If you are seeking advice on how to plan an event, you are in the right place. There are several details that go into planning an event and it can often become overwhelming. Throughout this guide I will lead you through general steps on how to plan an event. I hope this event planing guide gives you the inspiration and confidence that you need for success.
- 10 Practical Steps on Planning an Event
- 1. Define goals and objectives
- 2. Establish a budget
- 3. Develop a team
- 4. Choose a date and book your venue
- 5. Brand your event
- 6. Determine your software and tech tools
- 7. Confirm any special guests and speakers
- 8. Plan day-of check list
- 9. Create marketing and promotion plan
- 10. Post event review/measurement of success
10 Practical Steps on Planning an Event
Every event is unique in its own way, so it is hard to capture all of the needed details to consider, but let me help you by guiding you through 10 practical steps to follow when event planning. In order to bring these ideas to life, and provide visuals and give examples I will follow this guide along with the idea of planning a wedding.
1. Define goals and objectives
Your first step in planning your event will always be to establish what are the main goals and objectives.
Ask yourself what is the purpose of this event? It could be to:
Raise awareness to a special cause? Celebrate another year of marriage? Increase brand awareness? Celebrate a graduation? Drive new sales? Or maybe it is a combination of several goals you are trying to achieve? Determine what you are seeking to accomplish and how this event will help you achieve that.
Then, ask yourself what are the main objectives of this event? Set goals with quantifiable metrics of success to make it easier to ensure that you reach them. In planning any event, you should identify a set of objectives that will support your ultimate goal.
See below list of examples of event planning objectives for a wedding:
- Find a venue that will support a 100-person event
- Increase social media awareness, follows, or mentions on the wedding page
- Have at least 75 guest attend the wedding
- Maintain bride’s happiness and tranquility throughout entire day
- Stay within budget of $15,000
- Provide excellent food for guest
To take it a step further, after you set your goals and objective, think about the results. What will happen if you meet, exceed, or miss your goals? At what point will you end the event? If your organization is on point, and you understand where you are going for the event, you will be able to get there even faster.
2. Establish a budget
Setting the budget for your event is a crucial step in planning. Establishing a budget allows you to be creative in planning with realistic parameters. It also helps avoiding unwanted surprises (such as running out of money for decorations). The event will be more successful with a mapped out budget in advance and a continuous update of your finances as you make finalizations.
Fundamental expenses you will want to consider including in your budget would be:
- Venue: This cost should encompass the rental as well as any insurance you need to purchase.
- Food and Drink: This expense will vary depending on the number of guests, it is good to have more food rather than not enough for your guests — remember you are striving to satisfy your guests.
- Entertainment: This field will vary depending on the needs for your event — this expense may be for speakers, a DJ, or a special guest.
- Décor: Will you be going with a DIY mason-jar theme, or a theme that’s a little fancier? Determining the costs upfront will help you determine which one is within your budget.
- Marketing: Whether you decide to promote your event through social media, sending invitations in the mail, or passing out flyers, estimate the cost of marketing your event.
- Miscellaneous: Even the best-planned event will have some type of undetectable additional costs. Accounting for them in your budget will ensure you are not caught off guard.
Some items may not be fixed costs yet – for example, if you did not pick a venue yet – it’s important to keep the maximum affordable amount in mind before making those decisions.
3. Develop a team
Planning and executing your event does not have to be done all alone. Build a team of paid or volunteer assistants. You do not want a team too large that it is difficult to manage, but also you do not want a team too small that the work is overwhelming. Think of roles that you need to fulfill for your event and recruit suitable individuals who are fit for the role.
Example roles that you may need to fulfill when planning a wedding would include:
- Lead Decorator
- Individuals to help with set up and tear down of decorations for the event
- Makeup artist
- DJ, Guest speaker, or musician
After identifying the needed roles for your team, next you will want to make a plan for recruitment to fill each position. You can find volunteers or hire individuals to assist you. For smaller events you will most likely be able to find people who are willing to volunteer to help you in anyway to save costs.
4. Choose a date and book your venue
Choosing the date and venue are major components that will shape the rest of your project plan. You want to choose and book your venue as soon as possible. The date of the event may depend on the availability of the venue, therefore, theses two components typically are decided at the same time.
Considerations when choosing the venue :
- Accessibility. Does the venue have accessible entrances and elevators? Are there all-gender washrooms? This and many other factors go into choosing a space that all participants will feel comfortable in. You can also take account of any special accommodations as guest sign up.
- Size. An event for 50 people will require a very different space compared to a venue for 500 people. Make sure guests have enough space, you want to choose a venue that is larger rather than smaller for expected amount of guest.
- Parking. Is there easy parking at the venue? Is the venue easy to access via public transit?
- Insurance. Will you need to purchase separate insurance? What are their liability rules? You will want to prepare for any incident possible.
- AV. If your event needs speakers and microphones, make sure it’s easy to set them up in the space that is available—including plugs, or extension cords, in the right places. The same goes for wifi access, or any other technological needs your event has.
- Costs. How much of a deposit is the venue asking for? Will there be additional costs? How much will you get back if you unexpectedly needed to cancel?
