There are many things that go to contribute towards making an event great.

It could be a new product. It could be the draw of a well-known personality. It could even be a great band to get the party started.

However, I think that the greatest secret to a great event is …………… An achievable schedule.

I am sure that everybody who reads this will have been to an event where things have not run to time. Where the chance of hearing that great band is significantly shortened because of events before they were due to start, overran.

Now there are four things that can generally cause this.

  1. The guests and delegates arrive late in significant enough numbers to cause a delay at the start of the event.
  2. The event starts late due to the inability of those moderating it to get people moved into position in a sensible time. (This can be very common at dinners.)
  3. The food takes too long to serve.
  4. Finally and most crucially the schedule, or part of it, for the event is unrealistic.

With respect to item number 1, I have to say with the exception of extenuating circumstances, you have only yourselves to blame. So please wherever possible get to your event in good time.

With respect to item number 2, this is the responsibility of the organizers to engage people, or someone in particular, who can command the room(s) to get those present shifted into position.

On this subject, I am naturally experienced enough to comment. To give you an example I have had the privilege of working with one of the top auctioneers in the country, Mr. Ed Rising at several charity events. Our first event together was an incredible success where we raised over £250,000 for charity. The event ran within a couple of minutes due time all evening.

They had employed me in my role as a toastmaster because the event had been held at London’s Guildhall, where they felt that I “looked the part”. However, due to the location of the event the following year moving to less formal surroundings, the organizers decided that they would dispense with my services because they felt that I wasn’t needed. On the night where there were 650 guests present, the event ran so behind time that Ed began his auction 70 minutes late, putting him at considerable inconvenience.

However, I ran an event in the same less formal venue, as chosen by this other organization, 4 days beforehand and my guest numbers were 1150 people. My event started bang on time.

On speaking with Ed afterwards, he confirmed my suspicions in that the organisation had tried to do it themselves and the person entrusted with the job had lacked the presence to make it happen. Having started the meal nearly 40 minutes late there was then a knock-on effect in the kitchen which caused the further delay.

This then brings us to item number 3. Food delays. On the whole most professional catering companies, particularly those at the top of their game, get this wrong very rarely. However, even they can be caught out.

The example used in item number 2 is where things are beyond their control. A delay then has a knock-on effect. However, their timing often can be got wrong where they do not calculate how long it takes to serve each course.

City caterers running dinners and banquets invariably never get this wrong. Mainly because the rooms that are holding the events are laid out in such a way that making this calculation is easy. However, problems occur when may be the event is cramming so many tables into a given space, it becomes difficult to get serving staff around them, and as such can be a nightmare for the schedule to be accurately calculated. Added to this where the event is less formal, guests invariably stand up to have conversations, blocking the isles, stopping the serving staff from getting to the tables and this naturally only adds to the schedule’s woes.

That again leads us briefly back to item number 2. That person or those facilitators, need to be able to command that space and get these people blocking the isles, back in their seats.

Finally, we come to item number 4 –The unachievable schedule!

The most common fault with this is speeches. Most people, especially those not used to public speaking, never get the time right. I would be a very rich man if I was given £100 for every time someone has said they are going to speak for 5 minutes only and they are up there for at least 12!

This is one reason I recommend that speeches should always come after any hot food has been served, if nothing else to avoid the wrath of the chef.

Additionally, I have worked at several events where it was just not physically possible to facilitate something within the given time. One example I will give you is that I was present at an awards ceremony recently where they tried to hand out 74 awards in 45 minutes. This included reading out nominees, getting the winner to the stage, handing over the award and then having a picture taken. I have to take my hat off to those who were reading out the nominations and winners, as well as the brilliant photographer, for rattling through them so quickly, but it still took 90 minutes. Given the fact that this event had been started 10 minutes late due to an example of item number 1, that meant that the guest speaker started his speech nearly 50 minutes late and the band got to only play for 45 minutes rather than the billed hour and a half. So, money well spent then!

So when planning your event, plan wisely.

  1. Make sure your invites state a time to start, but begin with it starting at 10 to 15 minutes later than billed and work your schedule from that.
  2. Engage someone like me who can actually get a room filled and sat down on time.
  3. Do what you can to try and help caterers, by not filling the room too full so it is impossible to serve, but also use “number 2” to help keep it that way if necessary.
  4. Don’t be unrealistic. If necessary over allow for time and if you are finished a little earlier you may either get ahead of time or just run at a slightly slower pace giving the whole thing a more relaxed atmosphere.

Happy planning!

James Hasler is a professional toastmaster, master of ceremonies and event facilitator, a Fellow of the Guild of International Professional Toastmasters. He is experienced in running all kinds of events from conferences, awards ceremonies, fundraisers, and weddings of all cultures that take place in the UK. He has worked with and for people from all walks of life, from the most humble to celebrities and even members of the Royal Family.

You can get in touch either via the enquiry form on this website, you can send me an email to or phone me on 07773 229909