Top mistakes to avoid when planning an event

Everybody makes mistakes, and while learning from errors of judgement is arguably more useful and important than avoiding them in the first place, it’s also more embarrassing. Being aware of some common mistakes that you might fall prey to while planning your events could help you steer clear of them, so we’ve put together a list of common ones that event organisers have made. We hope that someday, you’ll be able to look back with relief that they were someone else’s mistakes and not yours.

1. Not promoting the event well enough

You may have researched your target market thoroughly and made sure that your event is just what they need and want, but if you don’t tell them about it, no one will show up. Getting the word out clearly across multiple mediums and consistently over a sustained period is essential to your success. It might seem obvious, but this one is at the top of the list because event planners so often end up disappointed because they didn’t effectively communicate how awesome their event would be. Make sure you’re not one of them!

2. Choosing the wrong date

There are many ways to turn a great event idea into a disaster by putting it on at the wrong time. Perhaps you’ve planned a kids’ party during school hours, an outdoor activity in the winter or a candlelight procession during the daytime – or maybe your event simply clashes with another big or competing one, or a time when your audience is busy doing something more important. Whatever it is, the timing of your event is crucial, and it needs to be given very careful consideration.

3. Leaving too little time for event preparations

There are two factors to consider here – how far in advance you start preparing your event, and how many hours you dedicate to it during that time. Organising an event is often a full-time commitment, sometimes even more, so if you have other things on your plate or you think it’s enough to devote one day to the preparations every fortnight, you may well find yourself falling short. Things like assembling a team and promotion need to be started well in advance of the big day, and tasks often take longer than expected, so figure out exactly what you need to do and by when, then make sure to leave more than enough time for everything on your list.

4. Forgetting to confirm final details with contributors

Your vendors, speakers, caterers and other participants have a lot of other things going on, and believe it or not your event is not the first and last thing on their mind at any given moment. This means that they can easily forget about their commitments or find the event date creeping up on them too quickly. For this reason, it’s essential that you maintain a dialogue with them to ensure that they’re expecting your event and that they’re ready to do their part when the time comes. In particular, a reminder a few days (or however long they’ll need to make sure they can fulfil their promises) before showtime is a must – and keep trying if you don’t hear back from them!

5. Failing to have a contingency plan

There are so many things that can go wrong with an event. The weather can spoil your plans, traffic can cause delays and no-shows can let you down. Add in an almost infinite list of other unexpected issues, and it’s a minefield. The problems you may face will depend on the nature of your event, so it’s important that you have a thorough brainstorm and list everything that might go awry. Once you’ve done this, come up with solid backup plans that will allow you to overcome each of these difficulties individually while making your event still look like a success. Your attendees will understand that issues can arise, but they’ll be less forgiving if you didn’t seem to consider that possibility yourself.

5 tips for reducing stress before an event

When you’re planning an event, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by what seems to be a deluge of never-ending tasks.

In 2019, Business News Daily listed “Event Coordinator” as the sixth most stressful job that year, so it’s clear that event planning can be a tremendous challenge…

...but it doesn’t have to be!

Here are our top 5 ways to de-stress when planning an event.

✔️ Checklists and technology

As obvious and clichéd as this sounds, writing a detailed checklist of everything you need to include is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to handle planning an event. With a structured timetable of which tasks need to be completed and in what order, an organised list will help you to remain in control despite being insanely busy. This method really does work wonders—remove all the ideas that are floating around in your head and write them down on paper in order of priority. Did you know that physically crossing off a finished project on a checklist is therapeutic?

Let’s face it, technology is great! You can run entire social media marketing campaigns straight from your smartphone. And you can film, edit and upload videos straight to a third-party video hosting website from your iPad. So, rather than being consumed by various technological advancements, why not use technology to your advantage? There is a humungous range of applications that you can download which update and modernise the old school pen and paper “to-do list”. Incorporating pictures and videos will also help users really personalise what might otherwise be considered a rather dull checklist.

Nevertheless, no matter what method you choose, breaking down a big task into smaller, easier, manageable achievements will help to eliminate any unnecessary stress.

☕ Have a nice cup of tea

During the busy hustle and bustle of organising your event, remember to take five, have a sit down, and avoid reaching boiling point.

There is no shame in taking a break and switching off regularly to remain on the ball. Everyone has their own unique methods of switching off—whether this is video games, attending yoga classes, being sociable or simply just exercising.

Regular breaks and staying healthy are key aspects to remaining on top of planning events!

