The fallout from COVID-19 was brutal for the event industry. The early months of the pandemic brought businesses and celebratory events to a sudden halt, resulting in a loss of jobs for many event professionals. During these last few years, there was much soul-searching among industry insiders, wondering where the state of event planning would be moving forward. Many of us worked hard to pivot to virtual models, create new innovative ways of connecting and find alternatives to the traditional galas and parties so that people could gather safely during such a time of uncertainty.
What a difference two years can make! Lots of festivities have found their way back onto calendars, and for many, there seems to be a renewed excitement for celebrations of all kinds, particularly weddings and mitzvahs.
With so much demand, it’s important to plan ahead as much as possible for a special personal occasion or a corporate event.
Here are 5 of my expert tips to keep in mind when planning your next event:
- Start with the priority items. Venues, for example, are being booked one to two years out. Therefore, the first step in the planning process should be securing the venue where the event will take place. Make a list of specifications you will need in a venue, such as guest capacity, general location, and accessibility accommodations. Using your criteria, curate a list of potential event venues.
- Next, track your outreach to each venue. Contact the event or sales department of each venue on your list to inquire about the availability of your desired event date. You may find that even with advanced planning your preferred date may already be booked. Keep track of which alternative dates are still available at the venues you contact. Depending upon what you learn from your outreach, you may be faced with a decision to make: keep searching for a venue until you find one that’s free and meets your needs, or change your event date to align with a venue’s openings.
- Once you’ve settled on a venue, that choice may dictate the next priority items for your to-do list. For example, if your venue requires an outside caterer, you’ll want to prioritize interviewing and contracting one as the next essential task on your planning timeline. Since the pandemic, there has been a labor shortage in the events industry, and many caterers are no longer able to take on as many events on a single date – which makes their availability more limited. Get on a caterer’s calendar early to secure your event date, especially if there is a certain caterer you already have in mind and would prefer to have at your event.
- If an event will be outdoors, tenting may be needed to accommodate guests rain or shine – but act quickly. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a heightened desire for gathering outside to strive to mitigate the spread of the virus. This is particularly important if there are guests on your list who are immunocompromised. Consequently, the demands on tent rental companies have increased exponentially. Once you’ve locked in your event date and venue, contact rental companies immediately to find one that can provide what you need.
- Gear up for your big day by drafting an event timeline, but remain flexible when needed. Your planning priorities can and will vary based on several event factors. While having a more extended period for planning can be beneficial at times, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to pull off an event in a short timeframe. The latter can be achieved with the right knowledge, experience, and efficiency—and perhaps support from an event planner. When I work with clients—regardless of how far into the future an event may be—I work with them to create a planning timeline that tracks the order of priorities based on each individual situation. We’ll adjust it accordingly as needed.
Working with a professional event planner can make prepping for your occasion less overwhelming for you—and more productive (and enjoyable!) overall.
Shari Zatman is an event producer with more than two decades of experience. She owns two companies: Perfectly Planned by Shari, which focuses on luxury events (like weddings and mitzvahs), and Eventful Event Producers, which focuses on corporate and non-profit events. Her latest venture is event training, coaching and consulting for event and hospitality professionals. She created a handbook and seminars to work with them to identify problem areas, create solutions and share best practices.