Tips for Building Your Event Planning Skills

By Katie Sabatino
April 20, 2016

Event planning is an enigma – a mixture of creativity, financial savviness, organization and leadership, all wrapped in a pretty bow. You will need both sides of your brain firing on all cylinders to pull off a successful event that will leave people talking – in a good way. Event planning and public relations work hand-and-hand, so the more experience you can get in both, any way you can get it, will help build your skills.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

Let's Get Personal
What do you care about? The Inspire team is encouraged to give back to the community, and many are actively engaged in passion projects. For me, it's the Heart Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. After meeting an awe-inspiring young heart patient as a TV news journalist emceeing the heart walk in Johnstown, PA, the spark was ignited.

When I expressed interest in chairing the organization's annual fundraiser, I was encouraged by the strong female professionals around me to dive right in. It was the best advice I have ever received. The amount of experience and knowledge gained through planning the event elevated my professional skills. From projecting revenue and expenses to donation tracking, working with vendors and marketing the event – the life lessons and professional growth happened without even realizing it.

It's all Heart
You don't have to plan a charity event to make guests feel connected to a cause or goal. All events have purpose. The key is to find ways to remind guests why it all matters and build that into the event. When planning an Ohio tourism event, we knew the end goal was getting the industry feedback needed to build a strategic plan. However, we first and foremost needed to remind people why they should care. Focusing on our stakeholders' love for Ohio travel, we incorporated images of the state, an all-Ohio music playlist, locally-sourced food, and even provided virtually reality tours of the state for our partners to try. The excitement it built around the work we were doing made all the difference, leading to robust and energetic conversations.

Get Innovative with Organization
There are a lot of moving parts when planning an event, so organization skills are critical. Thankfully, we are in an era where technology can keep us on track. I recommend looking outside the box for ways to keep you and your team moving. The biggest help for me, professionally and personally, has been smartsheet. It's a web-based tool that can track donations, sponsors, guest lists and more. You can also create task lists and share individual tabs with a team as needed. It is easy to use and updates whenever changes are saved.

The Voxer app is another helpful tool. It's a Walkie Talkie that lets you invite others to join a group for an ongoing conversation. No need to make a plethora of phone calls or voicemails or send emails; just send voice messages, pictures, videos, and texts right through the app. It's a great way to send progress reports along the way. It's all about communication!

Lead by Example
Trying to get everyone going in the same direction can be a challenge. It's not easy to keep everyone engaged and aligned with the vision for the event. Stay positive always. Encourage new ideas by added fresh faces to the team, delegate with purpose by understanding individual skillsets, and never make decisions in a vacuum – let people know what is going on and bring them in early in the process. Also, take time to think ahead about what challenges can emerge and how to navigate them. Keep calm, take a breath, come back to a situation later. No matter how busy things get, the other members of the team will appreciate seeing you cool, calm and thoughtful.

Happy planning!