💾 Always have a backup plan

There is nothing worse than having your event successfully planned, but then being informed your star-turn has fallen ill the day before your event—nightmare!

To avoid potential embarrassing situations like the example above, always try to have a backup option available. Sometimes things do go wrong. Singers fall ill, the DJ has double-booked, or perhaps the venue cancels at the last minute, for example. So, having backup alternatives available for most elements of your event, which you can whip out at a moment’s notice, is crucial when planning a big event.

Any experienced event planner would always recommend never relying on just one sponsor—always, always, always make sure you are covered should the worst possible scenario come true.

🏃‍♀️ Get moving

Did you know, one popular way to de-stress is to take part in some exercise? “Wait, what? Exercise? I don’t have the time!” Don’t worry, I totally agree with you!

One of the easiest ways to get a quick bit of exercise in is to climb a few floors via the staircase. Do you work on the 11th floor? Perhaps take the lift to the 8th floor and take the stairs for the remaining 3 floors? Getting your body and muscles moving not only takes your mind off the stress of your event, but also gets your blood pumping.

Another great way to de-stress is to spend some time walking around. Take a break and have a walk through the park/explore the general area/around the block. Get your blood flowing to wash away stressful tensions and put down that mobile phone to properly switch off.

🌲 Embrace the great outdoors

Not only is it sensible to remain physically healthy, your mental health is just as important.

Studies show that being presented with, or surrounded by, nature drastically increases our mental well being. An unusual trend of ‘forest bathing’ is gaining popularity, which involves spending time in a wooded area wallowing in nature and reaping the rewards of fresh air, the open countryside and high levels of relaxation.

Nature can be beneficial for mental health. It reduces cognitive fatigue and stress and can be helpful with depression and anxiety. 

Irina Wen, NYU Langone Medical Center

However, if you are preparing to go for a wander around a wooded area, remember to stay safe. Let someone know you are off gallivanting just in case you get a wee bit lost!

Still managing your venue with Office?

If you're still using Excel and Outlook to manage your venue, we completely understand why—they are flexible, user-friendly, and your organization is probably already using the Microsoft suite of products. However, they don’t simultaneously provide you with both the big picture AND the essential detail for seamless event planning and production in the same way a venue and event management system can.

Without a centralized system, managing your venue can feel like a spinning plates act on the brink of disaster for a few reasons:

No access to real-time changes and up-to-date information

Controlling different and evolving versions of a spreadsheet can be a nightmare. It’s almost impossible to keep track of event changes from version to version.

No coherent structure

It’s difficult and time consuming to put an organization-wide structure around event management in Excel and Outlook. Each department often creates their own documents and calendars using different formatting and layouts, and when departments track details for the various components of the same event in different ways, it’s not easy to see the full picture—or to flag when one department’s event might conflict with another’s.

No peace of mind

Managing event details in numerous Excel spreadsheets and Outlook calendars rarely helps you feel confident that you’ve remembered all the details that have gone into planning your event. Even after checking through all shared documents, there is the risk that some elements of an event are only communicated or documented within one department, and are completely lost.

No organization-wide view

A single source of event information provides statistical data on revenue, resource and room usage, and general event demographics that can otherwise be difficult to assemble and track without a lot of double entry. The reporting capabilities of a venue management system let you both anticipate potential issues like double- or over-booked resources as well as strategize for future seasons.

With Artifax you have the capabilities you need to manage every detail of an event, as well as the perspective necessary to view the entire picture.

The Harlequin Theatre keeps staff employed with an innovative social initiative

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. We wanted to draw your attention to a positive lockdown story from one of our customers – the Harlequin Theatre and Cinema in Redhill, Surrey.

Tough times for theatres

The Harlequin Theatre is known for putting on a top-class range of on-stage entertainment. However, lockdown and restrictions on events this year has made that impossible. The next planned production is expected to hit the stage in April 2021.

Thankfully, with cinemas permitted to operate again since July, at least the venue has been able to host film screenings. The Harlequin, like event venues across the country (and indeed the world), has been severely disrupted by coronavirus.

Turning a challenge into an opportunity

The Harlequin Theatre has managed to stay open, keep staff working and provide a service to it's local community. Since April 2020, the auditorium has been converted into storage space for stock collected from local supermarkets and the public. Vulnerable people and food banks then receive the essential food and supplies. The theatre also opened up it's kitchen to provide a service delivering hot food to those in need.

