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Melanie Woodward

Melanie\'s Event Planning Blog


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5 Ways That Event Planners Can Maximize ROI

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Clients are increasingly looking for a sound return on investment, here's how you can help them get it.

There are a number of great ways that event planners can maximize ROI on their events, which is essential as your clients are increasingly looking for a sound return on investment. In a nutshell, you need to maximize their profit, and with budgets getting tighter this isn't always the easiest thing to achieve and measure. So how do you maximize ROI as an event planner? While your creative side might be all about the theme and concept, your business side should be thinking about the following things when it comes to ROI.

Objectives and Key Performance Indicators

You should always start out with a set of objectives that will show whether your event was a success, and by setting KPIs at the initial stages of planning, you'll be able to better measure just how successful it was. An essential objective is to provide value, and not only to your client; the event must have value for everyone involved, from attendees to stakeholders. Customer satisfaction is an important measurement, and the ways to satisfy range from the immediate environment (the venue, the food etc.) to the actual content of the event. Think about sponsors as well, were there any repeat sponsors who saw the value from being involved in one of your previous events, and did you attract any new sponsors?

High Quality Events

I'm sure you always strive to plan the highest quality events, but it's still worth reiterating here. The better quality your event, the higher the customer and client satisfaction will be, and this will go a long way towards giving you the biggest ROI. The event must have value to all involved, and you can achieve this by meeting the needs of the attendees, giving them scope for networking and getting the right balance between business and pleasure.


The use of technology at events is a must in this hi-tech day and age, but in order for event planners to maximize ROI it needs to be used wisely. Technology can often cut costs by streamlining tasks and reducing other costs, such as printing, but the important thing to consider is whether it gives attendees something beneficial. If you're just using a piece of technology for the sake of it, does it really benefit your event?

Learning and Takeaways

This goes back to my earlier comment about balancing business and pleasure. Yes, it's important that attendees are comfortable and enjoy your event, but if they don't learn anything, how can you quantify the value of the event?  Relevant and engaging takeaways are a crucial part of any event, and are an essential way for event planners to maximize ROI.

Measuring Success

Now you've learned more about the techniques used to maximize ROI at your event, but how do you measure your success? Two things that are measurable are behavior and impact - did the participants do something because of the event, and what was the impact of it? You can use online surveys and real time audience polling to measure these types of results, and a complete assessment after the event is also necessary. The basic calculation of ROI is the value of the event (in terms of impact and behavior), less the cost of the event. This will give you the overall profit, or ROI. One thing to keep in mind when you're looking at direct benefits is whether they were a direct result of the event, or if some came from another aspect of the project, such as advertising.

Maximizing ROI for your events isn't necessarily about spending as little as possible. Yes, over-spending on unnecessary areas that aren't value added is a waste, but spending too little can also have a negative impact on your ROI, as you run the risk of not having a high-quality event.



5 Essential Ways to Handle Your Event Going Wrong

Tuesday March 25, 2014

What you should do if your event goes wrong, and how to avoid future problems

We all know that even the best laid plans can go wrong at times, so as an event planner, you should be fully aware of ways to handle your event going wrong. You'll be the first person that everyone will look to if disaster strikes, so whether it's an act of God or something you personally dropped the ball on, how do you make it through to the other side while still maintaining your professionalism?

Here are my 5 essential tips for managing the situation if your event goes wrong.

Stay Calm

This is probably the most important factor, so I'll repeat it for you; whatever you do, stay calm! You're the person that your team, your client and the attendees are going to be looking to for guidance, so the last thing you want to do is panic. In fact, if you manage to stay totally calm and unflappable, people may not even notice that there's a problem in the first place.

