All event managers know last-minute changes to a guest list are inevitable.Trying to keep abreast of developments when and as they happen requires round-the-clock vigilance, as well as the ability to think and act under pressure.

Ask any event planner and they’ll tell you that receiving a call from a guest that goes along the lines of: “So sorry! Been struck down with the flu. My PA will come instead”, is a common occurrence. There are a myriad of reasons why guests cancel or send a replacement at the last minute – having to travel for work, attending an urgent meeting or a family crisis are some of the few. Attempting to re-configure your guest list, table settings and name-tags on the day results in wasted time that could be spent on more pressing tasks.

Speed up your reaction time by utilising easily-accessible online invitations.

Most event managers are constantly glued to their phones – and for good reason.  It’s where they co-ordinate and plan every single detail of an event. From sending emails to suppliers to communicating with their colleagues – a mobile phone is an event planner’s lifeline. However, if you’re not using online invitations, you’ll end up wasting huge amounts of time as you check and reply to emails one by one. Having to deal with last minute changes over email isn’t conducive to an efficient and streamlined event. An online management system instantly reflects changes, cutting down time spent on admin, and ensuring you’re up- to-date at any given moment.

Ensure that everyone involved with the management of your event is aware of changes as they occur.

Most of the time, you’ll be communicating directly with a supplier or guest, and without an online invitation platform, the rest of your staff will be in the dark about last-minute changes. Having to relay crucial information – like that fact that your florist has double-booked and you’re now without centrepieces – will result in even more unnecessary time being spent on coordinating the logistics. Avoid an information vacuum by using an online invitation system, where changes are instant and happen in real time. Whether they’re on a mobile or are stuck at the office, all of your event managers will immediately be aware of any changes, enabling them to act timeously.

This is especially useful for those doing registrations off a tablet or iPad, so that when John Smith arrives instead of Paul Jones, they’ll be aware of the change and have a name-tag and personalised gift bag ready for him. Without the ability to view last-minute changes, you risk the implications of being unprepared, and worse, looking unprofessional.  

Online invitations allow you to efficiently streamline operations – even if last-minute changes have to be implemented.

Managing any event is stressful at the best of times, even when everything is going according to plan. Instead of having to run backwards and forwards from the dining hall to the registration desk to the kitchen, an online system allows you to view your updated guest list, altered seating plan and new menu requirements. It’s imperative that if a vegetarian attends in the place of their boss who’s fond of steak, you can quickly communicate with the kitchen enabling you to serve the replacement guest mushroom risotto instead of beef wellington. Being aware of personal details about your guests goes a long way in cementing the image that your brand is one that values and understands their clients.

Optimise your event management further by asking a third-party to communicate with suppliers on your behalf.

If you’re outsourcing your RSVP function to a company like The RSVP Agency, you can arrange with the company to notify your suppliers of any last-minute changes.  Instead of going backwards and forwards with conflicted updates, your event management company can devote a dedicated team to co-ordinate this for you. Having to call the catering company and tell them that you’ll only be needing 15 Halal meals instead of 10, only to find that the number has changed again to 12, is a laborious and unnecessary endeavour. Arrange that the company sends out notifications every hour, on the hour, so that there’s no chance of crossed wires.

Ensure that all of your post-event communication with guests is accurate.

Once an event is over, you’ll want to send out an email or SMS to thank your guests. An online invitation management system will enable you to personalise these message according to whether the guest attended your event or not. Nothing conveys indifference and unprofessionalism like receiving a message that doesn’t apply to you. Avoid the embarrassing scenario of someone thanking them for their attendance, when in fact they were holed up at home with the flu. Instead, send them a message that says: “We’re sorry you missed our Annual Gala. Attached are some photos of the evening and our list of prize winners.” This will differ from those who did attend, who could receive something like: “Thank you for helping to make our Annual Gala a roaring success! Please fill out this short survey about your experience.”

Image Credit: Always Lauren

Manually managing a guest list – whether via Excel or with a pen and paper  – can be the stuff of nightmares. Not only is it a massive waste of time, it’s confusing too, and more often than not leaves event planners frazzled, which sets the tone for the rest of the event – something you definitely want to avoid.

We’ve compiled a list of ways that using an online guest list can simplify and streamline a process that’s traditionally been fraught with hiccups. If you’d like to find more tips, download our guide: RSVP Master Series: Tips for Managing Guest Lists

An online guest list lets you view everything in real time

This means that you’ll be able to see exactly how people have responded to your invitation, as it happens. You’ll be able to tailor supporting services like catering, name tags and seating accordingly. If you notice that a large portion of your potential guests haven’t yet responded, you’ll be able to act with a follow-up call so that you’re not rushing around at the last minute, trying to get hold of people.

You’ll be able to personalise all of your invites – increasing the chances of an affirmative RSVP.

People are a lot more likely to relate to and engage with a message that’s been tailored towards their individual preferences. You’ll be able to invite guests by name, and remember pertinent information that they’ve shared with you before, like the fact that Mr Jones is a vegetarian, and wears a XL t-shirt.

A recent study by Harris Interactive found that a massive 81% of respondents were likely to make additional purchases from a brand after receiving personalised emails. In the same vein, personalising your invitations will dramatically increase the rate of positive RSVPs. This will ultimately position your brand as one that understands their guests and treats them as assets.

Opting to use an online guest list will save you precious time, letting you focus on the tangible logistics of an event.

Instead of having to wade through conflicting Excel spreadsheets while you try to extract the correct data about your guests – an online guest list consolidates all of the guests details for you. Multiple event managers can access it too – which eliminates the frustrating process of having to wait your turn while someone updates their version of Excel.

Identify trends by comparing attendance rates across all of the events you run.

Managing your guest list online helps you to identify which of your guests always attend your functions, the people who always decline and what type of events certain people are most likely to respond to. You’ll then be able to use this information to tailor your events accordingly.

Check your online guest list from anywhere in the world.

Event managers know that frequent travel is a pre-requisite of the job. You may be at a Golf Day in Hermanus on one day, at a conference at the Sandton Convention Centre the next and on your way to a seminar in Mauritius the day after. With an online guest list, you’ll be able to log in from anywhere across the globe – all you’ll need is a mobile internet connected device – making managing your guest list a breeze.

Having an online guest list ultimately reduces the total costs to your company.

If you’re not using an online tool to manage your guest lists, chances are that you’ve had to hire someone specifically for the job. By using a RSVP service instead, you’ll eradicate the need for a full-time guest list manager – saving you thousands of Rands on their salary, their employee benefits and the cost of having to provide office space and the supporting infrastructure.

Besides being convenient, using an online guest list is also sustainable.

Some companies choose to print their invitations because they’re of the opinion that this adds an element of “prestige” – but if you want to position your brand as a “green” company – doing all of your event communication online will emphasise the fact that you care about the environment, and the impact that your events have on it.

Keep the conversation going with pre and post event communication.

An online guest list makes it a lot easier to communicate with your guests before and after the event. The RSVP Agency’s software has built-in tools with pre-loaded templates for emails and SMS – making it really easy to keep everyone informed, and gather valuable feedback after the event.

An online guest list will automatically “cleanse” your list too.

Instead of having to meticulously examine several Excel spreadsheets as you hunt for typos, duplicates and incorrect email addresses – an online guest list automatically does this for you. You’ll be able to spend the time you would have cleaning up your guest list on dedicating yourself to the little details that can either make or break an event’s success.

Image Credit: Vogel PR