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  • Writer's pictureWhitney Tran

Event 101: The Simple Way to Ensure a Successful Event

To start: Successful does not mean perfect. Please pause to let that sink in. Alright, moving on.

You may be surprised by this, but there is a way to nearly guarantee a successful event. It's not completely in the planning or the doing, which can be shocking for people who have "planner" in their title. And while event professionals are paid to ask questions, they're mainly practical and the answer or lack thereof, then requires the planner to act. For example: Did you get three bids from three different vendors? If the answer is no, you go out and find bids. What will we do if the weather turns during your outdoor event? If the client looks at you like a deer in headlights, you know you better find an indoor contingency space ASAP.

But what if I told you that success lies in a question, and it's not one that you have to answer? Yep, it's true and here it is:

What does success mean for my client?

Let's break this down using the classic five W's

  • Who: Ask this question of your client and listen to their answer. Then ask them what their boss's definition of success is. Is the Board involved? What is their opinion? Talk with your client about each stakeholder, ending with whose definition of success carries the most weight. Jot down the final answer in a place you can refer to it throughout the planning process.

  • What: There are many ways to phrase this question. I favor "What does success look like at this event?" or "How will you know this event was successful?" You can even use the photo below phrasing it "What do you mean when you say, 'This event was successful?'" Find a way that is comfortable for you.

  • Where: While I prefer in person meetings where I can watch facial expressions due to COVID-19 most pre-event work is done remotely. Asking while on camera can be helpful. Pay attention to any pauses, or inquisitive looks, which may signal that your client hasn't considered this aspect of event planning.

  • When: It's important to ask this question at the beginning of your work, when you're contracted for the scope of work (see next bullet point for why).

  • Why: Your client's answer will give you guidance and potential benchmarks to meet as you plan and execute.

    • Examples:

      • Success is a dinner event with 50 guests

      • Success is raising $500,000 for a specific charity

      • Success is staying under budget

Go back frequently to the agreed upon definition to help you prioritize your focus

when there are competing issues.

This question opens the door for you to walk straight through, leading your clients to success.

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