Have a Contingency Plan

You did have a plan B in place, right? When you're planning an event you should always consider what might go wrong, how drastically it might go wrong, and how you can fix it if the worst happens. Keynote speaker doesn't show up? No problem, you have a reserve waiting in the wings. Technology fails? That's fine, you have an alternative solution that doesn't rely on an app or electricity. You can only successfully handle your event going wrong if you always have other options available to you. I once had an outdoor event planned on a day that was forecast to be glorious, but even so I'd investigated indoor possibilities 'just in case'. Which was lucky when the forecast changed the day before the event; as it meant I not only had umbrellas on hand, but also could swiftly organize moving into the stunning barn on the same land with minimum panic.

Get the Facts

When your event isn't going to plan, you'll need to find out everything there is to know about the problem, even if all you want to do is hide in the bathroom and pretend it's not happening. Asking questions is crucial: What has happened? Why has it happened? How can it be fixed? Unless you know what's caused the problem, and the impact it's going to have on the event, then you won't be able to come up with a solution.

Be Honest

Honesty is definitely the best policy in a situation like this, and the last thing you should do is try to cover up the problem. Your client and the attendees will appreciate honesty, even if they may be frustrated in the short term while you try to handle your event going wrong. The only thing I'd caution you about is being over honest, and telling anyone who'll listen exactly what's going wrong. If people aren't going to be affected by the issue, then there's really no need to tell them!

Learn From Your Mistakes

As essential in the event planning business as it is in life, learning from your mistakes is the only way to grow, both personally and professionally. If you miss something crucial, or make an error in judgment, then at least next time you'll know what not to do. You should always have a 'lessons learned' session after every event, where you note what was successful about the event, and what didn't work so well. This stands you in great stead for future events, and is a great way to give you that competitive edge.

Don't let the fear of things not going to plan stop you from taking risks and planning daring events. You're not only an event planning professional, you're also a creative professional, and sometimes the zaniest ideas can translate into the most successful events, even if you spend the whole time biting your nails in case the worst happens.



7 Creative Ways to Use Social Media for Your Events

Tuesday March 25, 2014

A complete social media strategy is essential for professional event planners

Are you tapped into all of the creative ways to use social media for your events?

Your strategy should go beyond simply creating an event on Facebook, and range from creating a buzz when you promote your event to attendee interaction during the event itself.

If you're not sure where to start, here are 7 creative ways that event planners can use social media to create an outstanding events.


  1. Using Pinterest to plan your event is much more creative and visual than traditional methods. Creating a Pinterest board is perfect for brainstorming, and getting all of your creative vision in one place.
  2. Using Pinterest to promote your event also works really well. Pin inspiring photos of the location, guest speakers, sponsors' logos, and pictures that fit in well with your theme. Photos and videos of past events are another effective option, and are a great way of maximizing the hype for your upcoming event.


  1. Holding a Facebook contest linked to the event is a wonderful way to reward your Facebook followers and promote your event at the same time; just make sure you're aware of Facebook's rules surrounding contests! Asking entrants to share your post as a condition of entry may seem like great PR, but it's against Facebook's rules so could cause you problems.


  1. You probably already know that Twitter is fantastic for getting news of your event out there, but do you make full use of its functionality to really make the most of the exposure it can give? It's easy to set up tweet buttons on your website so visitors can click to tweet a customized message, let everyone know they're attending and promote the event at the same time.
  2. Having a real time Twitter wall displayed at your event isn't just great promotion; it also helps people at the event connect and network with each other. There are a number of options for Twitter walls, both free and paid, so do some research and decide what will work best for you.


  1. As we all know, YouTube is a great tool for procrastination, full of funny videos of cats and all the latest music videos (come on, that's not just me, surely?). If you create a YouTube channel for your event planning business, it becomes one of the wonderfully creative ways to use social media for your events. You can even share your video across your other social media platforms, and visitors to your channel can share it on their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.


  1. The mighty hashtag; used effectively it can maximize the visibility of your event, and it isn't exclusively used on Twitter anymore. Now other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram also make use of clickable hashtags to trend words and phrases - so make your hashtag count! Choose one hashtag that's memorable, and that relates to your event, as you don't want to dilute the effectiveness with a number of different hashtags. An example that I could use for an 'Event Planning Blueprint Week' would be #EventBlue2014. Make sure that you use your hashtag on everything to do with the event, your website, social media pages and any printed literature.

