Event Planning Quick Links
- Event Planning Basics
- Designing And Setting Up A Booth Or Event
- Lodging And Transportation (coming soon!)
- Other Event Planning Things To Consider (coming soon!)
Event Planning Materials And Branding
Okay so you’ve covered all of your event planning basics, pulled together all the info you need, and started creating a base project plan. Now it’s time to start making sure you have all the items you need to make sure your event is a success! The below is a big (non-exhaustive) list of common generic things to create, get, and handle when it comes to planning your event. Not all items will be relevant to your specific event but even those items may inspire you to ‘think big’ for yours.
To Do And To Pack Lists
As soon as you know you’re going to event create a To Do and To Pack List. If it’s a small event and you’re not big into formal project management you can just do this via simple documents or spreadsheets in Microsoft Office, Google Docs, etc. You want to make sure you have a spot to capture everything that comes up so you don’t forget everything.
Suddenly remember you need to print more business cards? Throw it in the to do list! Look at the weather and see it’s going to rain and an umbrella is needed? Put it on the to pack list! One of the best things about formally writing down everything you will be packing up and taking with (or having shipped to your destination) is you can use it to make sure you have everything that’s supposed to come back home with you. No more frantic calls to the hotel (and expensive shipping costs) to say you forgot to grab your business cards and flyers from the meeting room and can they find them before someone throws them out!
In this day and age there is a great temptation to keep everything as digital as possible and it’s hard to understand why anything could possibly need to be in physical form in the world of email, Evernote, Dropbox, etc. However, having paper items is just a fact of life for many event planners and is a must have for me when planning events – here’s some examples of why:
- Sometimes you will just need to physically sign something and keep your copy until after the event is over – this is especially true for onsite activities like final BEOs/bills from hotel sales/catering departments or bill of ladings from conference exhibitor service providers. You want to keep this for your record so there’s a record of what was agreed to and to settle disputes later.
- Make designing your event space easier – whether it’s mapping out what goes into your booth or who sits at what table for your wedding sometimes having pieces of paper/magnets/whatever you can move around is just more efficient.
- It can be a lifesaver when things go wrong. Have the union folks saying their papers only show you ordered a carpet and not electricity (which should get laid first) for your booth? Whip out your order confirmation that shows you did, indeed, pay for the electricity.
- Digital items are great, when you can get to them. Ever had your laptop crash right before the event? Ever tried to even just get enough signal to make a phone call in the far reaches of the lower halls at Moscone Center in San Francisco? Jumbling a lot of stuff and a lot of info that needs to be shared by many? If you can grab you contact list to hand to the person in charge of that shift’s staff or have the paper version of the agenda prepared for everyone it can make things go a lot faster. It’s also critical if you need to share stuff on the fly without trying to give everyone special access to things they may not be able to get to.
- Digital versions are sometimes not useful or even undesired. If you’re running a booth it’s better to have instructions for those working the booth to have them printed out and easily referenced during the day – plus you can easily modify it as the event goes along. I once created a doc I printed for an offsite that had everyone’s photo and order on there so the banquet staff could quickly and correctly deliver each person’s lunch order to them without having to interrupt the valuable discussion with the “who ordered the X?” questions. Plus, sometimes having a paper version discourages everyone staring at their devices the whole time as well!
I highly recommend having a binder, portfolio, or folders where you keep some of the main papers accessible and organized (and preferably with you at all times) to ensure a smooth handling of the event onsite.
Before you start going full steam ahead on blasting about your participation (or running) of an event, ordering your marketing materials, etc. it’s extremely helpful to make sure you have your branding done and up-to-date. There’s no sense in reprinting your business cards if your phone number changed. If you’re going to create a website for your event make sure the style and theme is something you’re comfortable using for all the event collateral.
If you are representing a company or product at an event and can find ways to customize or personalize your items (lanyards, table covers, device skins, etc. you’ll set yourself apart from the crowd and also create a cohesive, professional look. I talk more about things to consider below and in other pages but you can also check out the Personal Branding Checklist [opens in a new tab] I created. While geared more towards individuals it will give you some good ideas for things to consider when reviewing your brand. There are additional resources hat can also be helpful which I also list in my Personal Branding section.
Don’t forget! Your branding isn’t limited to physical and digital items. Don’t forget to make sure how you and your event crew present themselves in a great light and represent the company or event well. If you run a booth or a conference but all of your staff and volunteers are rude, uninformed, and generally unhelpful it’ll show and turn people away – something you can’t afford to do!
Consider creating elevator pitches (see the checklist link above) for you, your company, your product, event; code of conducts; dress codes; FAQs; and other items to help make sure everyone is on the same page and creating a great and lasting impression for your audience.
