Whether you’re a seasoned event planning veteran or just dipping your toe into the industry with your first event, you know that the process is no walk in the park. Planning and executing a successful event involves managing numerous moving parts and collaborations with others both in real time and weeks in advance of the big day.

In our 2024 Speaking Industry Benchmark Report, we tapped into the collective experiences of hundreds of event planners, spanning industries like education, business consulting, technology, and even agriculture. Take a look at what they had to say about planning ahead, optimizing communication, keeping things fresh, handling challenges, and more.

Booking earlier keeps you ahead of the game.

In the speaking industry, getting ahead of the game is key to delivering high quality events and unforgettable moments for audiences. The hundreds of event planners who responded to our survey overwhelmingly confirmed this, specifically calling out the importance of communicating early with event partners, breaking things into smaller tasks, and planning well in advance.

“At the planning stage, sit and think through the whole event step by step, making note of everything you will need for each step. This minimizes the risk of guests arriving for lunch and realizing you forgot to buy plates.” – Lisa Christensen White, Delaware Charter Schools Network

“Start planning as far in advance as you can! If your event is an annual event, design a playbook with best practices and contact information that you can utilize each year.” – Jennifer Montgomery, Vanderbilt University

“Always be transparent with all stakeholders in the planning process from the beginning. Trust and communication are key components to successful event execution.” – Reece Anderson, independent event planner

“Prep and schedule communications for an event (after booking) so the narrative is consistent and shared well in advance to give people adequate notice. This will also help the speaker understand how the event is being advertised.” – Alexandria Mitchell, Splunk

Don’t get too comfortable. Keep it fresh.

With event planning, innovation and enthusiasm are crucial to delivering engaging and memorable experiences. Our survey respondents emphasized the need to continually refresh content, harness the power of excitement in promotion, and critically assess traditional practices to ensure their ongoing relevance and effectiveness. These strategies are essential for keeping events vibrant, enjoyable, and impactful for all attendees.

“Mix it up! Don’t keep the same content structure year over year, keep it fresh, dynamic and exciting!” – Cindy Kimball, event planner who works for a corporation

“Do something different than what has been done a million times over — especially in a small area/venue.” – Event planner who works for a non-profit organization

“Do not underestimate the power of enthusiasm when promoting events. It is significant to showcase the fun and useful aspects that attendees will take away.” – Event planner who works in higher education

“Evaluate the effectiveness of everything, and don’t just do something because ‘we always do that.’” – Event planner who works in business consulting

“Stop doing the same things! Mix it up for your audience, and they will be more engaged.” – Hillary Amoyal, WebMD Ignite

When things go wrong, it’s an opportunity to shine.

Event planning is full of surprises, so being ready for anything is key to pulling off a great event. Our survey respondents shared that it’s essential to plan ahead to avoid issues, stay calm and resourceful when things don’t go as expected, and always have a backup plan. Good communication and flexibility help tackle any surprises and keep things running smoothly.

“There are always things that will go wrong. The best you can do is pre-plan. If things still go wrong, try to solve them behind the scenes so the attendees don’t know!” – Gayle Ewer, event planner who works in public media

“There is always going to be something that goes wrong or was unforeseeable. It’s how you overcome, press on, and learn from it that makes the event a success.” – Event planner who works for a business association

“Stay calm in the face of all the new changes.” – Event planner who works in education

“Build plenty of extra time into your run of show to accommodate last-minute changes.” – Event planner who works in technology

“Always have a plan b if a speaker backs out at the last minute. Run of show and communication with all is key so everyone is on the same page.” – Elle Kehoe, event planner who works for a non-profit organization

A few final reminders.

Our survey respondents shared some great tips for organizing successful events. They stressed the importance of getting attendees engaged right from the start, being flexible and willing to work together, and making sure speakers have all the support they need, especially for virtual sessions. Their advice really highlights how thoughtful planning and teamwork can make events both memorable and smooth.

“You have to get people engaged early. If a program starts slow, it will be harder to get the momentum going. Think about ice breakers that are not corny but actually connect to the concepts you are discussing throughout the day.” – Event planner who works for a trade association

“Flexibility, graciousness and a willingness to work together are key points when creating events.” – Event planner who works in higher education

“Include a host or producer whose job is to ensure your speakers have the support they need during the virtual session.” – Anna Hoeser, eBay

“Managing change is easy. Managing people is not. Prioritize people first.” – Event planner who works in agriculture

What advice do you have to share?

We’d love to hear what you think about the topics covered above. What advice do you have to share? What has your experience with virtual and hybrid events been like? Find us on all social media platforms at @aaespeakers, and share your thoughts.

This advice from event organizers is just one small selection of the insights we gathered on the entire speaker booking and event planning process. In the full report, you’ll find all kinds of information on everything from choosing speakers to orchestrating an unforgettable event experience — as well as predictions on what lies ahead for our industry.

Let’s continue to work together to bring amazing events and speakers to audiences. If we can help you find your next speaker, contact us today.

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