Helpful Tips for Planning Last-Minute Events
As the travel and event planning industry continues its recovery, one significant trend continues last-minute events and shortened booking windows. And if you're the one tasked with planning an event with very short notice, this can make your job seem almost impossible. While this trend likely isn't going away anytime soon, proper preparation from the beginning can make delivering a successful event a little more manageable. Here are some tips to help as you take on the task of planning a last-minute social event, company meeting, or corporate get together:
1. If it's available – Book it: We see it when we go out to dinner and feel it when we go to the grocery store. Finding availability and desired items right now is tough. So if you're on the phone with a vendor and they have what you need at a price you're willing to pay, book it! Waiting even one day could be the difference between having an event location or needing to cancel.
2. Delegate: When time is limited, you need to recruit people, both internally and externally, to help. If you're a corporate meeting planner, identify a few trusted team members who can assist you. Because let's be honest, there are lots of details to be managed and it's too much for one person. Don't micromanage every event detail but instead have regular check-ins to ensure everything is on track. Also, don't forget partners outside your organization. Event planners are an excellent resource because they have a list of contacts they work with regularly. And because of their close and longstanding relationships, they may have more luck booking the last available spot.
3. Be flexible: Whether it's the date of your event, possible location, or type of food, the key to last-minute event planning is flexibility. When you call event locations, be sure to have a few alternate dates on hand, if possible. The fewer calls you need to make to go back and forth on finding an available date will save you lots of time. And frustration. And if you're trying to find a caterer, have your approximate headcount and dietary restrictions upfront. This will help avoid the last-minute panic of finalizing your menu days before an event only to realize the caterer can't meet the dietary needs or ensure enough food for all your guests.
Despite best-laid plans, various issues beyond your control can still cause abrupt changes at the very last moment. But if you take some time, in the beginning, to strategize and create backup plans should your original plans change (think plans A, B &C!), it will go a long way to minimize frustration. A few additional items to keep in mind when planning last-minute events:
Book your location first – This may seem obvious, but sometimes we start anywhere when we’re in a mad scramble. But when you book your venue first, you can address any catering restrictions upfront. Or perhaps they've loosened their catering policies as a result of reduced staffing or supply-chain issues. For example, one client wanted to serve fresh food with a unique flair, so they selected a popular local food truck. But their chosen venue had no parking for the food truck, so instead, they brought their food inside and set it up as a buffet.
Ask for referrals - If a preferred supplier isn't available, ask for a referral and use their name when you call. Anything that can give you an additional leg up.
Multiple ways to connect – Sometimes suppliers can be hard to reach and have preferred communication methods. For example, if you call and leave a message but don't hear back, then send an email. Are they very active on social media? Then send them a message on Facebook or Instagram. People are busy, and staffing is limited, so there are delays in responding. Be kind but also persistent. Everyone is doing the best they can.
Make your guests comfortable – Right now, some people want to hug. Others are more comfortable with a handshake. And some feel best with a simple fist bump. Allowing your guests an easy way to communicate how they want to connect with others will take the pressure off declining a hug or handshake. Consider nametags or some other color-coded items that indicate preference:
Red – Fist bump
Yellow – Handshake
Green – Hug
Booking an event has always been stressful. Add to it the current challenges of limited staff, supply chain delays, and an ongoing pandemic, and it can feel downright impossible. So before you start planning your next event and incorporating some of these helpful tips, take a deep breath, and remember this: people are craving connection with their peers and friends and miss attending live events (sorry, Zoom calls!) Your guests will be so grateful to enjoy great food and the company of others that even if everything doesn't go perfectly, chances are no one will notice!