If you plan the occasional event your primary tools are likely spreadsheets and email. Relying on these familiar applications to plan events will get the job done, but frequently can also lead to mistakes. These mistakes can easily be avoided, however, by utilizing specialized event planning software that combines the utility of several tools into a single system. If you aren’t using such specialized software and want to avoid these common mistakes, read on to learn more.
No. 1 – Firing off a quick email
It’s so tempting to start planning a new event by opening a new email message and just typing in the description, date, location, and any other relevant questions you want to ask the participants, along with asking them to RSVP. The problem with this approach is that it provides short-term gain, but long-term pain. For instance, the final step is to fill in the recipients on the “To” line, but that takes time to copy/paste all the correct emails. It’s also easy to invite the wrong guest, if they use an unrecognizable email address like “WestLAsurfer@outlook.com”.
A much better approach is to use a service that manages your email lists and provides a structure for entering the event details, itinerary, images, and locations. Once you’ve set up your guest lists, you can maintain the data in one place and reuse the same lists across many events. You can also add custom fields for your guests, such as phone numbers and preferences, which are useful for communicating and arranging them into roles and activities.
No. 2 – Reading every response
If you used your personal email to send out your invitations (see Mistake #1), then you’ve already set yourself up for this mistake as well! By manually sending emails, you’re ensuring that you will also need to process every email response. That may be quick enough with a dozen or fewer guests but try individually processing 250 responses. Additionally, some guests are bound to be more thorough than others. What would you do if half your guests answered every question perfectly, but the other half left at least one question unanswered?
However, if you had taken the time to set up an event and invitation lists in an event planning app, the software would work tirelessly on your behalf to process the responses and provide summarized results. Participants can change their responses any time they like during the RSVP period, and the software will maintain an accurate count. With event software it’s easy to send a message to any subgroup of invitees, such as reminding those who have not yet RSVP’d or sending updates to only those who are attending. Once you allow software to track your event responses, you’ll never want to go back to doing it manually.
No. 3 – Keeping track of the details
Once the responses start arriving, another common mistake is to keep track of all the details one by one in a spreadsheet. Typically, an organizer starts with a column of names (the invitees), then adds more columns to record attendance responses, guest information, meal preferences, side activities, payment status, and many other details. Data from each email (see Mistake #2) must be entered manually into an ever-growing spreadsheet; a tedious and error-prone process.
Planners can easily avoid this craziness by instead starting with an event planning app and leveraging its ability to send out invitations and track responses in an organized and efficient way. Planners use spreadsheets as a makeshift database, but event planning apps utilize actual relational databases which reduce errors in response tracking and generate accurate reports. Furthermore, during the response period invitees inevitably change their original responses. With a spreadsheet, the changes must be entered manually, but in a database the changes are automatically integrated with no additional work.
No. 4 – Collecting payments
Too often the event planner works double duty as the money collector. Big mistake! Asking for payments is awkward at best and contentious at worst. And, once the event starts, asking people for money becomes twice as hard since people are having a good time and come up with any excuse to avoid paying. Being a money collector is a thankless job that should not have to fall to the event organizer.
Fortunately, there’s an easier path. With very little set up, event planning apps can collect fees during the registration process, saving organizers time and anguish at the same time. Once the event is set up, adding a payment item is simple and appears alongside the attendance and survey questions during the event sign up. Also, with most event planning apps payments are processed by a trusted and secure 3rd party payment processor and the payments are transferred to your connected bank account.
No. 5 – Repeating the whole process next time
Unbelievably, no matter how much time organizers spent planning the previous event, they end up repeating the same laborious and error-prone process again and again. Sure, they can copy the spreadsheet and Reply-All to the email, but all the response details will be different each time around. Sadly, they may not realize there are alternatives.
A better solution, again using event planning apps, is to copy previous events, reset the attendance counters, and send out the invitations again for a new instance of the same event. The more frequently the event occurs, the more time the organizer saves. Event planning software is also quite easy to adopt and integrate with your current “go-to” apps.
If these mistakes sound all too familiar, don’t worry. I made these same mistakes while volunteering to plan campouts for my son’s Scout troop years ago. I searched for a solution on the market, but all I found were individual apps which only solved a portion of the problem. What I really needed was a complete event planning system that could combine RSVPs, surveys, response tracking, payment collection, role assignments, and reporting in one app.
After several frustrating years, I decided to design and build a new event planning solution myself, which became Eventene. Eventene provides a complete and cost-effective solution for people who need to plan events, whether they occur once in a great while or on a regular basis.
I invite you to visit www.eventene.com and give Eventene a try the next time you’re planning an event so you don’t end up making these common mistakes.