Giveaways And Branded Materials
There are some events that will almost always have some kind of giveaway or physical materials (wedding invites, speaker gifts, etc.) and others where the creation of branded materials is optional but potentially highly valuable. The following is a list of items to consider having/giving away and a list of some of the vendors I’ve used to create some of these items:
Branding Item Ideas
- Custom Lanyards: They can show the image or logo for your event, company, or product and can include a name/website on the neck strap. If it’s for yourself you can spend the extra money to have ‘nice’ lanyards that ensure you have solid, sturdy lanyards that give you room for your business cards and other business cards, pen/marker holders, badge, etc. For events or giveaways you can also make lanyards a sponsor opportunity giving a sponsor a wide reach by being worn by attendees, exhibitors, and the like.
- Custom Clothing: Whether it’s just for you (and staff), volunteers for your event, bridal party, or for everyone who attends the event or visits your booth personalized clothing can really step things up a notch. Whether it’s nice polos with the company logo, website, and tagline on them that help people find you at events or meetings or cool custom designed t-shirts to market your product this item presents lots of opportunities for visibility.
- Custom Invites, Brochures, Thank You Cards, Business Cards, Etc.: Have you ever gotten an invite to a wedding that looked exactly like your other friends’ wedding invites just with the name, date, and location swapped? Received someone’s business card and it’s the same design, color, and layout as someone else’s? Look at an event program and it’s clear they just used last year’s version and input new session info (but sometimes missed updating dates and info!)?While there’s nothing wrong with using templates when ordering something printed the more you can customize it the better the differentiation. The more you work to do to create some items from scratch the less likely you are to make mistakes or seem ‘old’. If you can also add your name/company/event name, logo, or the like it gives you one more opportunity to instill your info in their mind.
- Custom Giveaways: Giving out stress balls, coffee tumblers, and other goodies is great, but if you don’t truly make them custom (vs just slapping stickers or marker written notes on them) you’re wasting a big opportunity. Although not everyone will end up using the items later, if you have the kind of audience (wedding attendees, booth visitors, etc.) where a decent percentage end up using them/sharing them it’s a great way to remind them of you throughout the year.
- Custom Landing Pages/Microsite: Wanting to offer an event-specific promotion? Looking to capture the ROI from your efforts? Consider creating a microsite or landing page on your website just for that event. For example, if you are exhibiting at the We Rock 2015 trade show create a page on your website at the URL yourcompanyname.com/werock2015. Through the use of analytics you can see how many people are paying attention to the custom marketing materials you created based on the earlier bullet points. Alternatively – or in addition to the after show ROI – you can also use that to create a one-stop shop to provide attendees all of the info about what you’re doing at the event, who to contact for press requests or meetings, mixers you’re sponsoring, etc.
- Custom Event Furnishings/Decor: Ever attended a wedding where the chair covers matched the color scheme of the wedding? Have you ever been to a conference and one company’s booth is a standard 6-foot folding table with black skirt but the one next store has a pop-up stand and custom table cover? Having personalized setups can instantly catch someone’s eye and make you stand out – in a good way! (I cover more of this in Designing And Setting Up A Booth Or Event section.)
Branded Item Vendors
The following is a small sample of various vendors I’ve used when planning events covering everything from promotional giveaways to pop-up booths:
- 4imprint – I’ve used them for creating custom gifts and giveaways including coffee mugs, padfolios, and stress balls as well as branded lanyards, t-shirts, portfolios, and even pop-up banners!
- Marco – Has lots of items similar to 4imprint and has been my go to for years in creating cheap, custom badge ribbons.
- Documation – If you can get past the not so user-friendly website I’ve found Documation to be great at helping print flyers, brochures, business cards, and more – and pretty great at helping with rush projects too!
- FedEx Office, Vistaprint, Jukebox, Inoprints, and more – Although it’s always best when you can have a local printer you know and trust these companies can provide a variety of printing options that may do the job and I’ve used all of these for various event, org, and company business cards. You can also look at sites like Lifehacker who routinely poll their readers for the best sites to use for things like this.
- Shutterfly, Fathead, Etc. – From resuable water bottles to laptop skins, to magnets, mousepads, and more companies like this can help you create custom items quickly and easily.
- Ace Exhibits – Focused on mainly items exhibitors need this vendor has a lot of products to choose from. A nonprofit I worked with ordered a booth pop-up here once that really helped us anchor our booth and give us a great way to make ourselves visible.
Other Events’ Materials
Sure, it can be bad to have a program or invite that looks exactly like someone else’s (see above) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at anything that already exists. If you’re expecting to plan lots of events – or even just one big one like your wedding – start collecting ideas and items from other events. I got ideas for giveaways at events I’ve run from the weddings I planned, I’ve gotten inspired from events I attended to create new setups and displays for my booths. Snap a photo, send yourself an email, keep a binder or folder full of programs, badges, and the like and look at what you liked and didn’t like when planning yours.
This is just a highlight of the things that can go into your planning materials and branding items. I cover some more in other sections, but I’ll continue to add more here as I get time!
Indie Game Devs: Also check out http://indieboothcraft.com/ for more info to help you plan your booth!