The 15 things I have learnt from 15 years in events: Event lessons

Over the past 15 years, the world of events has undergone a remarkable transformation. 

It has been a journey filled with unforgettable moments, valuable lessons, and a deep appreciation for the power of bringing people together.

In this blog, I share a reflective journey through my eyes as an event manager who has spent a decade and a half planning and organising events all around the world. 

I call this “15 things I have learnt from 15 years in events”. This is valuable for seasoned event planners to community event organisers and business owners. You might call this – event lessons!

Event lesson one: You can’t have an event without a purpose 

The core part of planning an event is defining the event’s purpose and objective. Asking yourself and your team “what is the ultimate goal” and “why are you organising this event? Understanding your “why” not only provides clarity but also guides decision-making throughout the planning process. Even during the tough moments.

This should also align with the business goals! 

I see a lot of things often overlooked when it comes to planning events and not understanding the purpose is a big one. This is something I have mapped out in another article about event planning mistakes: you can read it here. 

Event lesson two: Communication is key 

This lesson feels like a given, but it is often the most missed when it comes to event planning. It is so important to have clear communication with the planning group and beyond. 

This is the glue that holds a successful event together – and I am not exaggerating this. Because without good communication I have seen misunderstandings, missed deadlines and just confusion that can derail a whole event. 

What should you do to create good communication? I have a whole section on my blog all about event planning mistakes, check it out here. 

Event lesson three: Understand your audience

So you have your purpose, now who is your ideal audience? Why should they attend your event? What purpose will it serve them? 

Having a clear idea of who you are targeting your event at will help ensure that you create an event, and targeted marketing campaign, that will speak to them. The more specific you make it the better – more than “community” or “family friendly”.

Event lesson four: You can’t just get your admin to do events to save money 

The whole reason I started Bonacci Agency (was Casey Bonacci Events) was because I saw a hole in the industry in my local area. I was also seeing businesses using their admin assistance to plan and organise events. While they were doing a good job, they were burnt out and very stressed. 

I understand businesses need to save money, hiring the right people with expertise actually saves money – this is also what I learnt from my 15 years in events. In fact, I wrote a blog on why administration officers shouldn’t run an event – really it is for their own sanity. 

Event lesson five: No event budget is the same, so nor is event pricing 

Something I have said more than once, and I will say again and again – No two events are the same, and every client has unique requirements. While I have seen a lot of interesting things in the events industry, events put into a pricing box is by far one of the most interesting. 

In fact, it is something I have become passionate and vocal about, there is a whole article about the pricing transparency in the events industry. 

Event lesson six: Plan for an event cancellation or reschedule before you have to cancel or reschedule it 

You have to plan for the worst-case scenario. Always. I have learnt this the hard way at times. But when you have a backup plan and more, this means if things go wrong, you will eliminate a lot of stress. Like planning or rescheduling the event. Plan for this. Have communication plans, back-up dates, event plans – all of it! 

If you think this is where you go wrong too, I made a checklist for cancelling or rescheduling an event. Get on the front foot! 

Event lesson seven: Process and procedures save hours of work 

Systems, processes and procedures go a long way! Not only does it show you what needs to be done, it shows everyone else what is left to do to make sure the event comes to life on time and how everyone envisioned it. 

Processes are extremely important too for approvals. We use platforms like Clickup to task manage approvals and tasks needed for each event. 

If you don’t have an approval process in place, we have the article to help you get started! 

event lessons

Event lesson eight: You don’t want too many voices at the table 

One thing I have learnt in years of events is the risk of too many voices at the table. You want to know who are the key stakeholders and organisers early on, but you also want to make sure there are too many voices. Everyone needs to have a common understanding and mutual agreement on the objectives of the event and with this less is more! 

As they say, you don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen! This is another common mistake I see with event planning! 

Event lesson nine: You have to be realistic with deadlines  

Another that has been learnt the hard way, being realistic with deadlines is essential. 

Rushing through preparations can lead to compromised quality and unnecessary stress. 

By carefully assessing the scope of work, allocating sufficient time for each task, and factoring in any things that can go wrong, this will ensure smoother executions, higher levels of creativity, and ultimately, more successful and memorable events. 

Event lesson ten: More time doesn’t always mean more time (stay ahead) 

Effective time management is often underestimated in event planning. It’s easy to assume there’s an abundance of time until impending deadlines approach, causing stress levels to surge. 

This is a common mistake I see when it comes to event planning and more time doesn’t mean more time, it means – get moving! 

Event lesson eleven: Set and have boundaries 

This has probably been the most challenging not just in events but in life for a lot of people creating events. Setting boundaries. It is important to define these boundaries when it comes to decisions, approvals and deadlines before the event planning is in full steam ahead. Then you can always refer back to the boundaries set as a guideline for the event. 

Again, a common mistake I see in the event planning process is no boundaries. 

Event lesson twelve: Not enough people are seeking sponsorship or grants

Funds – what helps make the event come to life and many business owners and community groups overlook the opportunities of grants and sponsorships to help bring an event to life. 

They miss out on valuable opportunities to enhance their event’s scope, quality, and impact. My recommendation? Tap into available resources, and forge meaningful partnerships that can contribute significantly to the success of the event. 

Learn more about sponsorships and how they can help your event here. 

Learn more about applying for event grants here. 

Event lesson thirteen: Identify the decision maker early 

As I mentioned above, you don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, and the same thing comes for the main decision maker. When you identify this person early (maybe it is you), it makes for easy decision making and a smooth flowing event planning process. 

Event lesson fourteen: It really is about the foundations

It isn’t about understanding your event. It is about understanding the organisation and the business. The values, the goals, the mission – all play a key role in creating a great event. This is what I call the foundation of an event and it is very critical for a successful event. 

Event lesson fifteen: What you do leading up to the event should reflect your event 

Your event marketing should reflect the on-day experience

Whether it be marketing or any type of design elements to showcase your event, make sure it reflects the event as a whole. For example, we created a beautiful winter event for a local community. In the branding and the marketing was this warm, winter feel. It was important that the event also reflected that! 

BONUS! What will make your event successful?

Once the event has been held, how will you know it was a great success? Will it be measured through ticket sales? People signing up to cause or incentive? Or is it simply just brand awareness? If you want to have a clear return on investment (ROI) then make sure you have that in mind while planning your event and ensure it’s somehow trackable that way you know it’s been a success. And when it comes to planning the event again you can set the bar higher!

Final thoughts 

So there you have it, 15 years and 15 lessons. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I have learnt, but give you an overview of just some of the core things that have helped me grow as an event planner. 

If you want to learn more from our library of resources – you can do so by checking out our blog here