The Biggest Lessons Learned Growing an Events Program

Even though Gather makes managing private events more organized, seamless and fun, it’s still no easy feat. Between keeping track of details, making sure everyone’s on the same page, and having good communication with your client, there are lots of factors at play when it comes to hosting successful events. With that in mind, we looked into some popular lessons from seasoned event pros about the biggest lessons they’ve learned while growing an events program.

Communication is Key

“Understand what the customer wants from the event, and make sure you’ve discussed your understanding of the event with the customer. It’s amazing how people can interpret the same instructions differently, so make sure you’ve discussed the brief fully with the customer to avoid misunderstandings.” –Olivia Ramsbottom, Senior Lecturer, Business and Management, University of Derby Buxton

Take Advantage of Tech

“It was only two years ago that my work-flow included exporting and saving revised PDFs, redistributing information to clients and my team, and reprinting BEOs. Cloud-based software makes bookings, contacts, and the calendar easily accessible from any device. Our work-flows have become smarter, faster, and more efficient thanks to this technology.” –Stacy Rudin, founder, Plate & Glass

Always Have a Back-Up Plan

“It is rare that an event is ever pulled off without at least one issue, an item may not turn up or an important person may arrive late. Assess the most important assets your event will have, and create a backup plan for each. If a number of issues arise in the future, triage them and decide whether an alternative can be found, or if it should be cut entirely from the event.” –Brighton School of Business and Management

Reflect on each event after it’s over

“After every event project, ensure you reflect, analyse feedback and discuss with your team and the client how to improve. Enjoy the praise but look most closely at any negativity or areas rated average. Share anything that didn’t go to plan with the wider team, along with how the situation was dealt with and lessons learnt. Don’t sit back and be complacent, no matter how big a success the event was. Every small detail can make a difference and there is always room for improvement!” –Becki Cross, Managing Director, Events Northern Ltd.

 

Q&A: What People Are Saying

Gather talked with Natasha Lum, Regional Sales & Special Events Manager at Cinépolis USA, about the biggest lessons she’s learned over more than a decade in the events industry, as well as her advice for those just starting out.

Were you in the events industry before Cinépolis?

Yes. I’ve been with Cinépolis for four years, and I’ve been in the events industry for 10-plus years, doing all types of events from travel to corporate and more.

How long have you been involved with their events?

I’ve always been on their sales and events side. When I first started, there were five locations. Next year, we’ll have 21. It’s been a learning curve along the way. We’ve changed and adapted different techniques for how we handle events. We’ve grown the department and our team in a lot of ways. I oversee the California team — we have seven coordinators in California and three regional coordinators I also head up.

What’s is the biggest lesson you’ve learned with private event planning, from when you first started to now?

There have been three. The first is to always over-prepare. You never know what last-minute issues may come about. If possible, get the team to come in a couple of days early to set up, make sure you have all the menu items you’ll need, and make sure the chef has tested the onsite equipment.

The second lesson is to make sure you have high-quality and well-maintained AV equipment. If the emcee’s mic or the projector doesn’t work, people will be waiting for a presenter and nothing will be working. Test all of the equipment beforehand so you don’t end up with a disaster scenario.

The third lesson is to over-communicate with your staff and customers. Be honest and open, and keep them informed of any updates or changes in a timely and professional manner.

What has been one of the biggest struggles for you all to overcome with private events?

The growth and adapting. We’ve got a very skeletal team, so our biggest hurdle is finding people to oversee each area. It’s tough with hourly staff when you don’t know how long you’ll need them. So, keeping a well-groomed staff of coordinators is something I’m dealing with at the moment. It’s also important to keep them happy in their positions, so that’s something we’ve worked on adapting. We have reward programs when they hit goals, and we give out things like gift cards and sporting tickets.

How has event software helped improve your private event management?

First, it’s reporting and getting back the reports we need. That’s probably the biggest thing because we look at reports and numbers to help to negotiate. Secondly, it’s helped with communication. Having your whole team able to see the event calendar, upcoming event details or communication between you and customer has been a big reward because of over-communication and being able to see what’s going on with an event.

What advice would you give to someone just launching a private events program?

I would say to remember Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Always plan and map out exactly what you’re going to do, then have a plan B. Secondly, always stay calm in front of a customer. Chaos can be behind the scenes, but as long as you stay in control and honestly communicate, you can pull off an event successfully.

Is there anything you’d suggest they avoid?

If you’re asked to host an event and have minimal lead-up time, don’t. See if it can be pushed to give yourself plenty of time. We do a lot of marketing events. If you don’t give yourself enough marketing time to get out things like invites and posts, you’ll have 10 people instead of 100, and that doesn’t look good. Avoid not give yourself enough lead time with marketing.

Is there any other advice you want to add?

Always get guest feedback when possible, and use qualified data!

Trena Hamidi is Events Director for Barbarossa Lounge, an upscale lounge for drinks and Californian shared plates in San Francisco. She talked with Gather about her top recommendations for new event managers, how software has helped their events program grow, and the struggles she worked to overcome.

How long have you been involved with Barbarossa Lounge events?

From the beginning, when we opened in November 2015.

What’s is the biggest lesson you’ve learned with private event planning, from when you first started to now?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s very important to have the correct systems in place, for your sanity. When we started we created a lot of our own systems. As we got busier, it was impossible to maintain. Having Gather to consolidate things was a godsend. Now we’re much more organized, and leads don’t fall through the cracks, because you’re able to manage it all.

What has been one of the biggest struggles for you all to overcome with private events?

For myself, having no events background, I wasn’t sure if I was doing things correctly. I spoke to others in the industry about the best ways to approach things. Also, creating something from scratch was more challenging than already having processes in place. We were brand new, and I had to just jump in and create this program.

What are some ways event software has helped improve your private event management?

It’s definitely improved how we handle leads. I have enjoyed integrating payments into Gather, also. We didn’t do that from the beginning — I was using a POS. Plus, just having a place others can go to means people don’t have to come to me for information because they have visibility into the details they need.

What advice would you give to someone just launching a private events program?

I would definitely recommend getting an event management portal like Gather in place, that’d be my first recommendation. Then, I’d recommend integrating payments. Also, try to keep everything in one place.