by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | August 01, 2010

Whether new to the job or an established veteran, we all have experienced the pitfalls of planning: bad judgment, a naive client, or pressure from a boss or board.

When you factor in the added stresses of the lengthy recession, job anxiety, and staff that is volunteer or inexperienced, the odds of making mistakes are even greater. Following are the three most common errors planners make, along with advice on how to avoid them.

Forcing a Venue
When you select a meeting space that's not ideal for your event -- perhaps for budgetary reasons, date constraints or client preferences -- it's called "forcing a venue." The facility might be too small, too big, have the wrong architectural flow, lack the necessary infrastructure, etc., to match the goals of the event.

Suppose a boss or client insists on holding a fundraiser in a five-star hotel and pulling it off on a tiny budget. If the planner uses the property, it will be necessary to cut back in other areas, such as using a space too small for the group or requiring attendees to pay for their own parking or drinks.

Your venue needs to be vetted through a very specific and detailed filter. Place your audience, specifications and objectives first. If you must push the envelope, make sure you leverage the venue's attributes (e.g., don't hold a barbecue at a place noted for its high-end cuisine, or an auto show in a facility that has lots of charm but not enough parking to accommodate all the display models.

Giving Short Shrift to Sponsors
Too often, planners rele­gate sponsors to the back burner. They treat them as an afterthought to the event and, rather than approaching them strategically, resort to a "take the money and run" approach. This not only is grossly inefficient, it actually can hurt your bottom line.

Successful sponsorship is precipitated by a well-designed pricing structure and hierarchy, and must be professionally orchestrated. Remember that some partners might not invest as much as others, but their profile might have greater value and drive credibility or attendance dollars. Long-term sponsorship (measured in part by sponsor satisfaction surveys and a continuing commitment to future events) requires an investment in fulfillment excellence.

If you don't understand sponsorship and don't have the skill set or time to invest, outsource it. Many specialized marketing agencies can drive sponsorship for you by setting up a low-cost plan for a percentage of the sponsorship they secure for your event.

Social Networking
Social networking is not an isolated strategy; it's an important marketing and communications channel. For social networking to bring value to your event, it needs to be fully integrated into your marketing plan and driven with the same skill and purpose as any other channel in your campaigns.
Putting up a generic Facebook page or creating a Twitter account without any strategy behind them is like throwing a cheap home gym in your garage, leaving it untouched and expecting to wake up the next morning ripped and toned. If you commit to a social networking channel, you need to work many steps ahead of any print material.

Again, if you don't have the skills or time to do this yourself, outsource the function. You need to tend it, work it hard, keep it current and relevant, or don't invest at all. It's worse to have an inert Facebook page up than to not have one at all. Furthermore, as with so many other aspects of meetings, metrics are essential; smart planners measure the success of their social networking efforts.