How to Plan an Event: A 10-Step Guide

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Ah, the hectic– yet rewarding– the world of event planning. Chances are if you’re reading this guide, you’re starting your first major foray into such a venture.

Whether you’re forming an event planning team at work or opening your own event planning business, you need guidance on how a major event comes together, from event management software to selecting a caterer.

I’ve created this comprehensive ten-step guide on how to plan an event from start to finish. It’s jam-packed with instructions, tips, and software recommendations to keep your event planning organized and on track.

Bookmark it, print it out and mark it up, and reference it whenever it’s time to kick off your planning process.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Develop a vision for your event

our vision is the foundation of your event. It’s a breakdown of what you ‘d like to see go into and come out of your event and can touch on speakers, revenue, attendees, and media attention.

To get started, you have to know where you’re going. How can you figure that out? By asking three questions that’ll establish your vision:

What is your ultimate goal for this event? This is why that got you (or your client) moving in the first place. Are you hoping to raise money for a cause? Launch a product? Increase brand awareness? A combination of smaller goals? Determine what you hope to accomplish, and why this event is the way to do that.
How many attendees do you hope to attract? If the event is an annual affair, aim for year-over-year growth in attendee numbers. If it’s the first time you’re hosting an event of this kind, it’s even more important to nail down a target attendee number so you can measure success (and create a budget; more on that later). Research attendee data for similar events hosted within the past few years to get an idea of what to expect.
How much revenue are you hoping to collect from this event? Like the attendee question, your aim should be year-over-year growth. Answering this question will help you establish your budget, and layout what you need to make in order to recoup expenses.
While they’re often what springs to mind when you think of event planning (and one of the more fun aspects of the process), choosing themes, colors, and branding for your event comes later.

2. Put your team together

Once you build your event vision, it’s time to start assembling a team that’ll make your vision possible. However, hiring team members isn’t as simple as asking a few volunteers to hang banners up and sign in guests. Click here for Security Guards Tyne and Wear

As the event’s director, you’re responsible for filling the various roles reporting to you, including those that require specific technical skills. While not applicable to every event, the below chart is a good overview of the roles you may need to staff.

Event management team roles chart (Source).
If you’re not sure where to begin searching for candidates, Capterra’s talent management blog offers a host of helpful resources, including a list of ten industry-specific job boards (with relevant fields such as media/communications and technology).

Once you’ve contacted and interviewed your candidates, use this list of important follow-up questions to make your final choices.

After you put your team together, establish communication channels to foster successful collaboration and healthy dynamics. Chat software like Slack, team-based work management software such as Wrike, and the old reliable Google Hangouts are great communication options.

Keep in mind, though, that it isn’t enough to implement a new communications system and hope your team performs well together. As the team leader, it’s important for you to foster these relationships through group activities and exercises.

Further reading: The Power Rangers Guide to Excellent Event Management Team Building.

3. Create an event budget.

Depending on your point of view, finances are either the most exciting or the dullest aspect of event management. Regardless of where you fall, finances are arguably the most important component.

No money, no event.

Whether you’re making the business case for having an event at all, putting on an event for a client, or planning out the finances for an approved event, a thorough budget is crucial.

Here’s a list of key expenses to include in your budget:

  • Venue (room rental( s), security deposit, parking).
  • A/V (projectors, internet/Wi-Fi, speakers, microphones, cameras).
  • Catering (bartenders, servers, food, beverages, linens, table settings).
  • Marketing (social media marketing software, print materials, and design work, registration management software).
  • Entertainment (musicians/DJ, speaker fees, associated housing and transportation costs).
  • Miscellaneous (your catch-all category; include venue decor, seating, additional event staff, taxes, and fees).
  • To help organize your budget and streamline its creation, check out these event budget templates.

4. Choose your venue and date.

You’ve established your budget, so it’s time to go venue hunting.

Before you start searching, make a list of key practicalities (these should be mandated by your event vision). Reference this list frequently while you’re looking and touring.

Here are a few suggestions to get your list brainstorming session started:.

  • What kind of parking will you need?
  • Will you need your own A/V equipment, or will the venue provide it?
  • Does the venue have adequate cell reception throughout, or will you need to provide a Wi-Fi connection?
  • How much floor space do you need?
  • Do you need an open space, or segmented areas/rooms? (If the latter, how many rooms do you need?).
  • How far in advance does this venue book? Is it available in the window you’re looking for?
  • What are the deposit, cancellation, and refund policies?
    Further reading: 5 Popular Products Based On Event Booking Software Reviews.

5. Identify and engage event partners and sponsors.

To stretch your budget and increase your reach, corporate sponsors and community partners are the way to go.

In addition to helping you cut costs, buy-in from larger players can open advertising and attendee exposure avenues you may not have had access to before, add stability to a smaller operation, and increase your chance for success. With more benefactors in the mix, your event poses a much smaller financial risk to your company or event firm.

When you’re ready to seek sponsors and partners, follow these four tips:.

Understand their marketing objectives. Are prospective sponsors/partners looking for an opportunity to improve their public image? Do they want exclusivity in advertising? It’s important to know the answers to these questions when seeking sponsors so you aren’t caught off guard when your partner/sponsor asks for advertising space or inclusion on an event initiative.
Identify the real decision-makers. It’s important to know who to talk to so you don’t end up repeating your pitch or counting on a partnership that falls through because your contact lacked the authority to build that relationship. Some businesses defer such decisions to their marketing teams, while others may require you to climb the ladder to the executive level.
Make sure their business compliments your vision. If you’re running an animal rights event, you aren’t going to partner with Perdue. Seek partners with a business vision that matches your event vision to ensure a more enthusiastic relationship. This also allows you to push forward with your event without angering or repelling any attendees by presenting a conflicting message.

Know when to ask. Most businesses plan out their major sponsorships before the start of their coming fiscal year. If you’re seeking corporate sponsorship, it’s important to make inquiries well ahead of time to ensure you’re on their radar when the time comes.


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