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Lessons from the field: Top tips to consider for event planning

Lessons from the field: Top tips to consider for event planning


Content provided in collaboration with Québec City Business Destination

It goes without saying that effective planning and cooperation with a venue’s experts are the cornerstones for any successful event. From timelines to tactics, seasoned event planners usually can tick off their to-do lists without a hitch.

However, there are some tricks of the trade that are often overlooked by planners; by addressing these from the onset, they can not only mitigate stress levels and event planning nightmares but also increase an event’s ROI.

We sat down to discuss these tips with two of Québec City’s event planning specialists: André Beauchamp, vice president of operations at Capital HRS Inc., the exclusive food and beverage partner of the Québec City Convention Centre, and André Auger, president of Décorum, an event decoration company, and with more than 15 years’ experience in event planning.

Plains of Abraham

Photo of Plains of Abraham by François Gamache

Communication with Stakeholders

It stands to reason that before planning an event, you need to sit down with your stakeholders to map out their objectives, budgets, target audiences, wish lists and more. However, attention must be paid to how you manage your communication with stakeholders.

Has the company nominated one go-to person for all decision-making, or must you gain approval from a committee? Is the leadership team truly on the same page with respect to what the event is supposed to achieve? The answers will not only influence your communications strategy with stakeholders but also impact your planning timelines.

What’s more: Do your stakeholders have realistic expectations and a clear understanding of the attendee profiles?

Mr. Beauchamp explains that these types of misalignments, if not covered at the beginning of your planning, can wreak havoc later on. It is critical that stakeholders has a firm grasp of target attendees; this will dictate the theme, activities and food of your event. “For example, if attendees are not in an event planner’s demographic, he or she can build an attendee profile to better target event goers’ needs and expectations,” Mr. Beauchamp says. Suppliers can then work with the planner to meet, and exceed, expectations.

Chapelle du  Musee de l'Amerique

Chapelle du Musée de l'Amérique francophone by Jonathan Robert

Strageic Budgeting

Budgets are more than just a bottom line number.

Where you allocate your dollars can make a huge difference on event-goers’ and your stakeholders’ satisfaction.

“You need to be realistic with your clients regarding their vision, ideas and budget,” explains Mr. Auger. “Stakeholders may not always be aware just how much a décor they found on Pinterest may actually cost. You absolutely need to do your homework to provide them with an itemized list to give them a clear view of how much their ideas may tally up at the end.”

These types of lists, in tune with the event’s main goals, will also go a long way in determining where you should invest more and where you should save. The key? Prioritize based on what will truly impact the attendee experience and bottom line.

For example, if you break down the budget item by item, what do you deem will generate the most impact for attendees—all without breaking the bank? Do you need to spend on exceptionally fancy table centerpieces during an evening gala? Will attendees prefer an exceptional dining experience? Are your stakeholders willing to provide the same meals to an event’s technicians or invited artists—or must less expensive meals be planned to control the budget?

“Whenever you ask attendees what they remember about an event, it is by far the food and activities surrounding the event,” says Mr. Beauchamp. “When businesspeople are travelling to a unique location, such as Québec City, they want to taste the local cuisine and regional fare.” In other words, if attendees aren’t happy, your stakeholders probably won’t be either. Skip the run-of-the-mill buffet you had circa decades ago; do your research and talk to local experts at your venue to concoct amazing dining experiences.

For off-site activities, your philosophy should be the same: How can you cost-effectively wow attendees? If you are planning an event in a location like Québec City, you need to tap into what activities and venues will enable you to fully immerse event-goers in the area’s culture, history and natural surroundings. If your event is taking place at Château Laurier Québec, for example, your event goers are only a few steps away from the sprawling grounds of Québec City’s Plains of Abraham and historic district; both offer a multitude of affordable, yet distinctive, options for an off-site activity—indoor or outdoor—all year long.

Quebec appetizers

Photo from Québec City Convention Centre by SCCQ

Never Underestimate Logistics

Planning an event, whether big or small, entails a razor-sharp focus on logistics. For starters, make sure you select an event venue that is central and easily accessible by taxi and public transportation. You also want to make sure that the venue is close to major tourist attractions and your off-site activities so as to minimize additional transportation logistics and costs. For example, Delta Québec is located only a five-minute walk from the historical streets of Québec City and linked to the Québec City Convention Centre by a tunnel.

Another key factor for streamlining your event logistics: establish close ties with your suppliers—from food services to your event’s entertainment at meal times to decorators to audio-visual technicians. Rather than simply put in orders with dates and times, discuss with them how the event programming is laid out, how much time the venue allows for set-up and dismantling, and any special requests your stakeholders or conference speakers may have. The more proactive you are in honing out the finer logistical details with your suppliers, the less likely you’ll be scrambling for Plan B’s during the event.

As an event planner you can never be too organized, but there is no one winning formula. Every event, every client is different. However, by properly managing communications, expectations and requirements—all while keeping your eye on the event’s objectives—you are sure to pull off a success business event.

Québec City Business Destination

Québec City Business Destination was established to showcase Québec City as a meeting destination, regardless of venue choice and meeting size. By creating a single entity with Québec City Tourism’s business travel team and the Québec City Convention Centre, the destination now offers meeting planners a single, stress-free stop for all their questions and needs.

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