How to Plan a Successful Event at the 11th Hour

Tasked with executing a last-minute event? We've got you covered!

In a perfect event-planning world, clients would give us ample time, budget and trust to execute a truly remarkable event. And despite the fact that we likely all love our jobs and couldn't fathom doing anything else, alas, it's an imperfect world (and industry) we work in--and last-minute, low-budget events are hardly rare. 

That being said, having a laughably short time frame to plan the perfect event is no excuse to underdeliver for your client. If anything, it's an opportunity to truly flex your productivity and planning muscles as an event professional. Of course, that's not to say you should take the hero route and assume all responsibilities for yourself. Here, we offer four tips for executing a successful surprise event. 

Flip Your Stress Perception 

In the initial moments after being told you're tasked with planning an event with a super-short time frame, the first reaction most of us would have, naturally, is stress. But according to a recent Harvard Business Review piece, it's this initial moment of perception that could dramatically alter how successful you are in facing your stress. 

First things first: What can you control, and what can you not control? You can put a positive spin on your stress, as the HBR article states, but only if it's tied to something you're capable of achieving. In a 48-hour time frame, you most likely won't be able to garner the amount of promotion via social media and newsletter blasts as you'd like--but you can prepare a solid, straightforward menu. From that point forward, ask yourself, "How can I use the energy created by feeling stressed as a way to better prepare for the task ahead?" It seems trivial, but a moment of self-reflection can help you to center yourself for the next steps. 

Measure the Minutes You Have Left, not Days or Hours

As exemplified in our automatic meeting settings in Google Calendar, our brain is most accustomed to one-hour increments of productivity. But as an article from Forbes explained, when it's crunch time, you'll need to start focusing more on minutes. 

As the article states, the most successful types of people (which, in this particular survey, were Olympians, straight-A students, entrepreneurs and billionaires) adhered to a minute-by-minute schedule to stay productive throughout the day. (There are 1,440 minutes in each day, so there's more than enough time to reach your productivity goals.) The article also says that you should probably throw out your trusty to-do list-only 41 percent of items on to-do lists are actually ever done! 

In the moments leading up to your last-minute event, start mapping your schedule in 15-minute increments that account for everything--actual work tasks, bathroom breaks, time to call your mom. 

Boost Twitter Time Tenfold to Promote

Especially in regard to Celebrate and Network events, the weeks and days leading up to your meeting are crucial for social promotion. But with only a matter of hours on hand, how do you promote your meeting on social media without being too spammy?  

According to a blog from Bizzabo, engaging over Twitter--where multiple posts per day aren't just welcome but actually expected--is a good place to start. An article from Fast Company recommends tweeting 14 times per day, whereas Facebook should receive two and LinkedIn a single post. If you do use Facebook and LinkedIn to promote your last-minute event, consider being more strategic in your approach. For instance, are there client- or industry-specific groups you can post to? That way your message has less of a chance of getting lost in the social stream. 

Get Creative with Décor 

When throwing together a last-minute event, accomplishing tasks in order of importance is a solid survival strategy. Unfortunately, that can mean pushing some of the more fun aspects of planning, like adding in unique décor and thematic elements, to the side so that menu, registration process and other primary obligations can take precedence.  

During the eleventh hour, don't be afraid to get creative with your décor selection. No time to run to the nearest florist for fresh centerpieces? Consider filling empty flower vases with pebbles and rocks, marbles, or ornaments. Alternatively, try swapping out official event signage for a simple chalkboard design for a customizable, rustic look. 

Don't Shy from Unconventional Space

While we tend to automatically associate large-scale events with giant auditoriums and party-ready banquet halls, in the event of a last-minute meeting request from a client, those types of rooms might not always be available. But as we've talked at length about before, unconventional event spaces shouldn't just be runner-up choices--they can provide attendees with a unique ambiance designed to pique curiosity, all while putting your hotel property's best assets on full display. While a social outdoor pool is the perfect choice for a Celebrate or Network event, a low-key patio could provide just the right amount of comfort (and seriousness) for a productive Ideate or Educate meeting.