When I started my event business in 2004, social media was nowhere near as popular or prolific as it is today, so I've seen the numerous changes and benefits of a proper social media strategy in the event planning world. Facebook and Twitter are now the norm, but don't forget the countless other creative ways you can use social media for your events.



Money Matters: Finance and Accounting Tips for Event Planners

Tuesday March 25, 2014

The essentials of financial management for event planners

Following these finance and accounting tips for event planners is the smart way to take control of your business. Even if you have an accountant or bookkeeper to keep track of your finances, it's vital that you understand at least the basics of your business' financial affairs and responsibilities. After all, how will you know how well you're doing if you don't? If you're anything like me and gloss over at the words "loss statement or balance sheet" then this is a must read for you.

Know the Terminology

  • Profit and loss statement: A profit and loss statement shows what money you're bringing in (revenue), as well as the costs of running your business, such as marketing, venue hire, employee salaries and catering. Taking your costs from your revenue gives you the actual profit or loss (hopefully profit!). You really need to understand how this works, so you don't make the rookie mistake that I did when I was first starting out, yep, that's right, I actually made a loss on one of my first events!
  • Balance sheet:  This is a higher level look at your business, and usually shows the most recent three years of trading. It includes assets, for example cash you have in the bank, cash that's due to be paid to you and business assets; and liabilities, for example any debt the business has.
  • Accounts payable/accounts receivable: No set of finance and accounting tips for event planners would be complete without these necessary processes.  Accounts payable is the amount of money that you owe, and accounts receivable the amount that's owed to you, and it's important to keep a handle on both of these aspects of cash flow.  You may be proud of your efficiency in paying bills on time, but how are you at handling what's owed to you?
  • Projected cash flow: This is crucial for predicting how your business will grow in the future, and you need an accurate cash flow prediction to make sure that you can meet all of your financial obligations. You don't want any nasty surprises when it comes to your finances!


As well as knowing what your overall numbers are, and what they mean, you need to have an individual budget in place for each event. You'll need to start with projected expenses, and remember that you'll never be able to predict the exact figure. Put in everything from the biggest and most obvious expenses to the tiniest details; as you advance in your event planning career you'll start finding it much easier to predict these things, I promise! It's also vital to add an emergency overflow figure to your expenses; I'm giving you these finance and accounting tips for event planners from my own experience, and trust me, you'll need an overflow fund! Add projected income to the budget, and then after the event you can substitute your actual expenses for the projected figures - this will let you see how well you achieved your budget.

Make the Most of Technology

You don't need to rely on a leather-bound ledger and a fountain pen (or even an excel spreadsheet!) to keep your books in order, as there are a whole range of applications and software available to make your life easier. From small business accounting software to billing and invoicing software, there's a wealth of technology out there that's perfect for small business owners and freelancers alike.

Know Your Obligations

So, your books are up to date, and you know everything there is to know about the financial health of your event planning business - but is there something you've forgotten? Do you have the relevant business insurance, such as professional liability insurance and general liability insurance, just in case the worst ever happens?  If you employ anyone to be part of your team, do you realize you'll need to take out workers' compensation insurance? Think about certification; while it's not essential to be certified to become an event planner, consider whether it will help you to start or advance your career. Just like money matters, these are the things that you'll need to have a good business head about when it comes to professional event planning.



Event Planning Essentials for Managing Trade Show Booths

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Whether you're planning an entire show, or running your client's booth, managing trade show booths is an essential skill to have. Unfortunately it's not as simple as 'if you show it, they will come', there are a number of factors that can mean exhibitors don't achieve what they want from a show - which are leads, sales and return on their investment.  Of course, if exhibitors fail, it's going to be you they look to for reasons why, so follow these essential tips for success.

