After several months of planning and preparation, with a sigh of relief, I’m happy to announce that I have successfully survived my first event planning experience. The University of Alabama’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter held its first regional activity on Saturday, Feb. 6, and as the vice president of UA’s chapter, I was very excited to take on the role of event coordinator.
I know many PR students get into the major because they view event planning as somewhat of a glamorous job. The title of “event coordinator” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I certainly thought so. I could see myself now: a younger version of Jennifer Lopez’s character in the movie “The Wedding Planner.” Yes, I envisioned myself in her shoes, earpiece and all, running the show. Besides the fact this wasn’t a wedding we were planning (oh yeah, and this was real life), JLo’s character and I have a lot of similar traits. We both like to be organized, take charge of a situation and do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Stepping back to reality, I found myself quickly learning that event planning is a lot of hard work with hardly any glamour. It requires you to be a great communicator, very attentive to detail and good at managing your stress. One of my main jobs was to schedule the speakers for the entire event. I wasn’t too worried about getting this done since I already had experience with scheduling speakers for our monthly PRSSA meetings. Coming back from Christmas break, you can imagine my distress when I realized the event was a little over a month away, and I only had about four out of 15 speakers confirmed. As I took a few deep breaths in and out, I knew I had to keep myself from falling into panic mode. I had to get my priorities in order, and getting speakers was at the top of my list. With the help of our entire event planning committee, over the next two weeks, we were able to get all of our speakers confirmed. Ahhh, another sigh of relief.
Next, we had to get people registered to attend. What good were 15 speakers without an audience? Our committee started to hit our marketing efforts hard. We were tweeting, Facebooking, e-mailing, calling and anything else you can think of to get the word out. The whole objective of our event was to connect PR students with professionals who could teach us more about the field.
As our registration deadline approached, the number of attendees wasn’t as high as we wanted it to be. Oh no, another sense of panic was approaching. In order to avoid any panic, the committee made a unanimous decision to extend the deadline. With the extension, the number of attendees steadily climbed all the way up to the day of the event. The light at the end of the tunnel was certainly near.
All the preparations were made, speakers were confirmed, attendees were registered, food was ordered and the event materials were made. Now all that was left to do was actually have the event. Nervous thoughts ran through my mind the night before the event. I was trying to think of anything that I might have overlooked. I was hoping everything would run smoothly, but I knew I had to be ready in case something went wrong.
It was early Saturday morning as I and the rest of the committee arrived at the Bryant Conference Center to make sure everything was set up and ready to go. As the attendees began to arrive, another slight sense of nervousness ran through me. “This is it,” I thought. I was excited for what the day would hold and really hoped the students were going to enjoy the event we worked so hard to put together. The day went on and, to my pleasant surprise, everything was going according to plan. The speakers were great and the students really seemed to be getting a lot out of their time at the event. Ahhh, I gave one last huge sigh of relief as I saw our months of hard work being carried out.
Although I’m no JLo, I felt my first experience planning an event was very successful. It came with several bumps in the road, but I learned you have to be flexible with your plan and ready for anything. What I value most from this experience was seeing the event run smoothly and creating new relationships with the many speakers I was in contact with. Our PRSSA chapter has already received great feedback from the attendees and speakers.
As I get closer to starting my professional career, I look forward to encountering the next PR challenge that comes my way. I know with every new endeavor comes an opportunity to learn and improve your knowledge and skills, and I plan to take advantage of each opportunity as it comes.
by Megan Parks