How to Plan an Event
Looking to plan your first event? Maybe you’ve been planning events for a while but want to ensure you’re using the best possible framework. Understanding the key components, ensuring you have an event plan and creating lists to help you check off all of those last minute details is a system event planners use to ensure success.
In this guide we’ll walk you through what event planning is, what it involves and how to write an event plan, step-by-step, with a checklist to help you along the way.
What is event planning?
Event planning is the organisation of all of the activities that surround an event. This could be a party, a festival, a conference or a tradeshow. Planning an event takes lots of work and key organisational skills. Event planners will often work on everything from catering, to entertainment, booking presenters and managing exhibitors. The event planning process ensures that all of these areas are covered, that the event remains within budget and that it is delivered on time and fulfils the event objective(s).
Key components of event planning
The key areas an event planner will manage include:
- Event preparation – writing an event plan, documenting budgets and timelines and researching suppliers like caterers or staff members.
- Event promotion – all of the aspects that help to sell the event, raise awareness and increase the number of attendees.
- On-site event management – making sure the big day (or days) goes without a hitch and that everyone is where they need to be. Putting out any onsite fires!
- Post-event review – organising debriefs, data collection and analysis and reviewing these against the original event aims and figures.
Best Practices When Creating an Event Plan
- Determine the objective. Determine what the client or sponsoring organization hopes to achieve with the event.
- Establish a budget. A budget should include true estimates of key elements of the event. Provide an outline of the budget in the event plan. Include travel and accommodation costs for the site scouting team, speakers, presenters, and special guests from out of town.
- Organize a team. A successful event plan requires a concerted team effort. Among your event project team you may choose to identify an event manager or event chair as well as chairpersons for subcommittees. Subcommittees may include venue selection, speakers, entertainment, sponsors, volunteer management, and marketing.
- Set a date. If it’s a reoccurring event, the date may already be established. If this is a new event, there are a few things to consider before finalizing the date:
- Allow enough time to prepare. Larger events may require four to six months, perhaps even longer, to execute an event plan. Obviously, the selection of the lead time is dependent on the size, nature, and timing of your event.
- Be mindful of national and religious holidays.
- Check availability of key participants such as honored or VIP guests, speakers, presenters, entertainment, etc.
- Create a plan. The event plan must encompass all aspects of the event, including:
- Venue, logistics, catering
- Presenters, key note speakers
- Entertainment and activities
- Marketing efforts
- Registration logistics
- Sponsorship or partnership management
- Volunteer management
Event safety plan
When it comes to keeping your event attendees, staff members and presenters safe, there are many elements to consider. The government’s health and safety for events guidelines can help to ensure you think about the different elements such as:
- Reducing risk
- Creating information for employees or attendees
- Organising contractor health and safety
- First aid, toilets and wash facilities
- Waste removal
- Food health and safety
Event planning checklist
Use this checklist to ensure you have thought about all of the key areas relating to your event. Have you:
- Determined the event goals and objectives
- Produced a written event plan
- Defined the event audience
- Conducted market research
- Finalised the event budget
- Decided on an event name
- Booked an event venue
- Created a marketing plan and timeline
- Selected your vendors
- Secured your event sponsorship
- Determined a registration system
- Launched an event website
- Launched the event marketing campaign
- Scheduled an email marketing campaign
- Booked speakers and presenters
- Organised insurance and health and safety compliance
- Organised catering
- Organised audio visual, lighting and staging
- Booked entertainment
- Hired event staff
- Determined a lead capture system
- Ordered event signage
- Involved local or industry press
- Reviewed and analysed event success
Getting Started on the Event Proposal
Each proposal should be written with the client in mind. Event planning is a service business, and that service, personal touch, and creative approach are what make an event successful and memorable, two characteristics that go a long way in generating new customers for your business. Proposals should be well written and thoroughly researched, providing the necessary details so that the client can envision what you have in mind.
- Introduce yourself and the project. Begin with a brief introduction to you and your event planning business. Include specifics such as how long you have been in business and your professional background. Some planners put this section at the end, much like a book author’s biography on a dust jacket or back cover.
- Write an attractive event description. Summarize the actual event, including the details discussed during your meetings, such as the goal of the event, general time frame, number of guests, and possible venues. If you are not a skilled writer, find or hire someone skilled with words to give this section as much appeal as possible.
- List all services provided. This section is particularly important. The client needs to know specifically what services you will provide for this event. A checklist with bullet points clearly shows the different services that are included. This approach works well for smaller functions such as bridal showers or celebratory dinners and is easy for the client to see what you will do and any vendors you will use. For larger events with multiple functions, such as a cocktail hour or luncheon, you may want to create sections for each aspect of the event and then list the specific services provided for each one.
- Show your previous work. If you have planned similar events in the past, include photos of these events to showcase your work. Visual representations can help the client see what you can do, and are a great assurance to you that your style matches their vision. Having things to compare against can really help streamline the event once it comes time to break ground.
- Incorporate monetary information throughout. While the client may be reading your proposal and taking in all the details and images of the event you envision, this mindset usually shifts gears when it comes to the section that talks about money. You don’t want the process coming to an abrupt stop, so avoid sudden changes in the language or tone to all business and facts. Title a section “Proposed Costs” and continue to guide the client through the aspects of this event by carefully articulating the costs, while peppering prices throughout the proposal. Help your client see your proposal as a series of steps, each with different services and related costs. Provide a detailed summary that lists the price for each item and its purpose so that the client can envision the event and understand the related cost.