It takes years of fine-tuning to produce flawless events. And when the stakes are high (think big crowds, VIPs, television coverage), there’s no room for error. My method of execution has been honed through years of experience producing business-theater events for a Fortune 500 company—including one in which Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was televised live.

Here are four tips to help you plan with confidence and rest assured you will achieve precision every time.

1. Create a vision for the target audience. Develop a mission statement. How will you reach and engage the target audience? Write a summary of your overall vision and how you will achieve success. Keep in mind that the conference or event is a living testament to an organization’s brand.

Example: This interactive and educational event will position the company as the technology thought leader for the eyewear industry.

2. Develop a step-by-step narrative for your stakeholders. Paint a picture of the event for management, describing the mood and setting the tone. This is the stage where the vision/message is crystallized.

Example: Energizing music plays in the background as company representatives walk onstage. Attendees notice the dynamic atmosphere created by professional lighting; their eyes are drawn to the corporate logo and event branding on the two screens bordering the stage, and to the green up-lighting at the front of the room. The branded stage is lit and waiting for the CEO to welcome guests.

3. Drill down to the micro level and create a day-of-event production schedule. Once management has signed off on the vision, it’s time to think through the event, step by step. This is a very timeconsuming process; however, a deep level of detail ensures perfect synchronization. Your organization will appreciate your production values. Write everything down in a clear and transferable manner, so that another person could run with it should an emergency occur and you are unable to attend. Make sure every question is addressed for:

☐ Crew and cast arrival time
☐ Key contacts
☐ When and how much time sound check will require
☐ Event staffing
☐ Installation and strike time
☐ Traffic coordination
☐ Security
☐ Stage management
☐ Floor plans and site layouts
☐ Program timing
☐ Stage direction
☐ Rehearsal times

4. Practice makes perfect; don’t leave success to chance. Schedule a preevent meeting with venue management where you present a synopsis of the organization, background on the VIPs, the purpose of the meeting, expectations and special needs of the group. A member of the planning staff should stay behind to discuss specific issues with catering and audio-visual providers. Next, hold a walk-through review of the entire sequence of events.

Why are dry runs so important? For one, they expose any holes in your planning that might not crop up until the event goes live. A dry run allows timing and transition points between speakers and/or entertainers to be fine-tuned. It also ensures that everyone involved is on the same page.

Finally, time to enjoy flawless execution. A thorough planning process ensures the event will achieve the client’s goals of rewarding, communicating with or inspiring their audience. Afterward, they will thank their lucky stars you’re on their team.


Katrina Duncan is conference and exhibits manager for California Speech Language & Hearing Association.

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These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to

Alyssa Alexander was recently hired as director of catering at Hotel Allegro in Chicago.

1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new position as director of catering?