The logistics involved in planning an event vary in each case. Lloyd ticks off a list of some of the most frequently encountered issues: “Location, weather, transportation, vendor quality control, budgets, client personalities, and interpersonal family relationships.” Knuth points out that quite a lot of logistical planning takes place well before the actual event. For outdoor events in particular, site visits are part of the process of assessing parking, power, water, restrooms, and other requirements. And such events, she adds, can include planning for “everything from transporting guests to building a venue in a field.”
Harvey says that one top logistical priority is rule following. “Most of our interactions are with the vendors involved, making sure everyone complies and respects the rules of the venue.”
Beveridge begins by getting a clear picture of the client’s mission and vision for the event. Once the desired end result has been established, she says that she works “backward from the final date and goal to create a timeline, action plan, and task list.” That task list might be quite lengthy for a corporate event and could include any or all of the following: venue, speaker, or artist selection; contracting, catering, and technical arrangements; marketing, communications, and advertising; print assignments and deadlines; event materials selection and ordering.
If a particular task falls outside the purview of an event planner, they think on their feet. “We have been asked to do many things that we consider outside the scope of a normal planning process,” Knuth admits. “We just manage it the best that we can and try to offer solutions. Unless it’s something that we consider unsafe or logistically impossible, we do our best to comply.”
“By nature, most event planners have the ability to juggle and execute a breadth of tasks,” Beveridge says. “The secret is to determine the things you enjoy and excel at, and know which areas are better handled by others.” Harvey has a policy of avoiding saying no. “Some tasks,” she says with a smile, “just cost a bit more.”
Preparation for an event can—and often does—start early. “Where large numbers of guests are involved,” says Beveridge, “sometimes initial planning begins two to three years before the actual event date, particularly when substantial blocks of hotel rooms and transportation needs are involved.” By contrast, most corporate events have a shorter planning period—according to Knuth, “some six months, some six weeks.” Ultimately, like almost every factor involved in the event planning process, each situation is unique, and the time required to plan effectively varies greatly. “Sometimes we’re called a day or two in advance when other [vendors] have last minute call out,” says Harvey. “Other times we are working with a client two years in advance; we’re booking October 2020 now.”
Pricing, too, varies widely depending on the event. “Most of our events are priced by project fee, others a percentage,” says Knuth. “Especially if there are a lot of unknowns on the front end.” However, Studio HB’s pricing is generally based on an hourly rate. “I provide a proposal based on discussion and needs assessment with the client, and an estimate of total hours,” Beveridge says. Celine & Company’s Lloyd points out that corporate clients often have pre-set budgets, saying, “We help those folks understand how to manipulate their entire budget to include their prioritized line items.” Minton notes that event pricing can vary based on the time of year, too.