Plan to plan
Underlying everything, she said, is to be clear about this expectation: “Don’t underestimate the amount of planning.”
There should be a solid plan for the event itself, she said, and another for how to market it. Both start with a big-picture question: “Why are we having the event?” Is it meant to generate revenue, for example, or is it simply a social get-together? How will success be measured (e.g., dollars raised, number of attendees, positive evaluations), and what will your role be in managing it?
Marketing your event could be “a great opportunity to let your graphic designer loose,” DeMarea said—unless it’s a long-standing one (such as a golf outing) that the same people attend each year, in which case, a new look could be unsettling. But otherwise, she advised, give your designer the afternoon off, with the instruction to come back with six examples of borrow-worthy design ideas that could shake things up.
If you’ll be giving an award at the event, plan for it to be in your office two weeks before, in case it arrives cracked, dirty, or otherwise unsuitable. Allow another two weeks before that for the award to be printed or engraved, and factor in some time to make sure you have the recipient’s name exactly correct—which may not be as obvious as it seems. Perhaps a person who uses a nickname wants their full name on the award, or vice versa—or maybe they want their middle initial. From there, walk back another four weeks, DeMarea said, because it may be that this award required the board to consult the full membership. The bottom line? Awards take time.
Similarly, DeMarea said, if your event has a program, it needs to be in your office a week or two before the event, with all the details double-checked well in advance—but ideally, it should be ready five weeks before the event. As for materials, DeMarea is adamant about not printing them but instead making them available online in advance (see “Toward greener events: Ideas from the bar world and beyond,” also in this issue). If you do have printed materials, she said, make sure to allow enough time for those as well.
Food needs to be carefully considered, too; for a big-ticket event, DeMarea said, you should be able to do a tasting. Understand that for the event, each entrée will be plated two hours in advance—so, she said, if the chef offers you something so delicate that it would never withstand that amount of time, realize that they’re setting unrealistic expectations to try to impress you. Whatever you end up choosing, make sure that all foods are clearly labeled. “It takes five minutes,” DeMarea said, but can make all the difference for someone with dietary needs or even just strong likes and dislikes.
In total, DeMarea said, figure that it will take a full eight to nine months to plan a fairly large event, and definitely don’t save things until the very end. “Never think you’ll have the time,” she advised.