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Surviving Short Lead Times in Events & Conferencing


Time management for event planners

As an event planner you’ll be well aware that most clients underestimate the amount of time, effort and stress that goes into planning an event.

Clients may think that six weeks’ notice is plenty of time to plan and execute an event, but we know differently. From deciding on an initial format through to marketing the event, delays often eat away at planning time and nearly always take longer than you expect.

Read on to learn time management tips including some from the event professionals themselves.


Manage clients’ expectations

Golden rule number one: manage the client’s expectations straight from the off. Clients make presumptions. Without having a frank discussion right at the start of the project, you may end up with a disgruntled client on your hands. Be prepared to push back if you feel ideas are unworkable; be positive but also be realistic about what you can achieve in the time. As writer Tom Peters said: “Under promise and over deliver.”


Learn to compromise

When it comes to teamwork, there always needs to be compromise. This is certainly true in situations where deadlines create additional pressure. Saying no is never easy, especially to a client, but when their ideas are unachievable it’s best to be honest. Try to keep it positive and always offer an alternative suggestion where possible. Don’t think of this as simply saying no to a client, but using your expert event knowledge and experience to present a solution that is as close to their vision as possible.

Katharine Dunleavy, Event Coordinator at University of Bristol, says:

“Accept that you’re not going to get everything you want done – accept that some things aren’t going to be perfect, take a step back. It can’t be perfect. Learn to let go.”

Plan your time

Forget to-do lists and instead create a timeline of what needs to be done and by when. Start with a broad outline of the tasks and work it down to the minute details. This will reduce the chance of anything being missed at the last moment.

Hannah Luffman, Managing Director of global event management company Unicorn Events Ltd, advises:

“Short lead times are inevitable in events. The key is to slow down and take as full a brief as possible. Then stop, plan, creative brainstorm and go forward. Missing out the core planning steps is never worth it – even when the pressure is on.”

If you’re working as part of an internal team delegate and define roles right at the start of the project. You should also create a collaborative calendar on a web-based platform such as Teamup to ensure transparency throughout the team.

Katharine Dunleavy suggests:

“Collaborate – rope in people to help! Get all hands on deck for last minute but crucial tasks such as making name badges and seating plans.”
Finckel and Raeburn Jazz Musicians at live event

Do difficult tasks first

There are a number of factors, which are key to the success of an event. When you have the added pressure of also working to a short lead time, it’s always best to get these foundations laid down as soon as possible.

First things first, you’ll need a venue. If you’re having a conference you’ll also need speakers and if you’re having a corporate event you’ll probably need catering. Encourage clients to sign off these big decisions at the start of the decision process; this reduces delays further into the planning process.


Don’t delay, act now

It’s all well and good to have a clearly defined schedule, but that doesn’t mean putting off smaller tasks when they come in. Simply put, if someone is waiting for your response in order to move forward and you already have the answer, let them know. It actually takes more time to read, flag and go back to an email later than simply hitting reply straightaway.


Use dependable suppliers & caterers

Events with tight deadlines aren’t the time to audition new caterers or suppliers. Wherever possible, stick with existing and dependable suppliers. Having a working relationship with your supplier should minimise the chance of any nasty little surprises along the way.

Lee Sherman Dancers New York

20 Bedford Way – Bloomsbury Event Venue

No matter your deadline or your clients’ demands, 20 Bedford Way has it covered. As well as excellent facilities, our expert team are here to support you. To find out more about our range of conference and event spaces contact us on 020 7612 6143.


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How to cope with stress – A guide for event professionals

Client types & how to deal with them
All images sourced on Flickr and are free from any known copyright.

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