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Event planning: Crisis or cakewalk?

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in Admin Pro Forum

Question: “I’m starting an admin job soon. The words ‘event planning’ were used during the interview a couple of times, but I neglected to ask for hard details. Is this something that an admin must do regularly, and is it as difficult as it seems? The idea of organizing an event for hundreds of people seems over my head!” – Kristin, Administrative Assistant III

See comments below, and send your own question to Admin-Pro@nibm.net.


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashlie October 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm

A very large part of my job is event planning. It is also my favorite part of my position. There are eight departments under our division and we also work closely with governmental relations. I’ve learned that not only is organization key, so is knowing who’s who. People within (and outside of) your own group can be key in assisting with the organization if you just listen to what they are saying. (“I heard Mr. Smith can’t eat shrimp.” “I heard Ms. Johnson is diabetic.” “Did you know that Mrs. Jones is in a wheel chair now?”) Things like that are very important to know when planning your meals, facilities, and seating. And definitely keep a notebook specifically for that event.

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Lynda October 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm

A while back, I won a fun and informative book called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Meeting and Event Planning.” It’s full of helpful hints, lists and guides.

Amazon.com has it for around $10: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiots-Meeting-Planning-2ndEdition-ebook/dp/B001PBSDEI

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Bridget October 25, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Event planning (small and large) is definitely a part of my position. Organization is key, and networking with other admins for assistance when you need it can also be a life-saver. I would assume since it came up in your interview and you were hired, then they must be satisfied that you have the skills or will be trained to do what is needed. If it’s a large organization, it may be that you will be part of a planning committee. It sounds like this is something you should bring up right away with your new supervisor. Good luck!

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Sara October 25, 2013 at 7:47 am

I haven’t had to do any event planning for my current job, but in a previous position it was absolutely my favorite part of my job! As has been said here repeatedly, organization is key.

The first thing I did before a new type of event was to sit down with a pad, close my eyes and walk myself thru as a participant. Just jot down everything that comes into your head. This a great starting point and the lists expand from there. Keep the pad with you, though, because things will pop into your head as you go and when you least expect it.

The worst thing that happened to me was booking a group of VIPs at the wrong hotel! I was unfamiliar with the meeting city and my boss had aske that I book the group at a particular hotel, which happened to have a very similar name as another hotel that was definitely NOT high class. Needless to say, everyone arrived at the good hotel with no reservations. Fortunately I was able to get with the hotels’ managers (both places) and plead my case. Everyone was very understanding and it became a running joke to make sure I had booked the right hotel. So, check and double check!

Keep notes of things that happened (or didn’t happen) and how the restaurants, meeting facilities, hotels, etc., were received by the groups. Then make sure you use these notes the next time – no reinventing the wheel…

Best of luck to you, and try to have fun with it!

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Maggie October 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I used to freak out when I organized events… it was horrific wondering what I was supposed to do. The best thing.. the sales managers and catering managers are your best friends. They will walk you through the process, inform you of what has worked in the past, and what they like best about their venue. Their goal is to make your event absolutely amazing, so you will come back.

As others have mentioned, being organized helps. Things that help to have handy:
- Date
- Time
- Number of attendees
- Dietary restrictions (if any)
- Dinner? Reception? Meeting?
— all three of them have different needs, so plan accordingly

Also – be respectful of their and YOUR time. If you feel that you are drowning, ask for assistance. Most people love to give their ideas on what they would like to happen

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Karen Tynes October 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Events Planning can be a lot of fun, but if u arent organized it can turn into a horrid failure! That is the key-organization-Get yourself an eight pocket hardback file folder. In addition to having 8 “pages” to clip papers/info into the folder, generally there are pockets to slips things into. There is a lot of guidance on the web. Caution: dont get overwhelmed with tons of information. First: get as much info from the requesting manager and type it out- present it to them for initialing. Make sure they understand what u are understanding. I cannot stress enough the importance of evryone is on the same page. .If he/she wants changes incorporated do so and rename doc Ver 2 and so on. Second: get a Budget!!! This is imperative!! Third: if u feel in over your head speak up!! One is not born knowing how to turn on the lights. Events Planning is not everyones cup of tea, but with good guidance you can become a great planner. U can do an event of 2 on up!! I am retired now but would be most willing to provide guidance. You can reach me via Linkedin-Karen K Tynes…Good Luck!!

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Kevin Jacobson October 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Kristin:

Event planning can be one of the most stressful, difficult, rewarding parts of the job. But once you get through your first major event – - you will be surprised at how easy th process becomes. I have been an Executive Assistant for 20+ years now. I have planned events for 20 and for 2,000. No matter the size, make a list. Try and think of everything you can that you think you will need. Believe me – - you are going to miss something. The day of the event you’ll think! OH NO! I forgot about that!! But you get through it; you learn from it; and you move on to the next one. Best of luck to you in your new position. I’m sure you are going to be fantastic!

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Ramona October 24, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I plan events 10 out of 12 months per year. Yes, you should have asked for more details. Event planning is not a piece of cake but it most definitely does not have to turn into a crisis. Planning and time management are essential. The more information you have, the earlier you have the information = the sooner you can begin planning the event. Take a quick course in event planning. You may find something on-line. Fred Pryor seminars offers them for a fairly reasonable price. Admin Professional may also have a webinar on event planning. Much success. I agree with an earlier comment – 40 or 400, you have to cover all the bases.

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KJ October 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Kristin, I haven’t planned many events but each time I have they have been held at hotels or conference centers. I make it a point to “use” the facilities’ event planner and their expertise as much as possible. They do this for a living and can be a great resource. At first, I was surprised by how helpful they were until I stopped to consider their facility would be making big bucks from the event AND possible repeat business.

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CJ October 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Plan, organize, write everything down–you can’t be too prepared.
If it is a big event, get help–you can’t do it all by yourself, and someone else may think of something that you haven’t. Also, for big events–reherse and go over your schedule. You can’t be too organized, because if there is one thing to be counted on is something will happen at the last possible moment that you will have to take care of, so if everything else is prepared for you will be able to take care of the last minute emergency.

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Marcia October 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Kim is correct. Juggling schedules, preferences with food, meeting times, and where and how a meeting takes places is something we deal with as admins. So scheduling an event requires the sames tasks and skills. It just usually requires more time depending on how big the meeting and where the meeting takes place. But it is nothing to truly worry about.

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Virginia October 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Organization is your best friend. Try creating an event flow – who will be where when, timing of the event, seating, etc. And Kim is correct – you will never make everyone happy, so just do your best and smile!

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Kim October 24, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Honestly, 40 or 400 is pretty much the same. You have to remember that no matter how hard you try, not everyone will be happy so do your best to accomodate but be realistic. Yes, you need to think about dietary restricitions when your planning food and think about schedules if you are doing a group event (do you have folks tied to the phone that can only participate during a specific time or do you have so many people that you need to do shifts). But, as an Admin, you probably already take care of all the ‘issues’ anyways so event planning is just an extension of that.

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