It was going to be amazing night, the pre-event VIP reception with the string quartet was perfect for rubbing shoulders. The silent auction had some of the best donations in the organization’s history. Dinner was prepared by one of the region’s top chefs. The keynote speaker was inspiring and understood the importance of the mission & vision. The six live auction items were sought after by all in attendance. The pledge section was going to give every person in the room a chance to support the organization at any level. Finally, the entertainment for the night was a band the organization has been trying to book for the last 3 years.
With so many elements that went right when planning, what is the one thing an organization has complete control over, but so often can wreck a great event? Timing.
The saying ‘timing is everything’ is extremely important when it comes to raising money. At an event like a benefit auction it can mean the difference between success and failure. So why do we let something we control hold us hostage during an event? There are a variety of reasons, but most commonly time slips away from us in very reasonable ways. A volunteer wants to extend the silent auction 15 minutes. The dinner service takes 20 minutes longer to set then we expected. A last minute conversation with the MC delays the start of the program 5 minutes, or maybe the MC was waiting for a cue to go onstage when the organization expected them to do it on their own. None of these examples seem dangerous individually, but they never seem to travel alone.
Much like there are many ways for time to slip away, there are also just as many ways to keep it in check. Here are three ideas I like to share with organizations to help them stay on time.
- Have A Plan: At the very beginning of this article I gave an example of an excellent event layout. However, I did not include the times for each item. I did not refer to all the hidden tasks that need to happen behind the scenes to make that great event happen. That is where detailed plan is important.
Pro-Tip: Be realistic. If it takes 45 minutes to serve the food, then don’t put 40 minutes on the timeline. If you are unrealistic in your plan your plan will fail.
- Who's the Boss?: The best laid plans are only good if you stick to them. The best events I do have 1 person who makes the decisions that often can keep an event on time. The 1 person will say no when a volunteer wants to extend the silent auction. They are also the person that forces the MC away from his or her dinner and on to stage to keep the show moving.
Pro-Tip: Stick to your guns. If you are the person who is ultimately responsible for the success of an event, don’t listen to the volunteers and others who think we should throw out the timeline because they want the bar open longer. They are not the one who shoulders a bad decision will fall on.
- Master of Ceremonies: Finding an experienced and professional MC can be a challenge. However, that person can make or break an event. It’s the little things. If you have an MC who checks their watch all night and even is a little rushed when on stage moving through announcements then you have found the PERFECT person for your group.
Pro-Tip: Time is our most important commodity. Respect your attendees and stay on task, time is precious to each of us. Put yourself in your attendees shoes and make the most of each minute they are in the room.
As you can see there are many ways to lose track of time in your event, but remember that every minute an organization loses you increase the chance of attendees leaving your event. Once an attendee leaves your event you have lost the opportunity for them to support your cause financially. No matter how entertaining an event is, the reason for the event is to raise money, so consider your timeline and how you will implement it this year.