If there’s one thing experienced event planners know, it’s that timing is everything. From the time of day an event takes place to mastering every detail by the event date, the best outcome is achieved by outlining every minute.
The first step is determining what time of day is best for your event. This depends on who you want to attract and what you hope to accomplish.
Gay Lyons, an experienced event planner in Knoxville, shares tips on how to decide what time to plan your fundraiser, ball or gala.
“Most social or fundraising events are scheduled for the evening,” Lyons said. “Breakfast meetings and luncheons are usually education, business or awareness-oriented. What’s most important is figuring out which events will be the most attended and cost effective.”
In general, when holding breakfast and lunch events during the week, planners need to remember that a lot of attendees need to get to work, so avoid extended programs and live auctions. If a daytime event is intended as a fundraiser, build that into the ticket price, and use the gathering as a way to showcase your organization.
Another approach is to offer a free lunch and have donation cards at the table. This approach can work with a dynamic or inspirational speaker. In both cases, make sure people can donate online either before or after the event.
Daytime events also cost less than evening ones, so if holding down expenditures is your concern, definitely choose a breakfast or luncheon.
Evening events offer more flexibility and the chance to create a relaxed setting.
“Think about what needs to happen: cocktail hour, food options, music, etc. Wherever the bar is, that’s where people will be,” Lyons said. “Determine what and how much is happening at this event. If it’s after work, usually a function will only need to last about two hours. But if it’s later in the evening, three to four hours are appropriate to consider time for dancing or auctions.”
Make sure attendees stay engaged in the event and don’t get bored. This is done with entertainment, dancing, a live auction or ample opportunities to socialize.
“Avoid restive guests at all costs,” Lyons said.
Lyons typically is involved with the initial formation of an event, thus she has a lot of input into what time of day the gathering should be held to maximize attendance and minimize costs.
Rebecca Williams, director of sales and marketing at the Knoxville Convention Center, approaches event planning from a different perspective. Since Williams represents a venue, timing ultimately is up to clients to decide, but she lets them know what else is happening during their event.
“We actually use EventCheck Knox to coordinate our events here,” Williams said. “It helps us keep our clients included in what’s going on, so they know which day or time works best for them.”
Williams’ job also is to make sure the event is executed on time from start to finish.The Convention Center hosts events that range from being multiday in duration to being done in a few hours. Typically, it’s lights out at midnight.
“The Knoxville Convention Center closes at 11:59, so it’s rare for any event to stay beyond that time,” Williams said. “Local events like weddings usually run pretty late. Conferences run all day every day. It’s just a matter of preparing for who wants what on which day.”
The perfect event will seem effortlessly crafted to attendees. To the planner, this seamless process is only accomplished if ample time is allotted to prepare.
“Make sure you’re booking an available venue far enough in advance,” Williams said. “Do not assume any venue has your date available just because it is conveniently located or easily accessible.”
Most planners see all this “planning” as, well, common sense, but only because personal experience with day-of setbacks has proven to be the best teacher.
“Start planning as early as humanly possible,” said Lyons, who is the director of marketing and development at Positively Living. “ORGANIZE. Make lists, sketches and double-check everything.”
No matter what time of day an event is held, every aspect of a successful one centers on timing and execution.
Lyons repeats every planner’s motto: “Even our backup plans have backup plans!”
Lindsey Collins, an aspiring event planner, is an intern at Moxley Carmichael. She enjoys traveling, unwanted cuddles with her cat, half-priced wine nights and the occasional large pizza (to herself).