We can establish long-lasting relationships and build a stronger sense of community when we meet face to face. Getting together lets us share ideas, goals, and common interests, plus learn from each other and have fun. But for the organizer, special events can create significant stress and anxiety.
If you’re organizing an event, you want it to be memorable and meaningful, but not at the expense of burning out. To help avoid overwhelming yourself, here are six tips for creating a community-building event without surrendering your sanity:
1. Start with a guiding theme
A theme helps set the tone for your event. Whether you go for an ’80s retro theme, a zen personal growth theme, or an abundance theme, think about what vibe you want your audience to feel and how this can support your goals. Once you and your team pick a solid theme, you’ll have more clarity when planning not just the content but the decor, food, and entertainment.
Having a theme also gives your event a focus that helps you fuel your goals. So when you’re selecting a theme, think about your goals for the event first. Are you trying to raise money for charity, teach a new idea, or inspire your team for the next quarter? Understanding your goals helps you have a clear vision of what needs to take place during your event, and your theme should support that vision.
2. Delegate to team members
The role of budgeting, marketing, finding supplies, creating the schedule, selecting entertainment, and organizing the layout of larger events is usually too much for a single person to handle alone. Delegate tasks to your team members, but first, provide your team with a clear vision.
Most events include these core tasks that can be broken off and given to individuals to own and manage:
- Managing attendees: invitations, RSVPs, special accommodations.
- Food and beverages.
- Decorations, exhibit graphics, and take-home gifts.
- Entertainment and vendor selection.
- Event promotion.
Avoid communication problems with brief, weekly check-ins. These will help keep everyone on the same page and allow you to rebalance each person’s workload.
If you struggle to delegate, remember that you, too are a critical part of the community and deserve to enjoy the event. It’s ok to enlist help, even if the details don’t end up exactly as you’d planned.
3. Use technology to help you stay organized
While spreadsheets are helpful in many ways, they aren’t always the most user-friendly tool. There are many apps and web-based software tools designed for event planning. The majority of these platforms help you network, keep track of budgeting, provide marketing templates, delegate tasks to your team, and more.
Make sure the program capabilities meet your needs and read the reviews before deciding which tool you want to use. Here are five well-reviewed online tools to consider for your next event:
- Monday.com (free trial offered)
- Cvent (quote based)
- Eventbrite (free trial offered)
- Bizzabo (custom pricing)
- Everwall ($39 per event day)
4. Keep it simple and loose
When it comes down to it, your attendees don’t need to be dazzled non-stop. Overstimulating your audience can lead them to lose sight of the purpose of your event. Keep focused on the event goals first, and remember, the only other things most guests want are refreshments, a place to sit, time to socialize, and ready access to bathrooms.
Keeping it simple also makes planning and adapting to changes more manageable. Simple events typically have one focus with an activity that promotes the idea. Activities like a quiz night, a 5K run, or a treasure hunt are all simple events that can achieve goals like team building, fund-raising, and awareness. Simplicity also helps reduce stress for you and your team, which gives way to creative thinking and ideas to make the event more enjoyable.
5. Have a backup plan
Even the most meticulous plans can encounter unforeseen obstacles. Maybe your entertainment cancels at the last minute, the gift bags are missing an item, or the weather turns ugly. Experienced event planners always have a contingency plan.
With your team, brainstorm the “what if” scenarios that may occur. Discuss these scenarios and what steps you can take to help you better deal with them.
6. Reflect and review
Memories fade more quickly than we imagine. Before your team takes off for a well-earned vacation, schedule a post-mortem event meeting. Discuss what went well and what could be improved next time. Write down the main points of the discussion and log them for next year’s first event planning session. Update your notes about vendors, so you remember who to hire—and not hire—next year.
Finally, during your reflection and review, highlight members of your team that did an exceptional job. Recognition not only helps your team feel validated but also strengthens the team as a whole and helps ensure those experienced teammates are there to help you next time.