Considerations when choosing the date :
- Give yourself enough time! Ideally, you should have 4-6 months to plan, if not more (depending on the event). You do not want to rush the process especially if it is a larger event.
- Be aware of statutory and religious holidays
- Confirm dates with key participants – speakers, presenters, VIP guests, etc. to ensure they are available.
5. Brand your event
Your event brand will set the tone! Pick a theme, design a logo, create a tag name to give your event a presence to get guests excited for what you have planned. Branding your event will help bring it to life on social media as well as help attract people’s attention. Key items to consider when developing a brand for your event:
- Event name First things first, your event’s name! This is the first thing attendees will see, so you want it to reflect your vision for the event through the name.
- When brainstorming a name for your event ask questions such as:
- How is your event different from others?
- What are the main components of your event?
- What are you seeking to convey through this event?
- When brainstorming a name for your event ask questions such as:
- Theme The theme should amplify the name, because the name alone can not tell the whole story. Often events will create a theme to tie it all together.
- Tagline Once you’ve created an event name, create a tagline – a short, memorable branding slogan that best describes the event.
- Logo The design of the logo should match and color themes you have, and vise versa. A logo can be a very effective branding tool. This will give immediate recognition of your event. The logo can be used on social media, flyers, banners, t-shirts, gifts, and even with your tagline etc. A logo is an effective tool for larger reoccurring events.
Have fun with branding your event. The more creative and attractive your branding is the easier it will be to make your event recognized and known.
6. Determine your software and tech tools
Technology is growing everyday in this generation. There are several tools that are very beneficial for executing an event plan. While organizing your event you should determine if there are any technology needs. Potential areas of your event planning that may require technology may include:
- Guest sign up/registration: Platforms such as Sign up Genius are super easy and accessible for you to create. All you have to do is add the event details where required in the Sign up Genius then email the link out to your guest.
- Live streaming or Recording your event: Providing virtual options for attending your event is very helpful during the pandemic and for attendees that are unable to attend possibly due to the location or date of event. Live streaming or recording your event will allow for those individuals to have the opportunity to attend as well. In addition, recording the event is another way to extend your event’s reach and encourage the conversation to continue far beyond the physical event, or to rewatch at a later time.
7. Confirm any special guests and speakers
Depending on your event you should have an idea of whether you want a guest speaker or another type of special guest.
For example if you are planning a family and friends event like a wedding, you may decide you want to hire a DJ, artist, or musician for your special guest.
Be sure to have clear communication of what your event is and what you are seeking from their services for your event.
Also be sure to download or create a guest list. This will help you keep track of everyone who came to your event. In addition, if you have guest provide their home address you will be able send them thank you letters, or additional information to follow after the event.
8. Plan day-of check list
The day before or the day of the event create a checklist. This checklist should include a list of all of the actions needed in order to prepare and execute a successful event. The checklist should include a clear list of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and who is going to get it done. This will help ensure that there is clear accountability leading up to the event, and during the event if needed.
See below for a simple example of what a “day-of” checklist may look like for a wedding:
[ ] 7:00AM: WAKE UP! It’s your wedding day!
[ ] 7:15AM: Eat breakfast – Make sure you eat well, it is a long day.
[ ] 8:00AM: Hair and Make up (Victoria & Shea)
[ ] 11:00AM: Dressing (Mom & Sister)
[ ] 12:30PM: Photographer and Videographer arrives for “before ceremony photos” (Nate & Sarah)
[ ] 12:45PM: Pictures of bride and groom getting ready (Nate & Sarah)
[ ] 2:45PM: Flowers arrive to venue (Kelly)
[ ] 1:30: Collect corsages and boutonnieres (Robert)
[ ] 2:00PM: Parents, Groom, and ushers arrive to Venue
[ ] 2:30PM: Parents, Bride and attendants arrive to venue
[ ] 2:30PM: Greet guest and usher to seats (Julie)
[ ] 3:30PM: Wedding begins
A full day agenda will help keep you on track and be in control of having a successful event.
9. Create marketing and promotion plan
Your marketing and promotion plan will help bring event awareness to your guest. There are many different ways to go about marketing your event – social media, blogging, personal invitations, online advertising, etc. Which ever tactic you do choose, each tactic should be a strategic element of your marketing plan.
If you are seeking more of an intimate way for inviting guest to your event, the best option would be to send handwritten invitations in the mail.
The invitations through the mail tactic is a traditional way of sending wedding invitations for example.
10. Post event review/measurement of success
YAYYY!! You survived your event! Now take a moment to diagnose the overall outcome of your event. How did you decide to measure the success of your event plan? Did you reach the goal for the number of attendees? Or did you stay within the budget you set for the event? When reflecting on your goals, determine if you were able to accomplish any of them. Other questions to reflect on:
How did your team, creatives, and/or volunteers perform throughout event?
What was the feedback or the response from attendees?
How did your marketing do for your event plan?
Based on your definition of success, was your event successful?
Planning an event is not an easy task, and is typically not a one person job. Be sure to thank everyone who made this event successful. I hope my 10 step guide helped you with understanding how to plan an event successfully!
Check out the below links for further event ideas for a more specific type of event planning!