Our first tip here – right out of the gate – is to avoid last-minute event planning at all costs! However, sometimes there just isn’t any way around it, especially now in this on-again, off again pandemic world. If you do find you have to plan a last-minute event, be prepared to face some major challenges including finding a venue, finding a caterer and missing a whole lot of details. To make things a little less stressful, here we offer 12 tips to help make your last minute event a success.
1. Recruit helpers
Don’t try to go it alone. Regardless of the reason for the event, business or personal, you’re sure to find willing helpers. Whether it’s co-workers or guests, event planning tends to be an interesting distraction and people are often willing to contribute to the process. If you are really running this thing solo, an excellent idea is to look for a venue that is willing to offer assistance and make your to-do list a lot shorter.
2. Get those invites out ASAP
A big challenge will be getting a good turn out if this is a last-minute event no one knows about. Once you nail down the date send out invites, even if you don’t have the details such as the event venue. It can be like a teaser or save the date type of invite so people have your timing on their radar. It will also help build up momentum and interest and you can then do a follow-up once all the other details are ironed out.
3. Leverage social media
Whether you are recruiting volunteers, doing invites or want to gain publicity, leverage social media wherever you can. It’s the quickest route to a large audience, and you can even ask for referrals and advice to get things moving along.
4. Choose a full-service venue
You already have your work cut out for you without having to deal with all kinds of vendors. Choose a full-service venue that meets most, if not all, of your needs from the site to the catering, and from the planning to the décor. You’ll find things go much more smoothly when you reduce your vendors down to one.
5. Go for quality, over quantity
This is no time to make your life difficult. Go for quality in the most important aspects of the event, and then see if you can add extras once these elements are finalized. This includes the right venue, exceptional food and, if required, at least one quality speaker/entertainer. Once those essentials are confirmed, your event will have the main ingredients for success and anything else is just gravy.
6. Know when to say ‘no’
Depending on who you are planning the event for, you might be facing some high demands you know you can’t, or actually just won’t, be able to meet. Be sure you look at things from a logical perspective and know when to say ‘no’. Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t allow people to add more to your full plate. Stick to the things mentioned in point #5 and only take on more if you know you can a) manage it without dying of stress and b) execute it perfectly. Otherwise, it just isn’t worth it.
7. Manage expectations
This is important because regardless of why the event is so last minute, those involved need to know what can realistically be achieved within that timeline. Right from the start, express concerns and outline limitations so you meet expectations. People tend to expect the world and then are disappointed or livid when things don’t turn out as they expect.
So from the start, be sure to take a stance based on the old adage “your lack of planning does not create my sense of urgency.” Last-minute events are difficult so be sure to only take on assignments that are manageable – and make sure everyone knows when something can’t be done from the get-go.
8. Be prepared to pay
In some cases, you might get some price breaks for filling up an empty venue or hiring an entertainer who would otherwise have nothing to do that day. However, you might also find other vendors who want to charge more. This might include florists or caterers who will be under pressure to deliver on time.
A good rule of thumb is to see where you’ll save, and then use those savings as a slush fund where you might need to pay extra. And if you’re an event planner being asked to plan this last-minute event, you should be charging a premium as well for the rush work. Never underestimate your own value and be sure to send a message to clients that booking in advance is far more affordable.
9. Understand payment arrangements
In last-minute scenarios, some vendors might want to be paid in advance. This is because they might feel the event is at risk for not getting enough attendees or guests and therefore more likely to get cancelled. Be sure you understand where you might need to fork over the money sooner than expected so you have the funds available.
Keep yourself calm and try not to let the event stress you out. This can ruin your focus and lead to costly mistakes. Set a schedule for yourself and check off each milestone as it is completed. This will make you feel a sense of accomplishment which can go a long way in keeping frayed nerves calmer.
11. Have a Plan B
Make sure you have a Plan B in place in case things fall through. Last-minute events tend to increase the risk for disappointment. Make certain all commitments are firm, but also have something waiting in the wings including a caterer, possible venue and entertainment/speakers.
12. Keep on top of things
Make sure you check in regularly with your team or venue to check plans are on track. You don’t want to find out too late when things are going south. This allows you to go to Plan B if necessary.
These tips will help make your last-minute event planning go a lot smoother.