Layout and Design

It may seem an obvious point, but booths have to look inviting for people to want to visit them. An attractive space will draw people in, and booths should be branded with the business logo and colors to make it easily recognizable. Keeping booths tidy and well-maintained is a must, you'd be surprised how many people don't plan where to store things in advance, and end up with a cluttered space that doesn't look professional! An out of the way and hidden area is essential for storing boxes of flyers, and anything else that doesn't need to be on display.


It's vital that you know your audience and what makes them tick, otherwise how can you tailor your booth to them? Managing trade show booths is a lot to do with giving people what they want, and it's no good only thinking about promotion at the show itself, prior promotion is a must. You have to give people an incentive to visit, so why not run a contest? If you advertise the contest in advance via the show's website or social media pages, you'll get people actively seeking you at the event. Make sure you also engage with existing clients to let them know when and where you're going to be - if they're already going, they're likely to come and find you, and if they weren't already attending, they might decide to attend thanks to you alerting them to it. Tip: promote your booth number and location so attendees can easily find you.


You may have enticed someone to your booth, but how do you get them to stay, engage and ultimately buy? It's important not to focus solely on obvious prospects; you never know who could be valuable to your business, and I'd say that this is one of the most necessary pieces of advice for managing trade show booths.  Every visitor to every booth should be greeted in a friendly and professional way, and asked questions that will help you to understand their needs - and of course, you'll be the one to meet those needs! A script is fine for the initial stages of conversation, but you need to focus on what they want, and keep them interested and involved.  People generally visit a trade show with an interest in what's being offered and 'what's in it for them.'


Whether it's knowledge, learning or a physical product, giving visitors something to take away with them is a great way for them to remember the individual booth, and the event as a whole. A useful, branded item is always good for heightening brand awareness, as long as you don't try and over-promote your business, which could turn people off. Think creatively when you're planning what to give away, and try and go for something original and useful. I was once given a retro-style, laminated postcard with a quirky quote on the front, and the company name and an online discount code on the back. The discount was only for a few dollars, but it gave me a reason to browse their site - and I've still got the card up in the kitchen! The most effective takeaway if you're looking to generate leads is knowledge and information, so a relevant white paper would be a perfect takeaway, offered electronically either on a memory stick or via email (of course, this has the added bonus of capturing prospect's email addresses!). By offering visitors something useful and interesting to them, you'll be gaining their trust and giving them the incentive to come back for more.

Managing trade show booths is a great way to grow your business if your booth that is relevant, engaging and professional.


7 Simple Negotiating Tips for Event Planners

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Negotiation is a Critical Factor in Increasing ROI

Negotiating is an important skill to have, both in terms of life and in business, so how would you rate your skills? Do you love bartering when you're on an exotic vacation, or do you give in to the first offer you get? As an event planner, negotiation is a critical factor in increasing ROI and making the most of your client's budget, so if it's not something that comes naturally to you, then you need to learn, and fast! If you sometimes find negotiations hard work, following my essential negotiating tips for event planners will help you to build the confidence you need to negotiate successfully.

Before you negotiate:

  • Know your 'nice-to-haves' as well as your 'must-haves'.  If you approach the meeting with a long list of things you absolutely have to have, and nothing that's non-negotiable, you're likely to end up losing out on some things. If you aim to achieve all of your must-haves as a minimum, anything extra is an added bonus.
  • Know your budget. This may seem obvious, but it's surprisingly easy to get carried away during negotiations, and the last thing you want is to have to go back and say you made a mistake. That'll only make you seem unprofessional and could well impact future business with the supplier.

