5 Tips to Stay Sane While Planning an Event

Some people get a little freaked out when a special event is fast approaching. It might be your dad’s sixtieth birthday, a friend’s baby shower, or an enormous family reunion held at, you guessed it, the [insert your last name here] residence.

When people hear Marshall Communications is a full-service public relations firm, most think of press releases, social media, and perhaps Web and graphic design services. Little do they know there is so much more to it, including one of my favorite tasks—event planning.

I can feel you rolling your eyes, but it’s not that bad. In fact, I think it’s fun and after you pull off the event, it’s rewarding, too.

This past weekend, two of my very good friends got married. I’m not talking about a small, simple celebration, either (thanks to Pinterest). I’m talking about a beautifully coordinated, down to matching t-shirts for the bowling party the night before the Big Day, kind of celebration. As a bridesmaid, I’ve spent the last few months with my sleeves rolled up, helping complete the lengthy “to do” list over the weekends.

Burned Etched Coaster that Says Erik + RobynOne-hundred and twenty wood-burned birch tree coasters, eight hours, and a few blisters later, it was painstakingly obvious (no pun intended) what event planning truly involves. Lucky for me, it allowed me to brush up on my planning skills for client-related events here at Marshall Communications.

For more than a decade, Marshall Communications has had the honor of handling the Maine Office of Tourism’s public relations. Over the last few years, one of the Office of Tourism’s focuses has been on partnering with our friends in New Brunswick to offer a unique Two Nation Vacation experience.

Earlier this summer, the two collaborative teams in New Brunswick and Maine decided that hosting a media event in the city that never sleeps would be a great way to kick off this new type of vacation and encourage key media to write or blog in national media outlets about what we have to offer. So, the planning began.

After deciding on the elite Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan, developing the media list for invitations and sending out reminders, deciding on décor and food, creating some fun gift bags, and finalizing our own travel plans, the event went off without a hitch last Wednesday on October 17.


Next event on the Maine Office of Tourism’s agenda: the 2013 Governor’s Conference on Tourism to be held at the Samoset Resort on January 31. Of course, we’ve already started planning, including securing the well-recognized and entertaining keynote speaker, National Geographic’s award-winning author and travel expert, Doug Lansky. More than 400 people in Maine’s tourism industry, business owners, and state government officials are expected to attend!

Even though you may not have to plan an event for 400 people, the five tips below will help keep you sane when planning for an event of similar nature and size.

  1. Think it out. It’s all in the details. Think about what makes sense for the type of event and who is attending.  Because New Brunswick and Maine are known for their seafood and coastal locations, we worked with the Four Seasons to develop a nautical theme (lobster traps, lanterns, buoys, etc.). Did it make sense for us to choose fall centerpieces then? Not really, so we made some alterations and instead featured blue hydrangeas. Make sure to visualize your event from beginning to end. How does it feel? Look?
  2. Write it down. Don’t rely on your memory. Bad idea. Chances are, when planning an event, handfuls of ideas will be tossed around, and you may forget what was finally decided upon. I like to keep a folder, organized by different facets of the event. For example, my Two Nation Vacation event folder contained information on the following: attendees, décor, food, layout, contact information, and invoices. You’ll feel better knowing everything you need, including notes and reminders, are filed in one place.
  3. Be enthusiastic. If you aren’t thrilled about your event, chances are other people won’t be either. Get excited and smile! Let other people know you’re looking forward both to the event, and to seeing them there. Depending on the nature of the event, this could mean a reminder, a personalized note, an email, or a quick chat in the break room.
  4. Be flexible. Not everything is going to go as smoothly as you want. Even the most meticulously planned events have hiccups and the best advice I can give is to go with the flow. Maybe the venue can’t substitute a certain menu item or someone you were expecting to make it can’t be there. Take a deep breath; it’s all going to work out.
  5. Get those creative juices flowing. Make your event unique. Add something attendees won’t forget. At the Two Nation Vacation media event, we requested the Four Seasons source as many Maine products as possible to serve to the media in attendance. Whether food, beverage, a special gift or activity, make it special and memorable for guests.

Last week was a busy week for Marshall Communications, who also participated in the Mainebiz Momentum Convention, handling the event’s social media efforts with the debut of the Marshall Communications SWAT Team. Social media is another exciting consideration when planning an event, from live Twitter feeds during the event to promoting it via Facebook or Twitter weeks prior.

I hope these tips will get you motivated for your next event. I promise, as soon as it’s finished, you’ll be proud of your accomplishment and think, “that wasn’t so bad!”