7 Event Management Struggles & How to Tackle Them

Planning and organising events can be a tedious, time consuming task. Having organised 50+ events over the course of my marketing career thus far, I know exactly how painful it can be when vendors aren’t paid on time, when mail merge goes wrong or when guests complain there aren’t enough ham and cheese croissants to go around at morning tea.

Nevertheless, it is our jobs as event managers to plan for every detail and optimise the attendee experience, no matter how many people complain about the lack of rubbish bins at the venue. After all, I would be equally as critical — if not more so — when attending a professional event.

Here are my top 7 struggles which I’m sure many of you share and how I’ve been able to resolve them over time (on a budget).

It takes forever to check attendees in.

Attendees all seem to arrive at the same time, clogging up your registration desk area. Some head into the venue without registering, which means you don’t have an exact head count on who’s present. Plus I’ve had too many issues with pen-and-paper registrations to efficiently check attendees in.

Prevent all that by using an app like Zkipster, Event Farm, Boomset or Cvent’s On Arrival. Your first event on Event Farm is free, which is a great way to test if this method works for you. Eventbrite Organiser is the best free option around, but you need to collect RSVPs through Eventbrite instead of just uploading an excel file of registrations like you can with other apps.

Some apps let you add notes to a contact, for example notifying the sales manager when his customer has arrived or for flagging difficult customers that may need extra attention.

There’s always that person without a name tag.

You know that moment when someone rocks up and you can’t find them on the list, and hastily scribble their name in black marker on a name tag and it looks really unprofessional?

Skip that and get an onsite wireless printer for easy, professional printing. Once attendees are checked in, direct them to the next staff member to have their name tag printed. This will also save you hours of mail merge time.

Employees are confused about what to expect.

Commonly asked questions include:

  • What do I do at this event? Who do I talk to?
  • How can I register?
  • Who’s presenting at this event and on what?

Get everyone on the same page by creating a concise document that can be emailed or posted on the intranet. This internal-only document (mine is usually in PowerPoint) should cover the following:

  1. Key dates, venue, time, objective of event and target audience
  2. Key messages being reinforced at the event that employees should adhere to. This is a great place to highlight upcoming product releases or any technical content.
  3. Schedule of activities the day before, the day of, and day after the event. Include location(s), rehearsal sessions and arrival time of any interstate/international staff.
  4. Event format and execution — Is it a networking-only event? Will you have display booths or demo kits?)
  5. Venue information — What’s the WiFi password? What does the floor plan look like? Include 1–2 photos of the venue.
  6. The all-important agenda needs to include all presentation and break timings, as well as speaker info.
  7. Attendee breakdown of who’s registered so far
  8. Marketing plan — how are you marketing this event? No need to be detailed here, but employees like to know if they can share social media posts or if invitations have gone out. If the event will be photographed, filmed or live streamed, mention that too.
  9. How can they help? I find including the last slide with a call to action drives the attendance up. Ask the sales team to make calls or send out personalised emails. Employees can share the event on LinkedIn, or include a link in their email signature.

The day before, gather everyone in a room and go through the above slide deck to make sure that everyone will present a cohesive front on the big day.

Speakers don’t have their presentations ready until the last minute. Help!

This is a nerve-wracking one, mainly because it’s out of your control. I have spent many a sleepless night frantically editing speaker presentations because they sent it to me late and the branding is off, or there are grammatical errors. Worse still, the entire presentation may not make sense or is off the mark in terms of audience relevance.

Follow this 5 point checklist to make your life (and the speaker’s) easier.

  1. The moment you secure a speaker (internal or external), send them an info sheet summarising their involvement and the exact time/date of their session. Include the time you want them to arrive for a pre-speaker briefing, if necessary. I also ask them to confirm all their contact/emergency info and working title of their presentation. Be sure to indicate when you need their presentation by.
  2. Send them email reminders in the lead-up to the event, particularly the week before.
  3. In this email, indicate rehearsal times (this is particularly key for staff presenters) or set up a calendar invite for both of you to rehearse.
  4. During rehearsals, get other relevant stakeholders to sit in and provide a critique.
  5. Straight after the rehearsal, obtain a copy of their presentation via USB or email for any last minute corrections.

No one filled out my event survey!

I used to get a 2–5% survey completion rate at my events due to a few reasons:

  • People are tired at the end of a long event and can’t be bothered filling out surveys
  • They fill the survey out but they’re thrown away or lost during the day
  • You can’t read their handwriting
  • They don’t have a real incentive to complete your survey.

After I ditched the pen-and-paper approach and went digital, survey completion rates skyrocketed. However, I’ve been to events where a staff member is stationed at the exit with an iPad and it’s a nightmare filling out the 10 question survey with a long line of people behind you, so I use Sli.do’s after-event feedback tool or Typeform right at the end of the event when people are still in the room.

The emcee announces that before people leave, they should take a minute to fill out the survey on their phones by entering a simple, short URL. It also helps if you have a little giveaway that they can claim upon completion of the survey, such as a 10% discount voucher or a free powerbank.

Another option is to send the survey via text or email the day after, with the promise of being able to download event presentations after the survey is completed.

How do I continue the conversation with my customers or prospects after the event?

Just because an event is over doesn’t mean the interaction with your customer stops. Having an integrated CRM and event management system is ideal for keeping track of your customer’s lifecycle and every touchpoint, but if you are still struggling, here are a few tips.

Send out a thank you email with a value-add, not just a generic “thanks for coming, we hope you found it valuable”. Give them a reason to click on your website, read your blog, subscribe to your newsletters or get in touch with the team. People also like to see photos of themselves, so include a link to view event photos and videos.

It goes without saying that your sales teams should be in touch with key clients post-event to offer them further training, support or general assistance if needed.

I hope these tips were useful! These used to be my top 7 struggles when planning and executing events so I know how difficult it can be to run a successful conference or seminar.

This guide is geared more towards B2B teams, but the main thing to keep in mind is what your customer wants — in terms of the event experience, content and problems solved — and tailor accordingly.

Do you have any other struggles not covered off in the list? I’d love to hear them so feel free to leave your response below!