Up with People puts on events both big and small each year and this couldn’t happen without a dedicated team and years of experience. So how does one pull off successful events? We asked Up with People’s Annual Giving and Stewardship Program Manager Megan Luebke for some advice. Megan is part of the team responsible for producing Up with People’s big events like our annual gala in Denver, Colorado. This event requires organizing a cocktail hour, silent auction, three-course meal, special appeal paddle raise, and a dynamic performance by Up with People cast members. Megan’s tips can help anyone pull off an incredible event!
1.) Take care of yourself. You’re not helping anyone or the event if you don’t put yourself first (and many people would tell me to take my recommendation!). The work will be there tomorrow. Drink water, sleep, and find a healthy way of de-stressing (I love group fitness classes) so that you put forth your best efforts.
2.) Delegate! This is still something I am working on. Realize that you are only one person and can only do so much. Ask for help. People are more willing than you realize to assist.
3.) Have fun and celebrate! Event planning should be exciting. Don’t forget to take time during the planning process and the event to laugh, smile, and bask in your efforts.
4.) Attend other events. A great way to learn best practices is to attend other events; no matter the scale. Join a host committee of another nonprofit event or sign up for organizations like Volunteer Match or Hands On Network. Take note of their set-up, auction items, décor, communication process, production elements, takeaways, volunteer schedule, etc. You’ll make great connections, help a good cause, and come away with some ideas!
5.) Document, document, document. Write down – or type and file – even the smallest detail. You never know when you’ll need the information and it’s always great to review tidbits from previous events.
6.) Listen to your constituents. We do a post-event survey after each Gala and we read every single survey answer. We value this feedback so much because in addition to achieving the event objective(s), we also want the entire “driveway to driveway” experience to be impeccable for our guests. We want them to leave our event thinking, “Wow, that was amazing! I can’t wait until next year!”
7.) Surround yourself with positive and productive people. Our annual Gala would not be nearly as successful every year without the help and support of our amazing host committee. Their energy, enthusiasm, connections, and time make the whole process fun and enjoyable.
Watch A Replay Of Up with People’s 2018 Gala:
8.) The devil is in the details. The host committee and I have learned with the past couple of years that we must be so detail-oriented. From the silent auction to the décor to the centerpieces, the smallest detail makes the biggest difference and helps to set your event apart from the rest.
9.) Do a double and triple check. Our annual Gala hosts around 450 individuals every year. While it takes time, don’t be afraid to go through each person and ensure they are accommodated for in every way possible. For example, “Jane Doe is sitting at table 10. Her name badge has the correct table and the correct spelling of her name. She is registered in our bidding system and has the correct bid paddle. She requested a vegetarian meal, which I have noted for the hotel.”
10.) Perform an event post-mortem while it’s still fresh in your mind. Within four to five days of our event, we try to debrief with as many entities as possible. Send out an agenda ahead of time so those invited to the meeting can jot down their own notes and come to the meeting with answers ready.
11.) Say thank you. I’ll say it again. Say thank you. Write a thank you note to everyone who played a role in your event: from the event contact at the venue to sponsors to event staff and volunteers to the florist. Writing thank you notes is a lost art and will be much appreciated.
12.) Create an emergency kit.
The last thing I do before the event is create a supply kit similar to that of a wedding attendant: band aids, sewing kit, hairspray (it’s good for more than your hair!), duct tape, glue gun, batteries, sharpies, pens, scissors, extension cords, etc. I use this list every year: https://blog.planningpod.com/2014/08/14/43-items-in-event-planners-on-site-event-kits/
13.) Smile and breathe. No matter what is happening – a guest is upset, one of the silent auction items was left at your office, or your auctioneer has the flu – nothing is the end of the world. Smile, take a breath, and take a minute to compose yourself. One of the best qualities of any event planner is creative thinking and improvisation. Even if the problem seems monumental in your mind, it likely isn’t and all will be okay.