Getting It Done: The Realities of Event Production – Part 3

You’ve planned it, you’ve booked all the necessary things to make it happen, and you’ve announced your big project to the world! What do the next few weeks/months of event production look like? What happens on the day of your event?

In Part 1 & Part 2 of this event production series, we’ve given you tips on how to plan, and how to get the ball rolling. The next few weeks or months might look like a waiting game, but it’s important to stay organized, drive your sales, and be able to handle the inevitable challenges that will roll up on you as the big day approaches.

Event

In this final part of the event production series, I’ll provide a rough map of what you can do to stay on target, and some tips for when the big event finally arrives! It doesn’t have to be stressful – read on…

Getting It Done Part 3 – We Have Liftoff!

1. Organization & Record Keeping

As your event approaches, you’ll be dealing with incoming and outgoing business that will need to be organized. If you are working with a team of people, any purchases they make on behalf of your event will need to be recorded not only so that you can pay them back, but also so that you can have a clear idea of how much your event actually costs. The budget that you made at the beginning of your planning stage may have already included incidentals like poster printing costs, but what happens if you decide to get stickers made, too? You may have accounted for your headliner’s flight in to your city, but what about that lovely welcome basket you want to have waiting for them in their hotel room? If you decide a month before your big show that you want to have balloons rain down on your audience during the big finale, those will cost money too.

Your budget doesn’t have to be a hard line on how much money you are allowed to spend, but remember to record everything that you spend outside your original budget so that next time you host an event you have a more realistic idea of the incidentals that can happen along the way. Keep all of your receipts, especially if you are a registered business – you can include these receipts when you are doing your taxes for that year.

2. Keeping Track of Your Sales

While managing your outgoing money, you will hopefully also be recording your incoming ticket sales! Make use of financial record keeping tools – I use a Mac, so the program “Numbers” (equivalent to MS Excel) works for me. If you are selling spots at your event through Paypal, you can download financial summaries that show your sales.

I like to create a spreadsheet that records my ticket/workshop sales on it’s own, but I also have a spreadsheet that is purely about finances, so I include a formula that calculates my grand total profit/deficit for the event – that means that my column of numbers to calculate includes the money I’ve spent and the money I have coming in to balance that out. When my total is still negative, I haven’t broken even yet. When my total reaches that happy zero, I know the event has at least paid for itself. What you really want is for your grand total to reach the positive stage – and when it’s all over you can take your grand total profit, divide it by the amount of hours you put in to making the event happen, and discover that actually event production is not really a great way to make money –  Ha!

Having a simple one-cell number to watch as your finances come in and go out is a great way to get a quick visual on how your event is doing. If you are having trouble getting that grand total out of the negatives and at least to a break-even zero, you know you have to hustle a little bit more, or even cut some of your costs. Sacrifices may be necessary if sales just aren’t supporting your event. If you only sell half the spots to your event and don’t project many more sales coming in, maybe you can save some money by renting a smaller – and therefore cheaper – studio? If you need some extra money to cover your costs, maybe you can ask some local vendors to donate to a raffle? There are ways to salvage the financial side of an event that may not be doing well, but if you don’t know the reality of your financial situation, it’s hard to get on top of it. Stay informed – keep track of all of your income and outgo!

This is also a good opportunity for me to address the attendees of events who are reading this post! Hi guys!

My message to you is this: events can’t happen without your participation! Waiting until the day before an event happens to finally register or buy a ticket isn’t enough – many producers will actually cancel events that haven’t sold enough spots 1-2 weeks before it even happens. Event production is rarely a money-making venture, and for a lot of producers, it is a big risk to bring these kinds of events to the community.

Nothing is more frustrating to an event producer than hearing “Oh it’s too bad that was cancelled, I was going to register!” or “I hope you have another one! Next time I’ll be there for sure!”. Chances are, if an event had to be cancelled, there won’t be another one. Producers spend thousands of dollars to get events going, and the only way to make that money back and break even is if people support the event, so support early, and support often! If producers lose money every time, they will simply stop doing it. Without your participation, there just won’t be any more opportunities to study with headliners or enjoy and take part in big shows.

3. Promote Your Event Until The Very Last Minute!

Let’s say you’ve met your financial goals and you’re feeling comfortable about your fast-approaching event. This doesn’t mean you should stop promoting it! If you would like to have future events, make sure everyone in town knows what a success your event is, and they will remember this the next time you announce a big project. People hate missing out, so give them plenty of reasons to join the fun next time! Social media has lots of great live video options that let you share your event prep with the world, and those videos are always lots of fun to watch. Use Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter to give short & sweet updates on your progress.

Your success can also be a great reason to be vocal in your community about your gratitude for their support. Without an involved & excited community buying tickets and taking workshops, event producers won’t have any reason to continue to offer opportunities, so remember to thank everyone for helping to make your event happen!

A good time to cut off your event sales is midnight on the day before your event so that your financial success or failure is apparent before you dive in to the busy big day ahead of you – you can’t continue to record online ticket sales while doing your tech run at the venue. If you’ll be selling tickets or spots at the door, that will have to be recorded on a separate sheet, which will be added to your financial breakdown after the event is done.

4. Get Your Team Ready

Make sure you have enough volunteers to help you run your event smoothly! You can’t be in charge of taking money at the door, stage managing, and performing all on the same night. If you are running a workshop weekend, you need to be able to manage and handle your visiting headliner while also having all your last-minute errands run, so get yourself an assistant or two to help with that stuff!

