At the very beginning of the planning stage, it is so tempting to jump to the big stuff like finding a place, hiring a caterer, booking the band...but if you can resist temptation, wait. I find that there is one step that should be the very first thing you do when planning an event. It centers around talking.
Most of the events I help with are planned by a committee of people. This might be a literal committee if I'm working with a corporate client or non profit, or it could be close family members to the bride and groom, or it could be siblings coming together to plan their parent's' anniversary party. Whatever the arrangement, if there is more than one person behind the event, there needs to be a conversation first and foremost.
Seems so simple, right? But it rarely happens. At the very beginning there needs to be open conversation about the intention of the event, the desired outcome and any other visions that are at play. Everyone in the group should be heard: without judgement, without interruption, and with an open mind. Now, this doesn't mean that every idea that is mentioned has to be put into action, but it should be heard. This is where a facilitator or event planner can come in handy. The facilitator should note all opinions and then find common themes that pop up. Or, if you have a group that plays nice with one another, it's possible to do this on your own as well.
So for example, let's say we're at the table with a business that wants to put on a huge thank you event for their major customers. Sandy says "I think we should have a giant BBQ with face painting for the kids and games and fireworks. Then we can pair up different families and have little competitions." Then Tom says, "I think we should rent the top deck for a baseball game. We don’t have to handle the food or beverages and everyone can sit around tables, drink beer, kick back and really get to know one another."
From this example, it's obvious that Tom and Sandy have different ideas and approaches to running an event. But it is also clear that at the base, they both want the same end result. They want to host an event that invites their clients to have an enjoyable time, and that creates an opening for the employees to get to know their clients on a more personal level to build stronger relationships. Once those main goals are established, then you can really break down how those goals can be achieved at the maximum level.
This same scenario can be played out for a wedding, party or any event. Of course there will be other factors in play such as budget, location, size, etc., but at least you have the base goals for weighing future decisions pertaining to the event.
There is nothing worse than having this conversation well into the planning process when deposits have already been paid, invitations sent out and there is little room for revamping. And unfortunately, it happens all too often. There is such urgency to check things off the list that the main goals gets way overlooked. So, as challenging as it may seem, having this conversation is the very first thing to do when planning an event.
Here are some questions that might get the ball rolling:
· What do we want our guests to say about the event when they get in the car to leave? What do we want to say as we’re leaving the event?
· What is the first detail that comes to mind when you think of the event? Ex. Food, music, atmosphere….
· How do we want our guests to feel at the beginning, middle and end of the event? How do we want to feel at the beginning, middle and end?
· What do we want to avoid feeling? What do we want to avoid making our guests feel?
So, I encourage you to go forth in your planning. Just kick the whole thing off with a good old fashioned conversation.