Planning an event can be a daunting task, especially if this is your first time. Before you start planning, it is essential that you do extensive research on how to plan an event. Thankfully for you, we have made it easier with this step-by-step guide, in which we explain how to plan an event successfully, even if you are just starting out as an event planner.
So stop stressing, follow this easy 7-step guide, and we can guarantee you will know the basics of how to plan an event, in no time!
How to plan an event:
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Step One: Identify the event objectives.
Let’s face it, there is always an ultimate goal or objective, that drives anyone to plan an event. For example, a fundraiser’s main objective is to raise X amount of money for a charity, a birthday party’s goal is simply to celebrate someone’s birthday (duh!), and so forth. Your job, is to determine the purpose of the event you are trying to plan.
Start by asking yourself: Why am I planning this event? What goal am I hoping to achieve? This first step is important, as it will help you understand the requirements needed to best optimise your event for success.
To make it easier, you can set yourself a main objective that will determine the success of your event. Then, break it down into smaller, manageable goals. Once all your small goals have been achieved, so will your main objective, making your event a total success!
Tip: Make sure your goals are measurable by setting metrics. For example, if one of your goals is to sell 50 tickets, the goal is only deemed successful, if the target number of tickets has been sold. This will make it easier for your team to understand your goals, and work better towards reaching them.
Step Two: Determine your budget.
Before you start looking at vendors for your event, you need to know how much you can afford to spend. The budget you set will define your event in more ways than one. It is what will determine whether your vision, goals and ultimate objective can be achieved.
If this is a corporate event, then your budget will be determined by the company. Similarly, if you have been hired by a third party, they will provide you with a budget, and guidelines of how much to allocate for the event venue, vendors and entertainment.
However, if you find yourself wondering how to plan an event with no budget outlined for you, the answer is easy! You need to be the one to determine this. For example, if you are planning your wedding (Congrats!), have a talk with your other half and see how much money you are comfortable with contributing towards the big day. In some cultures, the family of the bride, or groom tend to take over the wedding expenses. If, however, you want to follow a more modern approach, there is no harm in both families contributing equally.
Tip: Once you have a clear budget, it is a good idea to start allocating it towards your event vendors. Have a spreadsheet of the vendors you absolutely need to book for your event, and how much you would like to spend on each. This will keep you from overspending on things like decorations or invites, and ensure you have plenty of money allocated towards the big things such as venue and catering. Don’t forget to allocate an amount for “unforeseeable scenarios”, so you are never caught off guard, or left out of pocket.
Step Three: Identify your audience.
No event would ever be possible without the people it is organised for: the attendees. When someone starts working on how to plan an event successfully, they sometimes forget to consider how the target audience could influence the big decisions.
For example, if this event is open to the public, then you need to consider having a marketing plan to target attendees. This should include invitations, leaflets, posters as well as online ads and social media coverage. Having an event marketing plan directly affects your budget and how you choose to allocate it.
If, however, you have a pre-defined guest list for your event, then there is no need for an intricate marketing strategy to grab their attention. All you have to do is set up a simple email campaign with invites, details for your event as well as reminders. For a more personal touch, you can also send invitations by post, or hand them out yourself.
Tip: The time required for a successful event promotion is often underestimated and overlooked. Give yourself plenty of time to identify your audience and reach out to them for your event. Tell your audience well in advance, and set up an RSVP system, so you can get a rough idea of numbers for catering and seating arrangements.
Step Four: Set the date.
You might be wondering why setting a date for your event is one of the steps included in this guide. Surely you would know when you want your event to take place, before you start planning, right?
WRONG! There are many reasons why the date you choose can make or break your event. This mostly affects attendance, as well as giving yourself efficient planning time. Other that setting the date for your event well in advance, here are a few factors that could possibly affect your decision:
- Statutory and religious holidays
- School holiday periods
- Participants/VIPs/Keynote Speakers availability
This decision is obviously a lot easier if the event you are planning is your birthday, or your wedding. It is your special day, and you get to decide when to celebrate. Friends and relatives just have to oblige, no questions asked.
Step Five: Book the venue for your event.
The venue you choose to book plays a major role in the success of your event for two reasons:
It’s location directly affects who can, and will attend your event.
The venue you book could limit your choices when it comes to booking event vendors, or it could make your life a whole lot easier!
Here are important things to take into consideration before you book a venue for an event:
a. Your budget: Remember, the biggest expense will most likely be the venue, so don’t skimp out on this. However, try not to overspend, to make sure there’s enough of the budget left to spend on other important things like catering, entertainment, a photographer, etc.
b. Accessibility: Your event venue has to be in compliance with the Equality Act 2010. This way you can be certain all facilities are accessible to all, regardless of mobility requirements.
3. Insurance: Planning an event means you are indirectly responsible for the health and safety of the attendees. Although it is the venues job to make sure the follow Health and Safety guidelines, it is your job to make sure this is the case. Have a conversation with the venue about the insurance they provide, to make sure you and your guests are covered.
