By Stephanie Vozza
When you're juggling your regular office manager duties while trying to organize an important conference or office event, it's natural to get a little stressed out. Even the most experienced event planners find it challenging to manage all the details. Instead of locking yourself in the supply closet for a moment of peace, try some of these event-planning tools and tips that can minimize frustration and make the whole process more efficient.
Power Up Your Spreadsheet
Before you start reaching out to potential vendors, prepare to organize quotes and timelines by using an enhanced spreadsheet tool. You very likely already use a spreadsheet to keep track of at least some aspects of event-planning, but a few enhanced versions of the typical organization tool may help you work a bit more easily. For example, Microsoft Office has event-planning templates that can assist you with tracking tasks, costs and dates, and options such as Smartsheet include alerts and reminders to help you stay on time and within budget. If your own spreadsheet files are getting too messy and hard to organize, test out other options like these.
Find Convenient Ways to Shop
Sometimes waiting a couple days for online purchases to ship is not feasible. Meanwhile, spending precious hours finding something in a store can also be difficult, especially during the hectic runup to an event.
Instead, consolidate your shopping with vendors that offer the option to buy something online and pick it up in the store of your choosing. That gives you quick access to what you need, so no time is wasted wandering around the aisles. Some merchants have one-hour turnaround, and others deliver your products curbside so you don't have to get out of your car.
Delegate Tasks With Collaboration Software
Delegating tasks to co-workers is a great idea, but sometimes you spend nearly as much time keeping track of your helpers as you would have spent doing the task yourself. Good organization and communication can help alleviate this problem.
Collaboration software such as Slack or Asana may help you break down a big project into manageable (and assignable) tasks, or tools like Trello or Todoist allow you to create to-do lists that you can share with others. You can even set deadlines on to-do list items and send out reminders and notifications to keep everyone on track.
Hire the Right Help
Hiring reliable vendors can make all the difference. If any vendors have not met your expectations lately, do a rigorous search to replace them with a company that better meets your needs. Ask peers for recommendations, thoroughly check the Better Business Bureau and online reviews, and schedule conversations with sales reps about capabilities and pricing.
In addition to the usual venue and catering vendors that are an essential part of most events, carefully vet the print partners you need to help produce displays or marketing materials, the shippers you use to get items to your venue safely, or tech support to make sure any digital presentations or displays work smoothly.
Use Check-In Tech
If you're planning a larger event, get the party started on the day of the event by streamlining check-in — after all, no one likes a bottleneck at the door. You might try software such as OnArrival, which offers a self-serve kiosk that lets guests check in and print a name tag, or RegFox, which allows guests to check in online.
Whether it's a party, conference or meeting, each event requires a lot of work and attention to detail. Look into these event-planning tools to help you manage the workload — and maybe even enjoy yourself. Then relax and enjoy the recognition for a job well done.