The Home Front Blog

Tips from a Pseudo Event Planner

I sat staring at my checklist of “To-Do’s” and counting down the final hours until the big event. It was my first Grand Opening of my first subdivision project at my brand-spanking-new marketing job for Rohit’s land development division… and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I had organized events in the past, but honestly, I couldn’t even be bothered to plan my own wedding. So, was I nervously wondering how this Grand Opening was going to turn out? You bet.

Early in the big day, I encountered my first hurdle: a vendor who had agreed to participate sent me an email to cancel—less than four hours before the event’s start. Despite this (and a few other unexpected glitches in the schedule), everything turned out even better than expected, and the Grand Opening was a huge success.

Now that it’s over and I’ve had some time to reflect, I realize it wasn’t pure luck that created such a successful endeavor. A few critical key points stick out in my mind, which I think could be helpful for anyone planning an event—big or small. Hopefully you will be able to gleam a bit of insight from my experience and use it to plan your next holiday extravaganza or other fabulous event.

When it seems like it’s not worth the hassle, it actually is.
Two days before the Grand Opening, I stood shivering outside in the chilly evening wondering why in the world I was spray-painting milk cartons. The task seemed quite futile because the paint wasn’t sticking to the exterior of the cartons, creating a huge runny mess. You see, we had this great idea for a children’s craft: the kiddos would make birdhouses out of the cartons—a project that fit nicely with our bird-themed residential community, Starling at Big Lake.

Standing in the cold with red, orange and blue paint all over my hands, I never would have imagined what a huge hit the birdhouse milk carton project would be. The kids LOVED it! In fact, there were a few long faces seen later that day when we announced we had run out of milk cartons. So, sometime in the course of planning an event, you may ask yourself, “What in the heck am I doing??! Is this really worth it?” And though it may not seem evident at that moment, many times the answer is a resounding “YES.”

It’s the small details that make a huge impact.
As I ran through the list of signs I had ordered for the event, I read the last on the list, “18-inch x 12-inch Parking Signs.” These small signs paled in comparison—in cost and size—to the other signs on my list. Most were measured in feet, not inches, and had an extra “0” at the end of the dollar figure. And let’s face it: a new neighborhood with no inhabitants has nothing but street space for parking, right?

Yet, those small signs were oh-so-critical in keeping the site organized and reassuring people of where to go. In fact, those signs were arguably the most important signs on-site. After all, people will usually ask questions, like “How big is this house?” “Can I take one of these bags of goodies?” “Where is the pond located in this subdivision?” In no way do I mean to diminish the importance of the signage that aims to answer these questions. It’s just that most people won’t ask, “Can I park here?” They will just park—even if it is in the middle of the main roadway, while others have managed to park civilly on the side—and never ask if that’s where they should leave their vehicle.

Here’s another example of the importance of the small things. One of our colleagues is an aspiring photographer in his spare time. Since he was going to be on-site at the event anyway, we asked him to take family photos for attendees that we then uploaded to our Facebook page. The result was a 900% increase in Facebook “Like’s” for the development’s Facebook page (a marketer’s dream!) and the attendees loved the photos! Many said they wanted to use them in the holiday cards this year, further proving that something small can have a big, long-lasting impact.

Plan ahead. And then plan some more. And, oh yeah… have a back-up plan, too.
As I alluded to previously, I had lined up various vendors for the event. It was a huge undertaking, given that we were pairing the Grand Opening of six showhomes and the subdivision itself with our own Farmers’ Market. Just when I thought I had secured a good range of vendors for the Farmers’ Market, one cancels a mere few hours before the start of the event. Luckily, we had already considered this possibility and the situation was remedied by some smart thinking by my colleague to use the ex-vendor’s space to sell pumpkins for charity—and all-around win-win.

Yet, one incident did occur that we hadn’t considered: a rental equipment malfunction. According to our plan, we would serve hot and hearty chili to attendees to keep their bellies warm, and hopefully, keep them at our event a bit longer so that they may fall in love with our new community. However, serving chili to 300 people calls for having the chili prepared in advance, stored overnight, and then reheated the day of the event. So, imagine our surprise when our soup warmer never warmed and our chili remained cold. Again, quick thinking and a bit of resourcefulness led to the use of one of our showhomes’ ovens to warm the chili, and the aroma was actually an added draw at that particular home. But the moral of the story is that putting on an event requires a plan. And it requires reassessing that plan once every possible thing that could go wrong is considered. And it also requires a back-up plan for everything that could possibly go wrong that you don’t consider.

But, really, there is one key thing to remember if all else fails in planning an event: only YOU, the organizer, knows how everything was supposed to go and every small detail that was supposed to be in place. For those in attendance, most will never know that a table was supposed to seat six but, instead, seats eight. They will never wonder why the flowers were one shade of blue rather than another. In the end, people come to your event to have a promise fulfilled. Did you promise a good time? If so, did people have fun? Did you promise entertainment? If so, were people entertained? As long as you fulfilled the overall promise you made, your event was a success.