If you read my last post, you will remember that I said the biggest mistake most first-time event organizers make is GOING TOO BIG TOO FAST! We get so full of ourselves and believe we are going to create the most amazing event anyone has ever been to, while making a ton of money at it. Good luck. We recommend you start small to learn the ropes!

While you’re doing that, here are our tips on common mistakes made by first-time event planners, and how to avoid them:

  • Not getting sponsors
  • Trying to do everything yourself
  • Hiring a marketing company
  • Spending too much $ on marketing
  • Believing everyone is your target market
  • Delegating front gate staff and security to volunteers
  • Assuming you know what your customer wants

1. Not getting sponsors

Getting sponsorship is so important! Without it your event will almost certainly lose money. This is one of the most important and also one of the hardest things to do for a first-time event. Think of all your favourite events – they probably all have some big sponsors.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

Sponsors help an event stay profitable, while also keeping them affordable for attendees. Getting sponsors is important to raise funds but it is also important to prove to the community that your event is a good idea, and get others behind you, adding legitimacy.

One of my biggest mistakes at the campground was not getting sponsors for my events. This both led to my events losing money, and at the same time did not get the community on board. Local businesses and council did not support future grown, and council rejected my future event applications. On the other hand, with our annual rodeo we committed to getting local sponsors before even announcing the event publicly, and it has been a huge success with the community.

2. Trying to do everything yourself

You can’t be the best at everything. If you are new to running large-scale events, hiring someone with experience in crucial. This will save you money and headaches in the long run.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

For example, when you apply for your event permit, many local municipalities will require you to have a meeting with the city council, police, EMS, health unit, fire chief, etc. to see what you have planned. If they sense for one minute that you are not 100% confident in your plan, they will impose expensive solutions to cover themselves in the event something goes wrong.

When I ran my first concert in 2009 (Erie Lake Fest), they knew I had no idea what I was doing, and the group agreed that I needed to hire 26 licensed security guards, and have 4 police officers on site during the concert, and also required me to fence in the perimeter of the concert grounds.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

This added $20 000 to my budget, and we ended up with about 300 people total for the weekend. Compare that to the rodeo we now run. When I went to the meeting with police etc. the first year, they knew I had experience running events and the meeting went much smoother. We only needed 4 security guards (because we were selling alcohol), no police officers, and didn’t have to fence anything off. We ended up with 1000 people per day. The difference was I knew what I was talking about this time around.

You especially want to hire someone with experience if you are booking a big-name band. Booking agents are very good at taking your money. What happens when someone with experience meets someone with money? The person with experience gets the money and the person with money pays for the experience.

Unless you want to lose all your money, it’s best to hire a professional and learn from their experience.

3. Hiring a marketing company

I know, I just said hire the people with experience…. But, in my opinion it is a mistake to hire a marketing company to take over all your advertising. It’s better to brainstorm marketing ideas with experienced people and then make your own decision on which paths to take. If you are running an event with a big band, you may want to hire someone who is good at negotiating with a radio station because they have
worked at one in the past and know the business.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

Most marketing companies I have worked with have the philosophy that “the more the better” when it comes to advertising. They like to spend a lot of your money with no guaranteed returns. Marketing expenses can add up very quickly and are not always effective. Remember – start small and stick to your budget.

4. Spending too much money on marketing

So you’ve decided to do your own marketing… now what? Well, there are two ways people hear of an event. Either they are looking for you, or you are looking for them.

If they are looking for you, you need to be listed where they are looking.

The other way to advertise is to find people who might be interested in attending your event, if they were to hear about it. This is where you can spend your advertising budget in a hurry. Figure out who your target market is, and where they are looking.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

Most new event advertisers think that if they spend $100 on advertising and then sell $100 worth of tickets they will have a break event event. Um, no… there are a lot of other expenses to an event! Probably more accurate is needing to sell $1000 of tickets for each $100 of advertising.

Spend wisely when it comes to marketing, especially the first year. Find as many free places as you can to advertise, and talk to everyone about the event.

5. Believing that everyone is your target market

You NEED to know who your target market is. It is not everyone.

Are you targeting families with kids, seniors, or the 18-25 year-old party crowd? What are their interests? Where do they live? The more specific you can be the better. This will really help you direct your marketing the most effectively and allow you to save money on marketing. It will also help your plan your event with them in mind to make it a better visitor experience.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

Identifying your target market doesn’t mean these are the only people allowed to attend your event (unless you choose to restrict it), it just means these are the people that are the most likely to want to buy tickets to your event.

6. Delegating your front gate staff and security to volunteers

Don’t do this… it might seem like a good money saving idea, but it will probably cost you in the long run.

Make sure you have someone you really trust in charge of the cash box at the door, bar etc.

Definitely hire licensed security guards from a reputable company, especially if you are serving alcohol. This is a cost you don’t want to skimp on. Keep the number of guards to a minimum, but have a few on site throughout the event to create a presence and keep people acting responsibly.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

7. Assuming you know what your customer wants

Ask your attendees for feedback… Send out surveys, talk to your volunteers and visitors during and after the event and ask them what they liked, what they would change and what they would like added. You can’t see everything going on at your own event, so asking different groups of people for their perspective is invaluable in planning ahead for future events.

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

This is another reason why starting small is important. You can figure out what draws the crowd and then spend money to grow where people will enjoy and notice it the most.

At our rodeo the first year, our biggest complaint was the seating. We had rented wooden bleachers because they were the only affordable option at the time. We had lots of parents with little kids express their concern for safety with kids on the bleachers and lots of seniors express their concerns of accessibility (ie. No stairs). We never would have realized this problem if we hadn’t asked people for their feedback. After we heard it, we went to another event which rented the same seating and sat on it with our 1 year old. We quickly realized that it was indeed a major safety and accessibility issue and we knew we needed to find a better option for our event the next year.

This is actually the whole reason we got into the bleacher rental company … to fill a need in the market for mobile bleachers that are safe, accessible, and affordable. If you are having the same issue, we may be able to help you! www.BleacherRentals.com

7 Mistakes First-time Event Organizers Make

Norfolk Ram Rodeo – with bleacher seating from BleacherRentals.com

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