Updated: Sep 12, 2018
The word experience by definition means to have practical contact with and an observation of facts or events. It's important that I start the post with the definition, simply because some people just don't get it.
There are planners out there who are more interested in planning an event based on what they want, to the point that they fail to take into account the needs of the guests or target audience who have to attend the events.
This struck me most recently with a story that was floating around the internet at the start of the month, about a bride-to be who called off her wedding because guests wouldn't pay over $1000 to attend her wedding.
It's ok to plan your event round what you want, but at the same time, you need to be reasonable and mindful of the guest experience. In the above mentioned case, that was a situation where the feelings of the guests be damned. It's no wonder that her friends and family declined to attend the wedding.
So, before you have guests whispering or rather, blasting you on social media about the negative experience they had at your event, here are somethings that need to be considered:
1. Branding and decoration- from the time you invite a guest to an event, that is where the experience begins. Invitations or flyers are the first contact that persons would have with your event, so it sets the tone. Personally, I love receiving a well put together invitation that gives me a hint about the theme of an event, because it gets me hyped with anticipation for the upcoming experience. If you have a themed event, then the importance of branding and decor becomes increasing significantly because people come with preconceived notions of what they should see. For example, you can't plan a winter wonderland Christmas event and your event colors be and pink and yellow with palm trees. It's not to say those elements can't be used for a Christmas party, but you might want to rethink calling it a winter wonderland.
2. Theme- not every event theme is as extravagant as the Gastby; some can be as simple as utilizing colors. Whatever the theme is, it should be clear throughout the event to bring a level of cohesion to your guest experience. Especially if you advertised the theme before the event. You wouldn't want to go to a party advertised as a water party, only to find a few puddles of water.
3. Accessibility- people often tend to forget this, but there are two main types of accessibility to consider. Firstly, be mindful that not everyone is physically capable of accessing every room they wish at a venue, so unless you have a handpicked group of persons that you know personally of their capability, then you should look for locations that have wheelchair access and elevators if needed. The second type of accessibility is the geographical location of your event. For example, if you have a wedding ceremony in one location and then your guests have to drive over an hour to reach your reception venue, then that's not an easily accessible location, especially if some of your guests don't drive. Or with a destination event, even if you planned for more than a year in advance, if one of your guests bows out, you have to be considerate because situations change. Consider the economic status of your guests because a destination event is more than airfare, its accommodation, meals and sometimes transport.
3. Space- Having too small or too big a space to accommodate your guests can be detrimental to the overall experience. If it's too small, no amount of saying "it's an intimate" affair will ease the feeling of having no personal space or lack of elbow room to traipse around your venue...plus too crowded a room is a fire hazard and safety at any event needs to be a planner's number one priority. Alternatively, too big a space, especially if it's used inefficiently, gives the idea that maybe you were expecting more guest than those that arrived. Using partitions is an easy way to combat that issue. Big spaces also means that guests can be disengaged from the happenings of the event.
4. Amenities-Adequate amenities are a must. These include parking, well maintained restrooms, WIFI, proper lighting outside the venue, security. And depending on your type of event, you may need a public address system (PA), technical capabilities such as projectors and its also easy to forget, but a space with plug sockets might be nice. If you have an outdoor event, you may need generators. Air condition in an enclosed room or at least a steady air flow should also be considered. These things which may seem like "no brainers" really can make the difference between a good and bad experience on the part of your guests.
5. Music- nothing sets the tone like music. The type of music played can convey a theme, for instance, an 80's party with 2018 music is not an 80's party. Also to be considered is the volume of the music; too loud and guests may not be able to converse and too soft, they won't be able to enjoy it. In the end, nothing gets a party started like music to which your guests can shake a tail feather.
6. Refreshments- even if your guests can excuse the lack of proper bathrooms or parking a mile from the venue, they will almost certainly be 99 years old and a day and remember the time they had soggy pastry, cold rice and raw chicken at your event. Ensure your food is correctly served and stored, and most importantly, that it tastes fantastic. And even more importantly, ensure there is enough of it for all your guests. Lack of food has caused many a Facebook rant.
So, these are my top items that need to be considered to give guests an experience that they won't soon forget! And here's a bonus tip...put yourself in the shoes of your guests and if it's not something you would want to experience in their shoes, maybe rethink how your event being planned.