If you’re providing snacks and water backstage, ask someone with a Costco card to get that stuff for you. If you have 40 dancers in your show, ask 1 or 2 people to help “herd the cats” and keep everyone organized and ready for their number so that your stage manager can concentrate on staying in contact with your tech person. If you have a volunteer running your door, make sure they have a float of change and maybe even a security person if necessary.

During a workshop weekend, if you have a helper who can run interference for you with any studio managers or wayward participants, that can help you focus on what your visiting teacher needs in order to be successful. If you have vendors, put someone in charge of answering other vendors questions and handling little things like finding extension cords or setting up tables. Event production really does take a village, and for these months leading up to your big day it might have been all you – don’t be afraid to ask for help as the event approaches, because you can’t be everywhere at once!

5. Showtime!

It’s event day! You’ve either sold enough spots to meet your financial goals, or you’ve made cuts to your budget and licked your wounds leading up to an event that you’ll end up paying out of pocket for. No matter the reality, you’ve learned a lot about event production, and have a clearer idea of what to do – or not do – next time. So now that it’s the big day, what will happen?

I’d love to give you a solid breakdown of exactly what your day will look like, but it varies so much from event to event, that the best thing I can do for you is provide some handy tips that really keep things running smoothly.

a.) Make a plan – write down the major events of the day, and when and how they will get done.  
b.) Prepare your Self – get some rest, eat well, and go over your plan to stay focused.
c.) Roll with it – things are going to happen, and you are going to handle it like a pro. 
d.) Let it go – there are some things we just can’t change, so do your best to breathe through it.
e.) Say thank you – let everyone who helped you know they are appreciated.

Make one plan 2 weeks before the event, because during that final week you’ll have a lot to do, like picking up food, flowers, paying final rental amounts, etc. Make another plan the night before your event that covers the big day(s) itself, and be sure to include the who & how of each item. Stay in close communication with your team of volunteers, and make sure they all have a copy of your plan & timetable so they know who is doing what.

For our big shows, we provide our stage managers, tech team, and Emcee with a production map that includes all the technical details of every number in the show – it’s kind of like a lineup, but it’s much more detailed and provides each team member with room to make notes that they need to do their job. Everyone has the same plan, and it is so nerdy and organized it’s almost embarrassing. That said, everyone on our team always knows what is happening and when. They know how long it will take, who to talk to if there’s a problem, and exactly what happens before & after. Once the production map is in their hands, I can relax knowing that the plan is solid, and my team knows what to do with it. Be nerdy. Make lists.

Event production is a lot of work, and if you don’t prepare your Self, you are not going to have a good time. Get plenty of rest in the days leading up to your event – if you are hosting a headliner, you can expect lots of late nights as you keep them company! If you are taking part in the workshops, you already know you’ll be physically tired, so put the stress of running an event on top of that, and you’ll really need to rest! Eat well all weekend long, have a good breakfast every day, and keep snacks with you in case you need a protein or glucose boost. Your body needs protein after periods of intense energy expenditure, and your brain needs glucose after being focused and calculating for a long period of time. Almonds & dried fruit are a good option!

I like to blame my desire for a clean & tidy living space on the fact that I am a Virgo, but the truth is that your environment really does reflect your state of mind. In the week leading up to your event, clean your living space, organize your costumes & supplies, and you will feel so much better.

On the big day, anything could happen. Your car could break down, leaving you and your headliner with no transportation and a sudden need to spend your tiny profit on cabs. People who claim to have bought tickets may not have any proof of that at the door, and your door person might be wondering what to do. You may arrive to your venue to discover that the stage is in shambles, or you may get ambushed by any number of unexpected and unwelcome circumstances during your show, with little or no time to react. When you produce an event, you have to learn to roll with whatever happens – in many ways, once an event gets started, it’s like a boulder rolling down a hill. It will run it’s course, and you just have to do the best you can to handle the stuff that comes your way. Lean on your team when you can, and make the best decisions you can with the information you have. It may not always be perfect, but you’ll meet the challenges head on no matter what.

And when things really don’t go well? Let it go. What else can you do? The show must go on, your team needs you to be focused, and you can’t continue to burn your energy on something you can no longer change. Breathe deeply, and move forward.

Finally, after all is said and done, after your headliner is on the plane back home, your bank account is empty, and your house is once again a total disaster, you might think it’s time to flop down on your bed and sleep for a year, but you’ve got one more thing to do – say Thank You. Make sure that you use any tool at your disposal (text, email, social media, coffee dates, etc) to thank each & every person who lifted you up, helped you out, and held down the fort. Thank your volunteers, your venue, your performers, and especially your participants. Remember what we learned earlier – if you want people to be there the next time you do something like this, you need to give them a reason to take part. Being overlooked for even the smallest contribution – official or unofficial – feels pretty awful, and if you forget to say thank you or give credit where it is due, you can probably cross that person off of your list of people who are willing to help you in the future.

In Summary:

Event production takes a village. It takes planning, organization, communication, creativity, resilience, and determination. Each event can be different, and there are more variables involved that I could possibly cover in these blog posts. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll have a good idea of what lies ahead, and how to handle future events. Be realistic, be adaptable, and be ready for anything.

Good luck!

 



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