During the negotiation:

  • Aim to minimize conflict, reduce resistance and achieve a win/win outcome. Don't go in playing hardball from the start, as you're likely to alienate the other side. Think about extra services that they might be able to provide. If you're looking to hire a hotel conference room, will delegates need hotel rooms as well? Will you be using their catering services? The more services you require, the more likely you are to negotiate a better deal.
  • One of the most important negotiating tips for event planners is not to rush into making a decision. You'll need time to think it over, and possibly discuss it with your client.
  • Make sure you understand everything involved before you sign on the dotted line. If, for example, the hotel has an attrition penalty in place that you'll have to pay if not all of the rooms you reserve are booked and paid for, then it's better to underestimate the number of rooms you'll need. It's far easier to book extra rooms at a later date if you think you'll need them.
  • Be as flexible as you possibly can, and you'll find that your negotiation goes more smoothly! If you're looking to hire a venue, then find out if there are certain times they're likely to have holes, and they'll probably be able to be more flexible with costs.
  • If you're also looking elsewhere, don't be afraid to mention it. After all, a little bit of healthy competition may mean they lower their rates even more!

Effective Communication in Negotiations

I can't stress enough how essential it is to communicate effectively during negotiations; you can follow all of these negotiating tips for event planners to the letter, but if you struggle to communicate effectively, you'll never become an ace negotiator.  By communication, I don't just mean what you say and how you say it, because listening is just as important.  Have you ever witnessed one of those conversations where the two sides are just talking at each other? Then you'll know what I mean! Without excellent listening skills your negotiation will go nowhere, as the other side will feel like what they're saying isn't being heard, and you run the risk of miscommunication and arguments not being understood.

Nonverbal communication is also a massive part of your negotiation, so it's crucial that you convey the right message. Getting the right balance in your body language and facial expressions can be difficult, so try and make sure that you come across as friendly yet professional. Giggling too much, slouching and not maintaining eye contact are all no-no's for a professional negotiation, but at the same time, frowning, folded arms and banging your fist on the table aren't going to get you anywhere either.



The 6 Most Common Event Planning Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Event planners can make errors, here's how to avoid them.

Some people see event planning as an 'easy' job, that's more about pleasure than business. You should take this as a compliment; people see it as easy because you make it look a breeze, but of course we know that there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into planning an event. There's always a risk of unforeseen problems happening at your event, but at the same time there are certain problems that you can expect to happen.

Avoid these common event planning mistakes to make the most of your event:

1. Overloading on Guest Speakers

You may think that the more interesting and inspirational speakers you can cram into your event program the better, but think of your attendees. Do they really want to sit on their butts for the entire event listening to one speaker after another? Probably not, and the further down the list of speakers it gets, the less attentive the audience is likely to be. Not only will this alienate the attendees, it could also affect your future relationships with the speakers who are on towards the end. Most people attend an event with networking in mind, so make sure your event is varied, with a mixture of speakers, activities and time for networking.

2. Not Double-Checking Arrangements

No matter how well-prepared you think you are, you should check, double-check and then check again! This is important for all of the arrangements for your event, from venue bookings to the spelling on any event literature. Imagine turning up on the day to find out that the caterers hadn't been confirmed so they're a no-show, or your client's company name is spelled wrong on signs around the event. Even if you have a team that have responsibility for different aspects of the event, the consequences of making common event planning mistakes will be all on you, so check everything yourself then have fresh eyes check it again.

3. Not Going Through Plans with Your Client in Person

It's essential that you get the balance right with your client relationships, so although you shouldn't need them to hold your hand every step of the way, it's important that you sit down with them in person to go through the final arrangements. You may think that you know exactly what they're looking for, but if there's been a miscommunication you risk a very unhappy client. Phone calls are great, but what if they were distracted and misheard you when you mentioned a critical part of the plan?

4. Not Allowing Enough Time for Setting Up

This is one of my biggest pet peeves and annoyances. Nothing looks more unprofessional to attendees than arriving at an event to see a last minute panic; they should walk into the perfect event, and not have to see what goes on behind the scenes. Imagine your event is a stage, a performance, and your attendees only experience it once the curtain is pulled. Timing is crucial throughout your event, so be sure to have a 'dry run' if it's at all possible.

5. Letting the Event Run Away With You

There are always going to be changes at all stages of your event, and if you miss even the tinniest change it can cause huge problems for you. A lot of common event planning mistakes are based around planning, and this is where proper planning holds its own. You should make sure that for every change you assess the impact it's going to have, both on your budget and on your timings. Event management planning software is perfect for tracking any changes, so take advantage of it!

