The alternate title for this post could be – “Would YOU want to attend an event on Valentine’s Day?” I was inspired because of an event coming up on Valentine’s Day next weekend. There is a large conference that takes place over Valentine’s Day weekend and the evening on Valentine’s Day itself is a large networking event. In trying to figure out who was going to cover the event, a conversation began around why the hosts would decide to schedule the event (and the conference) over Valentine’s Day.
Of course, Valentine’s Day isn’t the most major holiday, and people who are single may prefer to have an event to attend rather than sitting home watching Lifetime movies. And not everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day anyway – it’s not like the event is scheduled over Christmas. But it did make me wonder if the event planners thought it through.
Which gave me the idea to repost this oldie but goodie – how to select a date for your event. Thinking about holidays and other commitments your guests may have (or their preferences for spending certain days with friends and family instead of at your event – I’m looking at you, Valentine’s Day wedding choosers!) and the other items to think through before committing to a date. Enjoy!
Selecting a date for an event isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Depending on the event, there might be multiple factors at play. There are so many things to think about, and if you miss something, it’s harder to change the date of an event after you’ve already started planning. Here are just a few things to think about before you get started:
Who NEEDS to be there and what are their schedules?
Every event has VIPs and stakeholders. A wedding can’t take place without the bride and groom, and usually the bride and groom’s immediate family. A big gala or annual event can’t take place without the president of the company or maybe the board of directors. A client event can’t take place without the clients.
Identify whoever these stakeholders are and divide them into two lists – who HAS to be there and who you would really LIKE to be there, but you can be willing to compromise. You might not have a second list, but for larger events with tons of stakeholders, this might be necessary to make sure the event happens. Sometimes it really is impossible to get everyone in one room.
Once you have those lists, figure out availability. What else have they committed to already? A board of directors might have other commitments to consider. A president of a company might be booked up weeks, months or years in advance.
If your stakeholders are VIPs, make sure you know how to find out their schedules. In many cases, you might need to work with their assistant or staff. If you are trying to book a speaker, he might be represented by a scheduler or speakers bureau. If this is someone you need to be working with often, it pays to have a good relationship with whomever handles the schedule – they will be more likely to answer your requests promptly and let you know if holes open up.
Identify what else is going on
No matter where you live or where you are holding an event, chances are there is at least another event competing with yours. This happens all the time in DC – on any given night there are hundreds of events. Think about who your guests are and what else they might be interested in. For example, in DC there are a lot of policy wonks and government types. If you are trying to get those types to your event, you would want to consider what other policy and government type events are also going on. If your organization works closely with other organizations, check their event schedules. For social events like weddings, figure out what else is going on in your circles. Do you have a cousin getting married around the same time? Or a friend from college with whom you share many mutual friends? There is no way to avoid every single competing event, but at least be aware of the major players.
Also think about events like the super bowl or the Oscars. That might not conflict with your target audience, but if it does, you might want to schedule for another evening. Also consider local events. For example, in DC there is a big festival every spring – The Cherry Blossom Festival. This is a less than ideal time to schedule an event downtown because there are so many tourists in town for the festival, prices are high and hotels are often sold out.
Tread carefully around holidays. There are some holidays that most people want to spend with their families – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter. Other holidays might work, but consider “holiday travel” – is it going to be more expensive for your guests to get to your event because the flights are more expensive for a weekend like Memorial Day, Labor Day or Columbus Day? Many couples are drawn to the idea of a Valentine’s Day wedding – how romantic! But because Valentine’s Day is so romantic, many couples would prefer to spend it with each other, not with you.
Also consider religious holidays and the demographics of your group. Last year, HSMAI (a meetings industry conference and trade show) booked over Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday. There were attendees who were either unable to attend or very unhappy with this decision.
If you have your heart set on a particular venue (if you always wanted to get married at the plaza and there’s no possible way you could get married anywhere else) you will need to reach out about availability as soon as possible.
If you want to hold an outdoor event, obviously you need to schedule it for a time when the weather would be most cooperative. But even if you don’t plan to have an event outdoors, think about the weather and the size of your event. If you are thinking about hosting a huge conference with hundreds (or thousands) of guests coming from around the country, you might want to avoid the winter months when travel can be snarled by blizzards. If you are looking for a destination wedding in the Caribbean, you might want to avoid hurricane season. Most people think about cold weather as a time to avoid, but also consider scorching heat. You might not want to plan an event in Florida for July if it would involve a lot of walking from building to building.
There are so many things to consider when scheduling any kind of event – it’s best to think all of this through before you set any kind of date. It’s always better to find the perfect date the first time rather than have to make a change after you’ve already signed a contract or sent out the invitations.