Months and months of planning and anticipation and just like that, it’s over.
Each year, the Public Relations Student Society of America at the University of Delaware (PRSSA-UD) hosts the Night With the Pros (NWTP) event. This event gives PRSSA-UD members the chance to network with public relations professionals, hear their stories, and ask questions about public relations, internships, advice, and more. As this year’s program director for PRSSA-UD, I had the privilege of executing this event. With very little event planning experience, this responsibility was daunting, but I was up for the challenge. Planning this event taught me skills critical for any internship or job and the entire experience was worth it.
Planning a campus-wide event is no easy feat. Before Night With the Pros, I had planned birthday parties and holiday get-togethers for close friends and family, but executing this event was on an entirely different level. There are so many minuscule details that go into event planning, details you don’t think of as a guest. My responsibilities as the event planner for NWTP included everything from reserving a location and choosing a menu to designing brochures and contacting the speakers. Through the entire planning process for Night With the Pros, from day one to day of, I realized that even strategically planning an event is an unpredictable experience. How so?
Here are my 7 Commandments of Event Planning.
1) Time is Your Friend.
To procrastinators everywhere, I have one thing to say to you: event planning is not for you. When I found out I’d be Program Director back in May, I began planning for NWTP immediately. Knowing the event would be held in November, having a deadline made the entire process a little easier to execute. However, making sure that I didn’t waste any of that time was critical. The temptation to procrastinate planning for an event that wasn’t until the end of the semester was strong, especially during the school year, but creating to-do lists helped me stay on track and keep focused on the goal.
2) Never Underestimate the Power of Good Grammar.
This may be a surprising tip to find in an article about event planning. However, I can’t emphasize it enough. For NWTP, I wrote emails to public relations professionals, articles for PRSSA-UD’s weekly emails, and announcements for various social media networks. Being able to articulate your message in a clear, concise, and professional way is critical, especially for event planning. People are busy and reading a poorly written message is the last thing they want to do. Don’t waste their time and don’t waste yours– take the time to make sure every sentence is error-free.
3) Think Like Donald Trump.
Donald Trump has the reputation of being critical and detail-oriented, but he is also one of the most successful people in America. When planning for NWTP, I found myself analyzing everything, making sure it was exactly right. From the colors on the brochures to the various menu options, every detail could not be overlooked. An event is like a business: in order for it to be successful, nothing should be ignored.
4) Under Promise and Over Deliver.
One of my professors at the University of Delaware said this to me once and it stuck. In whatever you do, be proactive. With event planning, I took this rule to heart. NWTP is the first event I’ve had to plan by myself and I was determined to prove that I could do it. I created a budget, but vowed to not even come close to maximizing it. While creating the night’s agenda, I scheduled extra time even though it wasn’t needed. Staying one step ahead made planning the event less stressful.
5) Social Media is Your Friend.
For an event planner, social media is your secret weapon. It’s the most effective way to reach lots of people in very little time. For Night With the Pros, I created an Instagram campaign, a Facebook cover photo, and a series of tweets with the hashtag #NWTP. The posts helped advertise the event and the Twitter hashtag #NWTP ended up being the best idea ever. During the event, I made the announcement that “live tweeting” was encouraged and by the end of the event, over 300 tweets included the #NWTP! After the event, I created a #NWTP Storify so all of the tweets stayed together. Click here to check it out.
6) Be Passionately Curious.
“Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” Ms. Frizzle, the iconic teacher from the show The Magic School Bus, is known for this phrase. Just like working in public relations, event planning is all about taking chances and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Before you can think outside of the box and dare to exceed expectations, you must first be willing to be passionately curious. Just like Ms. Frizzle, don’t be afraid to take chances and get your hands dirty. You never know what you can do unless you welcome the opportunities that come your way with open arms.
7) Predict the Unpredictable.
No matter how much time you spend planning an event, things happen. For NWTP, a lot of last minute changes needed to be made, leaving me to readjust my agenda and make room for the unexpected. Although you can never fully predict what’s going to happen, always be ready with a Plan B just in case. Similar to public relations, planning an event is all about staying flexible when the unpredictable happens. Stay cool and collected and quickly figure out a plan. No matter what happens, the show must go on. Don’t panic– this is all a part of the event planning adventure! Predict the unpredictable and go with the flow.
Although event planning may not be a task listed in a job description, the skills learned are beneficial to any job or internship. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to plan the Night With the Pros event. I enjoyed every minute of it and although the process flew by too quickly, the event ended up being a success.
Social Media Marketing Intern
University of Delaware Career Services