A number of years ago, I had a client who was a lawyer by training and he had several sayings by which he was known.  One of them was “The devil is in the details” and this could not be more true than for event planning.

True risk mitigation regarding event execution starts with the contract.  But when you get to making sure the finer details are articulated, you want to make sure every possible question is asked and answered.  You will be working through the facility’s processes and operational staff and you must make sure both of you have the same understanding of what you expect.  Most hotels and convention centres utilize some form of Banquet Event Order or BEO.  Because the BEOs are the facility’s understanding of your requirements, you should provide them as much detail as possible.  We use function sheets to describe everything from room set-ups to staging requirements to food and beverage and telecommunications.

There are some pieces of information that should go on every function sheet and BEO:

  • Location of the event (facility, room, etc.)
  • Event organizer (you) including contact and billing information
  • Facility organizer (often called a convention services manager (CSM))
  • Date of the event
  • Times for the event (set-up, run and dismantle)
  • Room set-up
  • Number of people expected

http://tinyurl.com/8xu9yscOther details you should include but are dependent on the specific type of event may include:

  • food and beverage menu selected
  • service instructions (buffet, plated, white glove, etc.)
  • staffing (such as bartenders, ticket sellers, etc.)
  • room set-up details (such as how many chairs at each table)
  • timeline as to how the event unfolds including presentation times
  • description of the event including speakers and purpose
  • audio-visual installations (so the set-up staff know what they will have to work around)
  • size and height of staging
  • floor plan (what goes where)
  • telecommunications requirements (telephone and internet)
  • security
  • water stations (bottles, jugs or coolers) vs water service at each table
  • centrepieces and decor
  • colour of linens and stage skirts
  • costing of everything covered (if it is not on the BEO and not subsequently ordered (and signed for) you don’t have to pay for it)

After the facility translates (and yes that is the correct word) the information on the function sheets to their format of BEO, you must review them with a fine tooth comb to make sure they are accurate and describe what you want to happen.  For example if you asked for 100 cups of coffee on the function sheet and the BEO has 1000, make sure the BEO is corrected (before you sign it) or you will be charged for 1000 cups of coffee.  If you are not sure about something and what it means, ASK.

You should provide your functions sheets to the facility at least 30 days before the event (you can still fine-tune the guarantee, usually up to 72 hours prior to the first event function) and the facility should provide the BEOs at least 21 days prior to the first day.  Finally, you should review the BEOs with the on-site staff at a pre-con meeting before the event to reinforce what is expected to be delivered.

If you’ve detailed it down to a “T”, that devil will look for someone else.

Written by Phil Ecclestone, CMP