By Allen F. Weitzel
My career has been in amusement industry management, but I am also a western entertainer. Recently, our group was booked to entertain at a computer company picnic. The event went fairly well, but I did note some problems that would not have occurred if pre-planning had been better. Detailed pre-planning is easier to do than having to address unexpected issues during an event. Here are some reminders for all event planners.
Vendors and Entertainers
Send out a pre-planner a month before events. Ask vendors and entertainers if they need any information added to the final planner. Event maps must address confusing access roads/entrances.
Require vendors to provide the number of staff coming so you can plan for parking, sufficient prep area or unusual needs. You might assume a caterer will bring 10 employees, but they bring 30.
Do not rely on only one reference before booking a group. Perform background checks on your vendors and entertainers. You are responsible for the safety of your guests and the venue. A thorough background check is necessary. You do not want to find out the day of the event that a band or caterer is always late, trashes their work space or is rude to guests.
Entertainment contracts must include a penalty fee for last minute cancellations. Our group has often been booked on short notice when other groups have cancelled. Address overtime for entertainment when the event runs long and additional shows are needed. Clarify payment dates. Have legal counsel review your event contracts.
Plan for EMS personnel to be assigned close to the action at all times. Our group was asked to judge the watermelon eating contest. EMS was stationed at the far edge of the property with no personnel assigned close by. During the contest, one adult choked on her watermelon. She was in distress. Our group members were moving in to assist when she luckily cleared her own throat. EMS should have been there. Some jurisdictions have regulations regarding EMS event response times.
Keep It Clean
To keep the facility clean, place each garbage can in sight of another, so guests only walk a short distance to dispose of trash.
Security procedures should be equal both at the entrance and inside the event. Do not allow guests to bring in items through the front gate and then object to them once inside. Remember, more security will be needed for events where alcohol is being served.
Establish alternative plans if the event is scheduled outdoors. If inclement weather rolls in, including extreme heat or cold,
have an alternate plan ready to go. Start following weather reports a week prior to the event and up to the day itself. At our event a strong wind began at the end of the day and a rainstorm threatened. The event planner was lucky that day.
Animals may get frightened and react in different ways if they hear loud sounds or noisy rides. Work with entertainers or vendors who bring animals. They need to be aware of all other activities to prevent an incident. Learn service and comfort animal regulations. Know your rights about asking an animal owner to remove the animal if you believe it might cause injury.
Verify what permits you need, such as: health or fire department permits, occupancy and fire extinguisher regulations or noise permits for loud shows and whether you required to warn neighbors of the event regarding parking or noise issues? .
Some event planners rely too much on their cell phone. They neglect to establish contingency plans and use the cell phone as a fail-safe, expecting others to call them with questions or problems. For our event, we were told to call our contact when we arrived. We did so and received voice mail three times. We finally asked the caterer to radio our contact and were then told someone would meet us. No one showed up, so we searched the property ourselves to find our contact. Cell phones are not always effective. If an employee, vendor or entertainer calls you and you do not answer, that caller may make a decision on their own. Additionally, if you call a worker and they do not answer, will you leave a message with a directive? If they never check their messages, what are the consequences if they do not complete a task you assigned? Missed calls could result in placing your event in the hands of inexperienced workers. Create backup communication systems as if no cell phones exist.
Free yourself on the day before the event, so you can address last minute changes to assure the staff and facility are ready. Effective event planning means you out-think the problems in advance. With comprehensive pre-planning, your event will run effortlessly for your guests and those who make the event flourish.