The Rescue Guide to Event Planning

Two weeks ago, a coworker called to ask for my help. A mutual colleague had just put in her two weeks’ notice, less than one month before their wine client’s biggest event of the year.  As she had been the event manager, the team found themselves in a difficult position and now needed someone to pick up team coordination and ensure all deadlines were met.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, tasked with jumping on a moving train to take over as the conductor midway, don’t panic. Here are five tips that helped me stay on track, and get everyone to their destination on time and happy:

1. Be honest: No shame in admitting that you don’t know something. Just don’t pretend you do! The first thing I did was call all vendors, explain the situation, and thank them in advance for helping me get up to speed.

2. Play it out: The easiest method to come up with the money questions is to play out the event in your head minute by minute. While you go through the imaginary run-of-show, write down every single item that is unclear. Then schedule a meeting with the team to get answers.

3. Identify the biggest client need: Talk to the client and find out what keeps them up at night when thinking about the event. Then tackle their biggest concern right away. It’s critical to establish their trust in your ability to manage the project as soon as possible.

4. Trust your style: When your goal is to take over a project quickly, work with a system that you know in your sleep. Don’t waste energy trying to adopt your predecessor’s style. In my case, I inherited a dozen Excel documents that kept track of everyone’s tasks and deadlines. Since I work best with keeping Outlook reminders and sending daily “To Do List” emails to my team, I immediately switched to my method. By tweaking the existing documents to fit my style, I got to know the event inside and out in no time.

5. Don’t assume anything: A famous saying suggests not to trust a survey unless you’re the one who faked wrote it. The same principle applies to quantities on inventory lists, dates, times – you name it. Double-check every single detail! If that means going through boxes in the basement to verify the exact number of POS items you have, so be it.

We all know every event has a certain amount of “winging it,” no matter how meticulously you plan it. The better your team is prepped, though, the more safely they can improvise on the spot. In our case, we have one more week until the big event. Wish us luck!

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