Craig Penrose, the theatre’s Customer Experience Manager; highlights that it was important for the theatre to remain active even when it couldn’t perform its usual function. He said “As the theatre is owned by the local council, there was always a need and desire for us to deliver something. When we realised that we had the space and opportunity to do this, it was a no-brainer, and the service was received positively by all of its beneficiaries. As a local theatre, it’s great to be able to give back to our local community.”

Pulling together to support those in need

This change has allowed the venue to lift the spirits of both employees and the public while giving its staff a continued sense of purpose. Craig says that many individuals have had to be flexible. Giving their energy to carry out tasks that are often far removed from their normal duties. “Our staff had to learn new skills to deliver this service, so we commend them on their willingness to do this. For instance, our Refugee Support Manager ended up in the kitchen cooking around 60 meals a day to be sent out, with our technical team working as warehouse managers. Everyone developed their own role to help this initiative fulfil its potential.”

Other lockdown initiatives at the Harlequin Theatre

In addition to the food bank scheme; the Harlequin Theatre and Cinema has also found other ways to create value both in an out of its venue. ‘Event cinema’ presentations feature alongside the schedule of standard film screenings, and the café reopening in September.

Earlier this year, the venue also engaged with its community online. They showcased the local performing arts scene with its fantastic Live from Lockdown competition, which ran earlier this year. The competition received 48 high-quality video entries from local performers of all kinds and over 3,000 votes from the public. 10 winners won the opportunity to perform at a special event on the theatre’s main stage in 2021.

Paying tribute to a great achievement

We feel that it’s only fitting to highlight this incredible example of a venue thinking outside the box. They demonstrated passion, energy and dedication during this difficult period to stay open and in constant use, while also bringing value to its local community.

All of us here at Artifax say “Bravo!”

How the Ontario Science Centre provided virtual field trips for students during COVID-19

The Ontario Science Centre (OSC) has been delivering valuable programs to little and big humans for over half a century, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, it strives to continue its mission “to inspire passion for the human adventure of discovery”. We sat down with Lorrie Ann Smith, Vice President, Science Education to talk about the OSC’s history, mission, and the challenges of delivering online programming.

Before we begin

A gift from the provincial government to the people of Ontario in celebration of Canada’s Centennial, the Ontario Science Centre was one of the two first science centres in the world, opening to the public in September of 1969. Since its early days, the OSC has been “planning the gray space between formal and informal learning”, encouraging hands-on learning in STEAM subjects, and using interactive exhibits to create a different sort of museum space: one in which we are all encouraged to touch, to play, and to experience first-hand.

The pandemic sent the Centre into crisis mode from March through June, and they had to pivot quickly to create a virtual museum. With so much available content to choose from, it was not only challenging for staff to coordinate, but also for them to determine how much people could consume.

How did you come up with your virtual field trips?

After a lot of visitor research and evaluation, we’re undertaking a digital engagement strategy. We’re also trying to gauge what the online audience looks like now that it’s not just children and their parents, but everyone.

The Ontario government has mandated no field trips for schools in the 2020–21 school year—so since schools can’t come to us, starting in October we’re going to them. We’re redesigning Studio programs like Chemistry Concepts and Fun with Physics so they can be delivered virtually, with accompanying resource packages that include videos, PDFs, and editable slides that teachers can customize.

How have you been delivering your content?

The Connected North program has been using technology to provide immersive and interactive education for remote indigenous communities all across Canada for many years, and we have been able to use their delivery model to handle some of the more technical aspects of providing online programming. We’ve been utilizing the event and venue management software Artifax to manage the school bookings.

Are you working with other organisations?

We’ve been talking to local colleagues in the field at Harbourfront Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Toronto Zoo, to share ideas and challenges, and to create a working awareness of each other’s resources that we can share with teachers.

What has been most challenging?

Beyond programming the content and creating the resources, one of the considerations we’ve encountered is privacy and protections from harassment online. The safety of our students and staff is important to us, so were only virtually going in to classrooms for now and not into people’s homes.

How are you handling the uncertainty of the future?

The future is such a question mark right now. How do we compete virtually when teachers could potentially visit any museum in the world? If teachers previously brought their students to the OSC for an experience that couldn’t be delivered in a classroom (explosions!), how do we differentiate our programming and provide unique experiences, now that students are stuck in those classrooms?

What's in store for OSC?

Though many questions remain, OSC is pushing forward, and working to make sure that no student misses out on those hair raising experiences —it just might look a little different this school year.

The OSC will reopen to visitors later this fall, but you can visit remotely from wherever you are through online resources for parents and kids, such as Science at Home, as well as resources for teachers such as STEM Education Toolkits.

Time to start on your Crochet Coral Reef project!