Go Big, Think Small

Why Thinking Small Leads To Better Events

Giant events are best planned at the microscopic level

Have a giant corporate event or a wedding with 500+ family members? You may be tempted to hire out the big guns, and let some large service provider handle all the details. Before you go all in on going BIG, we have some alternative arguments for why thinking small tends to lead to better events.

Some Ground Rules

Before we begin, we need to acknowledge that defining the amount of items you’re willing to manage (and are able to manage) is of the utmost importance when planning a large event. Sometimes this means it’s imperative to hand over planning to an all-encompassing entity so everything is taken care of. For tips on planning your event without going insane, see our related article. If you’re following our steps and you still feel like you need someone to come in and sweep up the majority of the work, take the following points with a grain of salt.

Define your upper limits...

Regardless of whether or not you’re ready to plan everything yourself, guns blazing, it’s important for everyone to define their upper limits! Define the amount of items you’re willing to take on with all of the time (or lack of time) at your disposal. We highly suggest making a list. It may or may not include things like:

  1. Venue
  2. Catering
  3. Photography
  4. Photobooth
  5. DJ
  6. Band
  7. Videography
  8. Keynote Speaker
  9. Floral Arrangments
  10. On-Site Alcohol Service

Start by flagging everything you feel you can’t figure out on your own. Then enlist the help of someone you trust to either collaborate with or completely take over these critical components.

Define Your Specific Needs (Use Numbers!)

Make sure BEFORE you start to make calls, send emails, show up at doorsteps, that you know exactly what your approximate guest count will be, and you’ve thought of everything that number of people may need in relation to each component of your to-do list.

500 people typically means 500 meals, some of which will likely need to be vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. If you approach vendors with these numbers in hand, you’re likely to finish up the planning phase far more quickly than you’d anticipated. Saying you have a LOT of people, or somewhere between 400 and 600, is not as helpful to a caterer as saying something along the lines of “although we may have between 400 and 600 people, we’ll likely have around 500 with 15% of those with specific dietary requirements.”

This will be appreciated by the vendor you ultimately go with, AND will save you a lot of headache down the planning road.

Define Your Budget

Defining your budget, it turns out, is just as important as defining the number of items you’re willing to tackle on your own. Just remember to assign actual numbers to each of the items on your list, defining your expectation as to how much each item will cost. Then bring this list with you when you meet individual vendors, so you don’t forget to corroborate their rates with your expectations.

Please note: this is something you need to do before you talk with any service provider. Don’t go into a meeting with a caterer thinking you’ll figure it out as you go, as this is likely to cause your budget to balloon into something far above what you originally anticipated. Write down a total budget for your event, and then write down the amount you’re able to pay for each service. If one service or another ends up costing more or less than you’d expected, you can adjust the other micro-budgets as necessary. But doing this ahead of time will give you the flexibility to stay on top of every minor detail, while maintaining your control over the initial event budget you set into writing.

Avoid The Hype...

When you’re looking into event planning services, it’s easy to get swept away by notions of grandeur. All it takes is one beautiful shot of a bride and groom in a giant wedding to make you feel like you’re not getting your slice of the happiness pie unless you go just as big. Or an image of a famous keynote speaker at a large venue may make you feel as though you have to book THAT venue, otherwise you won’t be able to attract any keynote speakers worth your audience’s time and attention.

These are common event planning traps.

Don’t fall prey to the idea of the BIG, when the details are what matter most. While you’re looking at that shot of the bride and groom, you’ll miss the fact that the drapes surrounding the giant room are as sterile and multi-use as the venue itself. Giant venues are like that – out of necessity. Catering to EVERYONE means they essentially never fully cater to anyone. Keep in mind that the services you hire operate in much the same way. The larger they are, the less personal they’ll feel. The great irony here is, the more personal and intimate the experience, the more memorable it tends to be.

Keep Things Small, Personal, and intimate

If you have a giant group, consider renting out a local bar instead of a conference hall. If you have many dietary needs, thinking about hiring more than one smaller catering business to add some local flavor to your event’s menu. The last thing everyone wants at their event is to be eating the same cafeteria food that was mass produced because you felt you had to go with the big guys to serve everyone. The truth is, the smaller guys tend to charge less too. Bigger companies have higher overheads, so they’re forced to charge more for less output – otherwise they’d have to fire their staff. So by shutting out everyone you feel won’t be able to cater to your large group, you’re often adding completely unnecessary expenses for a product that’s given less attention to detail.

People will remember the conference keynote event at the local bar. Keynote speaking events inside conference rooms all blend together over time. If you’re trying to make something memorable, it more often than not pays to stop looking at quantity and start looking at quality.

Divide And Conquer...

Remember that details matter. Sometimes multiple items on your checklist are best handled by a single service provider. If there are five kinds of cake from five different bakers, you might want to rethink your plan. If you instead get a single quality company to cater your entire dessert selection, the result is likely to become more integrated into the overall experience AND less of a headache for you. You’ll have to do the analysis, but don’t settle for MANY when you can go with ONE, save money, and provide better value!

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