The 17 biggest challenges ALL event managers face

Industry Insights

If you are an event manager or have worked with events, you’d know that this is absolutely true: it’s unbelievably stressful. Whether you’re the manager, coordinator, or a staff member, you deserve an applause.

After all, the job of an events coordinator is the 5th most stressful job in the world.

If you’re not any of the above, but are planning an event soon, then here’s a portion (yes, a portion!) of what you need to be ready to deal with:

1. (Over)budget

Or in other words: your money.

This is an important factor that will determine whether you’ll either get a comfortable estimate and enough cushion for unexpected costs or end up having to create a miracle. Whether you’re managing this event for personal reasons or for a client – the first rule of budgeting for events is to always over-budget.

Managing your money is as good as managing your entire event. While the aim is to reduce costs as much as possible, it is very likely that you’re going to exceed your initial budget estimation.

2. Lack of buy-in

The greatest roadblock to getting that comfortable budget is usually a lack of buy-in from upper management (or the accounts department).

But convincing these people is also part and parcel of being event management, which is why it is always important to support your proposal with research, costings and elaboration on why those fuzzy dinosaurs are important in making the event a success. It’s also a good way to check if you have a clear plan for this event – if you don’t have a solid plan of action, chances are you need to head back to the drawing board first before even thinking of moving forward.

P.S. This also ties in with ROI, which is number 17!

3. Venue

So you’ve got a budget and your management has agreed to let you work your magic. Fun! Now the next thing you need to figure out is where your event will take place.

What kind of setting do you have in mind and will it be appropriate for your event? A picnic would have a very different context from a doctor’s conference. What sort of feel or ambience are you aiming to create? Indoors or outdoors? Exciting or intellectual?

Another issue is getting that venue locked in before you miss out. Give yourself a day or two to have that debate over whether this place is better than that location, but know that any good spots are likely to be popular spots.

(And in the case you end up cancelling that booking last minute and forfeiting your deposit…why not sell it to another event manager? If it’s a popular venue, you’re very likely to get takers and recoup some of the loss.)

4. Travel

Now that you’ve booked your venue, the next question needs to be answered: Travel.

If this is an event where people are going to be travelling to, the least you will need is clear directions. Send emails, put it up on the event website, or even text your guests: communication is paramount. People will get lost.

And if this is an international event with people flying in to attend, then there’s another question: Will you be covering their travel fees?

If the answer is no: breathe a sigh of relief. Otherwise, depending on how distinguished your guests are, you could justify flying Economy or end up forking a sizeable portion of your budget for at least Business class.

5. Accommodation

…goes hand in hand with travel. If guests have flown in to attend your event, will you be handling their accommodations? If not, then it’d be good to provide some suggestions on which hotel would be most convenient.

If yes, then yet again: it’ll depend on whether your guests are going to stay in a 3-star or 5-star hotel or even an Airbnb.

P.S. No matter what type of accommodation they will be staying in, it’ll still take time, planning and money to book enough rooms. That’s why number 14 on the list: RSVP is so important.

6. Menu

Some of your guests will have special dietary restrictions. Whether it’s religious, health-related or just personal preference, you’ll need to provide a menu that accommodates (hah!) all of them.

Most of the time, having a regular menu and a vegetarian one works out, but be sure to check for more peculiar requests like gluten-free or lactose-free.

Sending out a form when RSVPing is the typical way of getting those preferences listed, but it is always important to get them ASAP. If you’re providing packed meals, always get extras – otherwise it’s doubly important to get these special requests to your kitchen early.

7. Security

Certain events require a level of confidentiality. When that happens, there needs to be security. Whether it’s avoiding assassins (yes, really) or just preventing pesky unauthorised paparazzi, you’ll need to be aware of what level of security is required.

It could be as simple as arranging staff at the doorway, or hiring auxiliary police. But the best way is to make sure nobody but invited guests know the event is even happening.

8. Vendors

Which is why having trustworthy vendors is so important! If you’re an old hand at events management, you’ll have a list of vendors whom you trust.

If you’re new to this though, it’ll depend on how much security you need. If this is an open event, feel free to cherry pick through reviews and prices. Otherwise, go with bigger names to prevent issues.

It’s also important to note that the key to success is communication yet again. Your vendor can’t provide good service if they don’t know what you need. Make sure you outline what you want from them clearly and manage expectations.

