How to plan a successful event in Nigeria

by Itunuoluwa Adebo

You’re at an event, you see those napkins fanned out in a perfect display on the catering table? The beautiful coloured lights bouncing off the wall? Someone spent the morning twisting them with a practised spin of the wrist. The RSVP list being scanned for your name? Someone spent months painstakingly updating it so the name-tag about to be handed to you could be cross-checked and alphabetised at midnight the night before.

Event planning in Nigeria is a pretty crazy affair, with insane traffic, unreliable power supply and the sheer “IDGAF” attitude of some vendors. It requires acute organisation and constant attention to detail, if everything goes off without a hitch, it often goes without notice, but if it goes down-south  it’s a public display of failure.

1. Start Early: There is no such thing as having too much time to plan an event. For large-scale events, start planning four to five months in advance. For smaller events, one to two months is reasonable. Try to finalise all major contracts (venue and vendors) a full month before the event date.

2. Create a planning Document: Start with the day of the event, and create a detailed list backtracking every task that needs to happen, assigning each a firm deadline and responsible team member. Some deadlines may change, but use it as the master reference for your team, everyone checking things off as they get accomplished.

3. Negotiate with all Vendors: Everything is negotiable – even when they tell you it’s not. Before a conversation with a vendor, make a list of everything you need from them, determine your budget and then give them a number that is 5 – 10% lower. There are always unforeseen costs (unprecedented price hikes, last minute change in plans etc), so allow some room for such. Go through the proposal with a fine-tooth comb and tell them which sections of the estimate are too high. Vendors are up against dozens of competitors and will almost always give you a discount to win your business.

4. Divide and Conquer: Assign portions of the event to each team member. If everyone has ownership of a piece of the puzzle (set-up, registration, catering), details are less likely to slip through the cracks and team members will feel more involved.

5. Have a Plan B for EVERYTHING: Something will be late, something won’t arrive at all, and something will most certainly go very, very wrong. Anticipate which aspects will more significantly affect your event and create backup plans for each.

6.Make it Social: Events are a great way to harness your client’s social media presence. Leave a sign-in sheet for guests’ Twitter handles. Create a custom hashtag  for the event and encourage attendees to tweet about it. Post pictures of the event on the company blog or Facebook page and allow guests to tag themselves.

7. Do a Mental Walk-Through before The Real One: About two weeks before the event, mentally walk through every minute of the event, from set-up to break down. You’ll be surprised how many last minute tasks you catch. Then schedule the final venue walk-through a week before the event, and you’ll be prepared with all the last-minute details. 

8. Take Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures: Pictures are the best way to illustrate an event’s success. If there’s budget, hire a photographer and create a specific shot list (a shot of the full room, a focus on branding, etc.). If not, assign a team member to the task and equip them with a high-quality camera. For many clients, if there’s not a picture of it for the recap, it didn’t happen.

The event is over, we know you’re tired, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, but there’s one more thing.

10. Arrange for your photographer to send you a few choice photos that you can upload immediately. While your client is still buzzing from a well-executed event, send them a beautiful recap touting all of the successes. Once you’ve done this, collapse and sleep for days.

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