen wedding cake. And the backup entertainer or speaker may not be the ideal fit. But you have done your best with the limited time and resources at hand, and now it is your job to make sure the rest of the event continues on and that your guests feel welcome and engaged. You are the glue holding all this together, and everyone is looking to you to keep it all together.

What other do's and don'ts do you have? Provide them in the comments below.
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One way to minimize event complaints and issues is to plan for all contingencies. And Planning Pod's 26+ tools give you control over all your event details so that you are supremely prepared for all your events. Try our event registration and planning software tools free today.