Last week, I was back in event planning and production mode helping a client put together an internal event to launch a new initiative. This event had an interesting twist. While there were fewer than 200 attendees, the event was held inside a major indoor concert and sports venue. The dichotomy of hosting a relatively small group in a venue with thousands of seats (and the associated infrastructure to support them) reconfirmed some long-held event planning lessons and introduced some variations on other event planning practices. Doing my personal recap on the successful event, the lessons seemed worthwhile to share for those of you doing event planning or managing other creatively-oriented projects. Here are my 11 take-aways:

1. When you have a choice, pick the event venue with the greatest capabilities and expertise.

This will give you a big head start toward a successful production. Having just done an event at a venue with a permanent control room and a production team running it every day, the differences versus a hotel and hiring a production company to bring along a temporary setup were dramatic.

2. Insert emotion into the program wherever possible - ideally in every presentation.

Remember - the tougher it is to figure out how to put emotion into a presentation on a particularly dry topic, the more credit you'll get from the audience for trying it.

3. Push your presenters to use more pictures than words.

It's easier on both the presenter and the audience. Plus a great image can help inject needed emotion into a boring topic.

4. Make it clear to everyone when you have to move from a period of creative exploration into finalizing decisions for an event.

There may be additional opportunities to move back into creative time later. Acknowledge that shift with everyone as well. But at certain points, you simply have to decide and move on without introducing any more intriguing possibilities.

5. Work from a solid to-do list of critical items which need to be completed.

Work your list hard, but realize things may not get checked off in the order you've listed them or much before when you think they need to be done. Some of them may never get checked off, yet you'll still have a tremendous event. That's a signal to continue refining the way you determine what's really critical.

6. Do whatever you can ahead of time.

While it's boring to sit around and wait when you're ahead of schedule, it's fantastic when you're in event planning mode. You'll be really glad you were later when time's running out.

7. If someone critical to the event is prone to running late, do whatever you can to remove roadblocks which will slow the person down.

That may be getting them food so they don't have to stop for it, or securing a meeting room so they can make phone calls and keep business going while at the event. Whatever it is, remove the obstacles that could make them unavailable when you need them.

8. Don't empower five people to direct things.

Identify a clear decision maker who will make the decisions which need to be made - in real time. Have one person (either the same or a different person) who is the sole person to communicate changes to production people. This will make for greater clarity and a better event. It also demonstrates you're thinking about #9.

9. Be nice to the production team.

This group will make or break you, so treat the team in a way which predisposes them to want to "make" you (and the event) successful. That doesn't mean you don't challenge things. It does mean, though, you say "please," "thank you," and other words of encouragement at every opportunity.

10. Stay calm, especially during pre-production.

When you're working with pros, pre-production and rehearsal time is the opportunity to experiment, test, and be creative. While rehearsals and walk-throughs can look and feel like disasters, the final event almost never reflects the gaffes you see the day, morning, or even the hour before the event is live.

11. Always bring some pain relief medication to the event.

Somebody will need it, trust me.  – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!