Things I learned by planning a big event by myself

Literally exactly how I felt for the entire 10 months leading up to the event (Photo by Kendal James, Unsplash)

If I’m being perfectly honest, it wasn’t totally by myself. I had support on certain pieces — I’m a believer in being upfront about having help (and am the obnoxious objecter when people proclaim that they’re “self-made” when they’re really just the face of a team). BUT I will estimate that I did somewhere in the neighborhood of ninety-five percent of the planning.

I’ve always had my hand in some kind of event planning — from large entertainment shows in university, to an orphanage Christmas party in when I was living in Korea to, now, a community summit for women in the travel space. I’m writing this mere hours after the end of the summit because I want to put it out while its still fresh.

If you’re thinking of planning a big event by yourself…don’t.

Just because you have the skills and experience to pull it off, doesn’t mean you should try to. Having a partner or a team to talk through ideas and problems, or to have a fresh set of eyes on a document looking for spelling errors,.

BUDGET

Ohmygosh make a budget. Before you set ticket prices. Don’t put deposit on a hall or publicly post the invites or start mentally spending all the revenue you plan to rake in….. until you have your budget.

Make a marketing plan.

Just like the budget, it seems like a no-brainer. Have a calendar that overlaps with all the other due dates: speaker applications, getting numbers to the venue, etc…

Push early-bird

Like your live literally depends on it. Early bird ticket should be enticingly cheap especially if you’re needing to manage deposits or purchase items for the event. You don’t want to pay out of pocket and the need to remember to reimburse yourself.

Setting the early bird tickets to be about 10–15% above the anticipated cost per-person (which you would know since you’ve already made a budget) will be a life saver, should tragedy fall and you sell no tickets outside of the early bird prices. Just barely, but the butts will be covered.

When ordering food, order about 10–15% less than your attendee count

This depends a little on the demographic. I wouldn’t skimp on lunch at an active event, but if its going to be a sedentary day, you can be conservative. Also be aware that its normal for people to sign up and then not come to events.

People will have a opinions and you need to deal with it gracefully.

If you’re solo, you don’t have a team member to pass off difficult vendors/speakers/attendees. You need to manage any and all confrontation with what I’m going to call “intense grace.”

When you’re doing it all yourself, there is no one to tag in if you need to take a break.

Getting sick right as the event is happening is basically a given.

Something about prolonged stress keeps colds at bay, I swear. As soon as I was about 36-hours out from the event, I could feel the cold creeping in. On the big day, I so heavily medicated that my MC skills were not what I had hoped they would be.

Its sob-inducing levels of difficult….

…but when you look back (assuming that it went ok) and realize that you did it all (mostly) yourself, it’s a pretty darn proud moment.

Overall, I would 0/10 recommend taking on a large event by yourself.

Have some kind of reliable, dedicated team (not just people you can bounce ideas off of).