Top 7 Technical Challenges When Planning an Event

Top 7 Technical Challenges When Planning an Event

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By: Eric Hagstrom, Project Manager – Alford Media

Certain challenges can make event planning a bit stressful.

Event planners and creative producers have their work cut out for them to put on stellar corporate events. The sound, the scenic setup, the lighting – these are just a few of the components producers must consider when trying to dazzle their audiences.

Despite what audiences see in the final product (a beautiful masterpiece of sounds, lights and vivid video projection), producers and project managers face numerous challenges throughout the production process. While every event is different, similarities exist between all of them – inherent obstacles to overcome despite the type of production.

Whether it’s their first show or hundredth, it’s crucial these professionals understand the types of challenges that typically pop up throughout production. And trust us when we say, there are a lot of them! Proper preparation can help to avoid obstacles that may derail portions of their events, or worse, the entire show.

“You can’t overcome time, but you can manage it better.”

1. Time

Mistakes. Setbacks. Overbooking. Staffing problems. Pre-planning. Load-in. Setup. Rehearsal. Execution. Changes. Work calls. Load out. Phew! If it was tiring to read that, imagine what it’s like to have to deal with all of those components within a limited window of time.

Time, unfortunately, is not our best friend, but it always plays a major factor in the final presentation. It’s also one of the main problems threaded throughout this article.

Eric Hagstrom, Project Manager at Alford Media Services, said that “Time – it is our biggest challenge … So often the amount of time allotted for any given event is increasingly shorter.”

In terms of booking, Hagstrom noted if companies fail to book spaces or contract properly, it can “hurt them dearly on the back side in the form of overtime and diminished morale.”

You can’t overcome time, but you can manage it better.

2. Rigging

A successful event is all in the details. Prior to signing on with an event technology support company, event planners and creative producers should visit the venue and check out its general structure. Does it have high ceilings and many points of attachments, for example? True professionals can make an event work in any space, but understanding these desired features will take a lot of the pain out of the process. Elements such as high ceilings and limited chandeliers allow planners to more easily put on a show that’s constructed with clean lines and has a streamlined appearance.

Keep in mind that if a given venue has limited rigging capacity, low ceilings and chandeliers or too few points of attachment, it’s like tying the designer’s hands behind his or her back.

“All too often the on-site schedule is unrealistically condensed.”

3. On-Site Schedule

Remember when we talked about how time is one of the greatest challenges? And remember when we said you can’t overcome time, but you can manage it? Well it all starts with scheduling.

If an event planner develops an unrealistic event schedule with little to no flexibility, one task can drag on too long, cascading and affecting the rest of the day.

Hagstrom provided some great tips to help producers build a more efficient schedule that will keep the production cycle going and the team happy.

“Whenever possible, make your crew call times starting at 8:00 a.m. or later. In most cases starting before 8 a.m. has the crew in 1 – ½ overtime hours before 8 a.m. Schedule your meal breaks at the fifth hour of work. Generally you will hit a meal penalty if you don’t break the crew every five hours for a meal with certain labor providers or unions.”

Hagstrom went onto say that for those who like to break a little earlier in the day, say around the fourth hour, they must realize the clock resets and you will need to break for another meal at the next fifth hour. If you have a little bit of work to do at the end of a day it’s better to have that extra hour available if you need it. It’s also helpful to stagger show departments properly so one group isn’t waiting on another to finish before they can start.

4. Unexpected Challenges

Producers can’t plan for every challenge, but what they can do is create a schedule that allows them the flexibility to more easily handle unforeseen problems. When schedules overlap one another, problems are more likely to happen. For example, imagine booking rehearsal an hour after a speaker’s flight arrives in town. What if that flight is delayed even a half hour? Or that person gets stuck in traffic. What a disaster! Schedules need to afford room to handle those dreaded unexpected challenges.

5. Budget

Budgets loom eerily over events, and are one of the greatest challenges producers face. Hagstrom noted that today, more than ever, producers are constrained by their respective budgets. Way back in the day – 30 or 40 years ago – managers had one main concern: to please their clients no matter the cost. Today, things are a bit more complicated. Budgets play a much greater role in what clients can and can’t do, and despite wanting to exceed a certain dollar amount, they can’t.

“Read the fine print early before it haunts you when the invoice comes.”

6. Low Bidder

Many times clients will submit a request for proposal to several companies when planning their event. This is a perfectly natural occurrence – remember, budgets are tight! However, many times the lowest bidder will fail to disclose certain costs from its quote such as airfare for the crew, overtime, forklifts and local labor laws. While the contract may appear to be more friendly, it’s just an illusion. Companies must read the fine print early before it haunts them later. And they shouldn’t be afraid to go with a higher quote, which typically means a superior product.

7. Experience

While there are many schools that teach staging, audio, engineering and lighting design, the ability to truly plan and execute an event is learned on the job. Because the event planning industry is always changing, it’s crucial that all players involved have the correct experience level and skill set to manage an event. If they don’t, it can significantly hinder operations and the overall product. In addition, working with a well-seasoned team of professionals will help alleviate some of the headaches we discussed because they’ll know what to expect and how to move quick on their feet when a challenge arises.




Alford Media