What are you going to do? Your big event is approaching, even faster than you anticipated. There’s no time! Argh! You could pull your hair out, but that might ruin the pictures. Another option is to turn into an event planning monster, like a Bridezilla or a Groomzilla, and believe me, there are such creatures.

However, becoming a monster should always be the last resort. To prevent these unseemly transformations, there are methods and tools for event planning that you can use to have a more manageable and pleasant wedding, fundraiser, product launch or whatever your event might be.

Yes, there are ways to avoid skyrocketing costs and other horror stories that you hear about whenever event plans go off the rails. You too can successfully plan an unforgettable event if you know the secrets of those master planners — project managers. Think like a project manager, and whether you’re an event planning pro or a novice planning your first event, you’ll learn from these seven tips.

successful event planning includes project management

1. Know Your Budget
If you haven’t defined the amount of money you’re going to spend on an event, then the event will define your costs for you. This is not something you want. Maybe you’re made of money or have a cousin who’s a counterfeiter. But most of us are working with limited funds. We need to get the most for our buck.

Start by using a spreadsheet, or simply a piece of paper, and add line items for every single detail that is going to cost money. Some of those fees are going to be paid out, so make sure to mark down any payment deadlines. Also, don’t forget to leave a bit of wiggle room for the possibility of going over you’re planned budget.

Be sure to breakdown your costs as finely as possible, then describe them. Note the amount you plan to spend and leave a column for the amount you’ll actually spend. By tracking these two figures, you can stop your budget from spiraling out of control before it’s too late. You can research costs for similar events to make your estimates more accurate.

2. Start with the Dream, Then Get Real
It’s easier to edit than to add, so the best thing you can do is cast a wide net when you begin planning for your event. Draft what your ideal event would look like, if there were no restrictions, and get a clear picture of what that would look like.

After you have your dream plan, go back to that draft with your red pencil and define what you’d settle for. What pieces are essential, which are not? What you’ve done is created a range in which you can realistically attain. That way, your expectations are grounded and there’s less of a chance that you or someone is going to go ballistic.

3. Use Event Planning Software
You have a spreadsheet for your budget, and you’ve set realistic goals and objectives for the event. Now if there was only a way you could collect the budget and plan the event on a single platform that allows you to manage, track and report on event progress. Well, there’s an event planning app for that.

Software tools can help you manage the budget and track whether you’re going over set limits. But, with project management software, you can do much more. For instance, you can create a task list and then track those tasks within the time limits you set. These tasks can be for you or other people. With online software, everyone is always on the same page and can work collaboratively if they’re not in the same room.

There’s a great scheduling tool, too, called a Gantt chart, which provides a visual timeline on which your tasks are points, with their duration outlined as you define. If any tasks depend on one being completed before the other can begin, these can be linked, so progress isn’t blocked.

4. Know When (and When Not) to Hire an Event Planner
Do you need an event planner, someone to organize your event for you? This might be the easiest way to have a successful event. There certainly are reasons to hire a professional event company or event planner. For starters, an event planner can save time. That leaves you time to focus on essentials, while they deal with the logistics.

An event manager, event planner or event planning company also has experience in negotiating. Those skills will help you spend the least and get the most. Event management companies do this for a living, so not only do they have contacts and know how to negotiate, so you don’t have to, but they approach events with a creative mind that allows for unique solutions and events that resonate.

However, professional event management can have its downsides. For starters, it costs money. That might be money you don’t have, or money you could put into the event itself, making it more memorable. Not only that, but you’re going to have to spend a lot of time with the event coordinator, so make sure that you get along with whomever you decide to hire. Therefore, the decision as to whether or not to hire professional help has to be carefully weighed.

5. Do the Due Diligence
Okay, let’s say you’ve decided you want to hire an event planner. Now what? Research. Before you hire someone, you want to make sure that they are a good fit for you and the event that you’re hosting. You wouldn’t want to retain a wedding planner for a corporate event, unless you want everyone drunk and smashing cake into each other’s faces.

Always check to see if the company has done similar events. If they have, then they know your audience, and they’ve worked with the your event demographic before. For that matter, the planning organization should also have experience working with someone like you to foster an understanding of your needs and wants.

Like in real estate, location is critical for a successful event. You’ll want to check if your event planner has experience with your location, and if their office is nearby. These and other questions should be asked prior to employing an event planner, and will facilitate the process when you finally get started with the employment process.

6. Embrace Multitasking
Realistically, you’re going to multitask. You need to, life demands it and so does any event. You’ll be negotiating one contract, working on securing the services of another contractor, renting space, working out the details of the menu, etc. There’s always something, and it always seems to happen all at once.

Multitasking gets a bad rap, and, according to science, deservingly so. In fact, the guys in the white coats say you’re not really multitasking as much as jumping back and forth from one task to another. That sounds dizzying, and maybe it’s true that you’re not giving either task your full attention, but sometimes you have to spread yourself thin to get everything done on time.

A successful event is often determined by how well you can prioritize one task while also working on another in the background. It’s all about managing your time without getting sucked into your various tasks. Conversely, don’t become single-minded and obsess over one thing while neglecting everything else.

7. Keep Your Sense of Humor
Whether you have a great sense of humor or not, if you can sit back and laugh at yourself (and others, why not?), it will make everything less stressful. Organizing an event is an inherently stressful project, so any opportunity to get a different perspective and keep things light is going to help your management and overall experience of the event you worked so hard to plan.

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