As you probably know by now, I’m hosting a big event June 27-28 to attempt to break the world record for the longest, uninterrupted, live webcast. I found out that I was approved by Guinness World Records™ in early May. That meant about just under two months to plan the event, get all the guests, find sponsors, contract a venue, and organize, well, everything. That isn’t much time. Most events are scheduled about six to nine months in advance. I had less than two.
I’ll tell you this much: as much as I know this event is going to be amazing, I certainly learned a thing or two while organizing it. So here are the shortcuts I found for hosting an event at the last minute:
- Don’t delay research. As soon as I discovered that Guinness World Records™ required me to hold my event in a public venue so “the public” could come and witness my record-breaking attempt, I was on the phone calling local venues and finding out who would let me host a 36-hour event with an unknown number of people attending at their venue. *Note: I could have saved all this time if I’d done #2 first.
- Hire an event planner. I hired my planning company, Eventfull Planning, immediately. And as soon as I did, I was able to start relaxing. They handled a million details from the moment I signed the dotted line. They were hooking me up with a local PR firm, taking meetings to figure out the space planning, working directly with the hotel on menus, getting proposals from videographers to document the event…they were on it. And the great thing was, having Laura Lim, my personal event planner, on the project freed me up to do everything else that I needed to do.
- Know your budget. If you don’t have a budget or know what your budget is, it makes it really hard for people to give you estimates. Pick a budget you can afford and stick to it.
- Make lists. Immediately. One of the first things I did was to make lists. I made lists of dream guests, dream sponsors, dream media…everything. Who did I want to invite and who did I want to promote? Once I had my lists, I knew where to go next.
- Write paragraphs you can re-use. I started writing invitations and sponsor requests right away, but I knew there were some things I’d need to say again and again- to sponsors and potential guests. So I started writing “form paragraphs” that I could copy and paste wherever I needed them. This allowed me to customize the emails to individuals, while also saving a ton of time.
- Avoid in-person meetings. I took only one in-person meeting during the planning of this event, and that was with Laura, my event planner from Eventfull Planning, to see the space at our venue. After that, she took all the in-person meetings and I took meetings by phone. I met with one PR rep who said she needed to meet me in person to work with me. Sorry, but that means you’re not hired in my book. In this day and age, there are few things that can’t be handled via phone or email. I love the personal touch, but when you’re on a tight timeline, in-person meetings and drive time are a waste of a precious commodity. Oh…and I may be heading down to see one of my sponsors, but only because he’s making me a signature cocktail that Leo and I need to taste, so it hardly counts as a “meeting.”
- Hire an assistant. I actually didn’t have an assistant for this event, but if I do another one, I’ll definitely hire someone to handle gathering critical information like headshots, biographies, speaking topics, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Having someone to deal with those kinds of emails will definitely be a time-saver next time.
- Let the experts do their jobs. I have to be honest- there have been times that, if I’d let go of my control freak tendencies, I’d have made it easier for Laura to do her job and help me more. The more you can let go, the more people can help you. I spent a full 45 minutes on the phone with Laura going over menus for the after-party. Honestly? I like food, but I don’t eat that much at a party and I don’t much care what the food is. In the end, I actually went with a lot of her recommendations anyway, so I could’ve just given her the budget and let her pick what her experience told her people like. She would’ve done as good a job as I did or better, and we both would’ve saved that 45 minutes.
- Make decisions quickly. If you can, make a decision immediately, otherwise your list of “to dos” will pile up. Get used to making fast choices and every time you decide something, it’ll be one more thing you don’t have to do later. And don’t worry about being wrong. Sometimes you’ll be right and sometimes you’ll be wrong. One thing you’ll never be is perfect. That’s okay. Which leads me to…
- Let go of perfection. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes and you really don’t need to sweat the details. Few people will say, “I can’t believe she had shrimp at that party,” and if they do, you probably don’t want to hang out with them anyway, do you?
Hands down, the best thing I did to save time with this event was to hire an event planner. I’d never worked with one before and had no idea how easy they would make my life. The team at Eventfull Planning has been extraordinary and Laura has handled so many things that would’ve taken me so much time, I couldn’t be more grateful.