Get quotes from different vendors: this will also allow you to get a better sense of whether your budget suits the event plan you have in mind.

9. Engagement

The most important part of your event is to ensure that your guests have not just a good time, but that the initial goal of the event is met.

If this is a marketing event, you want to wow your audience into buying your product/service.

If this is a stakeholder event, you want to convince your stakeholders to continue to invest.

If this is an internal training workshop, you want your attendees to remember the lessons.

How you get that wow factor depends on the level that you engage your audience on. Is it a one-way interaction where speakers talk and they listen with 10 minutes of Q&A at the end, or do you conduct live polls during the talk or gamify lessons with activities?

10. Planner’s block

By the time you’ve addressed the previous question, you might be feeling a little burnt out. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself. Even when things are busy, give yourself time to step out and refresh, it might help you look at things through another perspective.

Otherwise, chat with your colleagues, supervisor, or friends. You never know when inspiration may strike.

And more importantly, you won’t compromise your health!

11. Technology

In fact, a few of the challenges listed previously might be solved with some technology.

For example, getting an event app might help you organise things a lot more efficiently and communicate with your guests. Studies have shown that a push notification is more likely to be viewed than an email.

This way, you can set phone reminders, post content, upload the event schedule and/or speaker profiles to the app on top of your event website and email campaigns.

You can also hold live polls and Q&As through an event app, getting attendees to ask or answer questions with their phones. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg on what investing in some event tech could do for you!

However, using new technology always takes time to get used to. Particularly if your audience is in the older bracket. It is essential to know your guests and tailor your event tech (or at least the instructions) to their level of savviness.

12. Keep track of processes and (your) people

There are already 11 points you need to track on this list (with 6 more to go!), that’s not including the fact that you are most likely to be tackling several of them at the same time.

Additionally, if there are other staff members supporting the event, you’ll need to be able to keep track of them as well as their schedules. Who is manning the door at 10 AM? Who is ushering the guests in the morning or after the intermission?

13. Keep track of time

Speaking of keeping track, here’s another: time.

On top of the slew of questions previously mentioned, there are even more regarding timing. When will the first speaker go onstage? When will the intermission occur? When will the food arrive? 

On that note: how many excel sheets have you made to track all these issues?

14. Keep track of guests

Before the event day, you would definitely have sent out invites. Of these, how many invitees have indicated their attendances (RSVP)? And even more crucially, out of these invitees who have said they would attend…how many actually do turn up at the door (Check-in)?

All of these are factors to calculate that extremely important ROI that you will be reporting to your supervisor/client. Which is why it is necessary to track for both RSVP/registration and Check-in.

For RSVP/registration, you could:

  • Send out emails requiring RSVP confirmation
  • Call/Text/create chat groups
  • Send old-fashioned snail mail

Once that’s done, you can then check who actually attends during Check-In with this list of registered guests by:

  • Getting attendees to sign beside their name on a list at the door
  • Have them flash their confirmation email to the reception
  • Scan their unique QR code sent either through email or with the event app

Be warned though, there’s also the issue of unexpected guests who were on your guest list but did not register…who decided to turn up anyway.

15. Acts of God

Sometimes everything has been planned to perfection and nothing goes wrong…except the weather. Or an earthquake. Or people get sick/injured/family emergencies.

The only thing you can do? Move on to the next point, and the next event. Oh, and make sure you have insurance coverage (for other emergencies, not Acts of God).

16. Multiple Events

It’s very likely that a professional event manager will have to juggle multiple events at once. Or a company’s department will need to plan for a series of training workshops. However many events there are, you will be just as many times busier.

The best advice we can give would be to make sure you track everything as clearly as possible. Don’t mix up spreadsheets, try not to have too many different vendors for different events (negotiate for a bulk discount if you can!), and ask for help when you need it!

17. ROI

Finally, after your event(s) has ended, you will need to report the results and measure the success of your months of hard work. Even if it’s to yourself.

The metrics of an event can differ greatly, but here are a few:

  • The number of (actual) attendees (RSVP-ed or otherwise)
  • Feedback of the attendees (sometimes of the speakers)
  • Cost (per attendee, per registration, per conversion)
  • Brand impact
  • Social media
  • Marketing impact
  • Sponsor interest

Finally, for your own takeaway, ask these question: did the people enjoy themselves at your event? Are you satisfied with how things went?

And would you tackle the 5th most stressful job in the world again?

Photos courtesy of Unsplash
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