Tip: Most venues have existing relationships with local event vendors, entertainers and other suppliers. Before you start looking at vendors for your event, make sure to ask the venue if they would like to put you in touch with their partners. The vendors’ familiarity with the venue makes them better positioned to offer higher quality of service for your event. And who knows, you might also get a sweet referral deal out of it!
Step Six: Find partners and event vendors.
Once you have your venue all booked, it is time to book your event vendors, as well as look for potential partners or sponsors. Here are some event vendors you should definitely hire:
- Catering (To keep your guests full and satisfied)
- Photographer/Videographer (To document your event)
- Entertainment (To ensure everyone is having a good time – it can’t always be about business)
- Decorator (to make sure the venue decor matches the theme of your event)
- Graphic Designer (to create professional event invitations, posters and other collateral)
- Transportation (to make sure all your guests make it to and from the venue safely)
Before you start looking at other vendors, don’t forget to check with the venue for any potential referrals, as well as discounts they might offer. This could save you a lot of trouble, research hours as well as money. And when you do start looking at outsourcing event vendors, don’t just go for the first recommendation you receive. Shop around, research and negotiate to make sure you are getting the best deal.
You also might want to consider partnering up with companies or sponsors that could assist you in funding, or even organising your event. If you are a newbie, and therefore not sure how to plan an event successfully, partnering up with an event planner should definitely be in the cards. Combining resources with partners or sponsors will not only help boost your budget, it could also help you reach a wider audience that you would not otherwise have access to.
Tip: If you know of event agencies or event planners, it might be a good idea to reach out to them for recommendations regarding event vendors, as tend to have a list of vendors they like to regularly work with. They might also be willing to disclose which event vendors they have blacklisted, and in which case, the ones you should definitely avoid.
Step Seven: Always have a backup plan.
The above steps, if followed properly and with enough planning time, should lead to a successful event. However, there are so many unforeseeable situations that could derail your event. The best thing you can do is have a backup plan, that you can quickly adapt to, if things go wrong.
For instance, you may have plans for an open-air, outdoors event. As we all know, the weather in the UK is so unpredictable, it could be the sunniest day ever, until it suddenly starts pouring with rain. Make sure the venue you book has an available indoors function room you can quickly retrieve to, if this happens.
Tip: You do not need to have a backup plan for every single minute detail of the event, that could possibly go wrong. This would take ages, as it would require you essentially planning two events! Assess which aspects of your event are the most important and create a backup plan just for those. If smaller issues arise, you should be ready to adapt and find an alternative quickly, or completely cut from the event.
It’s time to start planning!
By now you should know the 7 most important steps on how to plan an event. It is now time to start planning! To help you on your way, I have included some key things you should keep in mind, to make your next event the talk of the town.
I cannot stress how important it is to begin planning as early as possible! The minute you know the event is happening, take out your planner and set a timeline for yourself. Whoever said the phrase “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”, was not joking.
Allow yourself enough time to complete each step, and don’t forget: the devil is in the details. Pay attention to the little things that will make your guests remember your event. Consider even the smallest detail; from what music will be playing, to the way the napkins are folded, anything you can think of that will add the “WOW!” factor and exceed your attendees expectations.
As much as you would like to take full credit for the success of an event, you must always keep one thing in mind: teamwork makes the dreamwork. If you have a team around you, available to help, delegate some of the planning tasks, as well as jobs they can do on the day. This way, you free up more of your time to focus on the important things. And if you are planning an event solo, don’t be afraid to ask for help from family or friends.
To make sure it all runs smoothly on the day, it is always recommended to do a final check and run through the order of things, 24 hours prior to the event. Assemble your team, and make sure everyone has a role assigned, knows what they are doing and when. You may also want to reach out to your vendors for a final check to confirm everything is happening as planned. Lastly, if you have access to the venue in advance, it doesn’t hurt to go beforehand, catch up with the venue co-ordinator and go through all the details. The last thing you want is to realise something is bound to go wrong, on the day of the event, all because you failed to prepare properly.
Remember to ask for feedback.
When it’s all said and done, there is only one way to know whether your event was as successful as you thought: ask your attendees for feedback. Even if everything went according to plan, it all comes down to what your guests thought.
An easy option would be to create an online feedback form, and send it a couple days after the event. You can ask them to rate things like food, location, entertainment, etc. Finally, ask for their feedback on the overall process, from the moment they received the invite, to the way they were greeted, and most importantly, the work of the organiser(s), aka you.
This information will definitely help you have a better understanding of your attendees likes and dislikes, and avoid future mistakes. You can also use any positive feedback on social media and your site, to help you boost ratings and grow your portfolio! And if you still feel like you need a little more help planning the perfect event, why not get this comprehensive Party Planning Checklist? Full of party theme ideas, budget and menu planners, party game ideas and more, this checklist has it all!
The key to planning an event successfully is to trust your instincts, pay attention to the details and don’t be afraid of surprises. Be adaptable and willing to learn from your mistakes, and I promise you, each event will be better than the last!