6. Not Having a Plan B

As I've already mentioned, sometimes things go wrong that you can't foresee, so you should always expect the unexpected and try and plan for any eventuality. Do this, and you 'll minimize nasty surprises on the day!



Managing and Planning International Events: How to Plan With Ease

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Follow these essential tips to make your international events outstanding

You may have lots of experience in event planning, and have successfully navigated the pitfalls that come with planning events, but planning international events can be a whole new ballgame! Don't just assume that the same tried and tested techniques and tactics that help make your local events a success will work in the same way internationally; follow these essential tips to making your international events as outstanding as your national ones.

Allow Extra Time

All the things that you take for granted when planning an event are likely to take longer if you're working internationally, especially if there's a language barrier. Negotiations, contracts and paperwork may all need to be translated, so it's essential that you allow extra time in the planning stages. Will attendees need passports to travel? Don't forget that different countries have different passport restrictions, so make sure that you check the requirements for the destination country and communicate it early so people have the time to renew their passports if needed. For example, at time of publishing this article, if you're traveling to China you need a passport that's valid for six months from the date of entry, but for the UK it's fine as long as your passport is valid at the time of entry. Be sure to double check restrictions before booking.

Check Out the Venue in Advance

You may not think that you need to make a special trip just to visit the venue, but what if you turn up just before the event and you find out there's a problem? I always make it my priority to know everything there is to know about a venue before an event, and this applies to managing and planning international events as well so I highly recommend a pre-tip visit.

Be Aware of Time Differences

When you're planning an international event you need to take into account where the attendees are traveling from, and plan the event for a suitable time. An ideal solution is for the event to take place the day after everyone arrives, which will give their body clocks time to adjust. If this isn't possible or practical, just make sure that you're aware of the time zone they're traveling to and from and arrange the event accordingly; if everyone at the event is walking around like a zombie you can be sure that they're not going to enjoy it!

Do Your Homework

Your attendees are likely to have lots of questions about the destination, as well as the event itself, so you'll need to know all there is to know about everything from cultural differences to currency exchange information. If it's within your budget, consider investigating Destination Management Companies at your location, as they'll have the on the ground knowledge of the local area and can organize transport and activities, and consequently make your life easier.

Successfully Managing and Planning International Events

You won't be surprised to learn that there are many different considerations to take into account when managing and planning an international event, so it's essential that you do your research as early on in the planning stages as possible. Parts of the process that are easy when working on a national level can need a completely different approach on an international level. If you know all there is to know about the destination country, its rules, regulations and requirements, then you're well on your way to making your international event a roaring success.

Managing and Planning International Events with Attendees in Mind

It's not only you as an event planner that needs to be advised when you're managing and planning international events; it's important to think about the attendees as well. Giving them all of the information they need is essential, particularly when it comes to cultural differences. For example, a nod of the head may signify agreement to you and I, but in some countries it actually means no. If you've done your homework thoroughly, and communicated the essential knowledge to everyone involved, your international event is more likely to be successful.

Guest Satisfaction is the Goal of Event Planning

Sunday June 9, 2013

Beyond the glitz and glamor of special events there is the more important metric of guest satisfaction that will ultimately determine how the occasion will be remembered. And even though all planners set out to impress their attendees, the pressure of coordinating so many details can lead to simple oversights that steal attention away from the positives. The aura of a good guest experience does not happen naturally. The best event planners work hard at it and take time to prevent guest problems before they arise.

Measurements that Planners Must Know

Sunday June 9, 2013

Event venues always highlight square footage on their websites and marketing materials. They hope to impress prospects with the visualization of endless floor space and configuration options. And while it is good to know that a facility can host 500 people at round tables, is this really all a planner needs to know? The average event has a host of additional room components that could detract from the maximum capacity, which is why meeting planners need to think more in terms of layout when shopping venues. Keep these 7 event measurement basics in mind when evaluating open floor space.

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