It’s a Duck Feet Life: A Day in the Life of an Event Planner

After nearly a year of planning, planning and more planning, the Castle events team is hot off the heels of a large conference we helped manage in Dallas,Texas. The program was a great success with more than 1900 people attending three days of keynotes, breakout sessions, trainings, a technology pavilion/trade show, and special events (both on and off site). Finally able to catch a breath on the flight home, I asked myself, “Do people (aside from meeting planners) really know what goes into planning one of these things? So I thought I might share “A Day in the Life” of this crazy business….

(We have already been here three days setting up and coordinating a myriad of last minute details before the show).

5:30am – Rise and Shine.  Don my “event slippers,” the most comfortable shoes I own. I’ll be logging more than 30,000 steps (i.e. 15 miles) on my pedometer today…so happy feet are paramount!

6:00am – Relieve overnight security in staff office (rooms with valuable equipment and access to back of the house must be secured overnight). Check all morning meeting rooms and make sure A/V and breakfast is being set.  Registration crew arrives and briefed on today’s staffing plan.

6:30am – Registration and breakfast opens.  People already waiting in line.  Let the fun begin!

7:15am – Conference photographer arrives.  Brief him on shot list.

7:45am – Time to move the crowd from breakfast into general session which is a solid five minute walk away.  When food is involved, people are slow to move.  We flicker the lights, chime and do a “Voice of God” broadcast announcing start of the program. People start moving.  1900 people sat in less than 15 minutes.  Great job!

8:00am – Impressive keynote speech by CEO.  Live streaming broadcast to website.

8:13am  – Agenda on the hotel’s digital display is not reading correctly.  Call hotel to correct.

9:00am  – Make weather call for tonight’s outside function.  Only 15% chance of rain so it stays outside.  Good news since the indoor option was definitely a tight squeeze for this size crowd.

10:22am – Uneasy call from one of the presenting trainers.  It seems three laptops are missing out of the 30 we set up in their training room…even though we had overnight security.  Uh- oh.  Make some calls to the hotel and security company to find out more.

10:30am – Call back from the trainer. One of their colleagues moved the laptops, nothing is missing.  Crisis averted.

11:10am – Microphone not working in Ballroom A; need audio input for a laptop in Ballroom E.  Make sure the A/V technician takes care of this.

12:15pm – Lunch and trade show opens.  Checked and double-checked way in advance.  Everything looks good.

12:18pm – Power goes out for a whole row of booths in the trade show.  Jump into action mode with the Nextel.  Luckily, exhibitors are gracious and continue going about their business despite the hiccup. Extra cords added and power back up in 15 minutes time. During break, more circuits are added to all booths to avoid this happening during the rest of exhibit hours.

12:55pm – Two pairs of glasses and cell phone submitted to lost and found.

1:40pm – Check on the staff setting the outdoor function. Interrupted.  Room on the mezzanine is set for theater style and needs to be switched to classroom style with electrical wiring for 30 laptops…all in 20 minutes. Make the appropriate 911 calls on the Nextel. Done in 15 minutes. Whew.

2:15pm – Check on registration staff.  1631 of 1921 have checked in so far. Not bad!

Afternoon – Continue to check rooms for the afternoon sessions, make sure the evening event function is being set and put out small fires.  Make confirmation calls for tomorrow’s transportation and off-site event.

6:00pm – Welcome reception doors open. Staff at door checking name badges. Specialty cocktails passed, band plays, buffets open.

8:00pm – Despite the 96 degree heat, attendees are having a wonderful time.

9:00pm – Folks still mingling.  Good networking time. Management decision is made to keep the event and bar open an additional hour.

10:45pm – Staff sits down to eat.

11:00pm – Make sure security has arrived at all of their posts.

11:30pm – Remove all of today’s easel signage and put out signs for next day.

12:30am – Time to catch a few zzzz’s before we get up and do it again tomorrow.

A meeting planner friend once told me that to an attendee or outsider, all events should have the appearance of a duck gliding smoothly over the surface of the water. Everything should seem effortless and graceful.  However, what no one can see are the duck’s little feet pedaling like mad underneath the surface doing all the work.  Hats off to our Castle team of “duck feet” for their tremendous effort to make this and every event we produce a seamless success!

We’d love to hear from you.  Tell us about your crazy “Day in the Life”…

The Castle Group, Executive Vice President, Keri McIntosh
Written By: Keri McIntosh


Outdoors of the Castle Group office