Whether organizing a small meeting or orchestrating a large conference, event planning is a huge task! Every event, no matter how simple or complex, requires detailed planning and organization. From establishing an accurate budget to promoting your event, there are a number of components you should start to consider early on to make the process as stress-free as possible.
1. Define goals and objectives
Before jumping into logistics like venue or speakers, you should take the time to identify the purpose and reasons for event planning. You must answer these questions:
What is the ultimate goal of this event?
This is the reason that prompts you to plan an event in advance. Are you looking for:
Drive new sales? Support product launch? Increase brand awareness? Or perhaps, you have a combination of several goals? Decide what you want to achieve and how this event will help you do it.
Next, what is the purpose?
In event planning, you must identify a set of goals that will support your ultimate goal. Here are some examples of event objectives:
Increase registration 10% from last event
Increase revenue by 25% from the last event
Receive 100 preorders for upcoming products
Increase mention/follow/repost on social media during the event
With your goals and objectives in place, you can create an initial scope for the event. Your scope should offer details and key points on how you will achieve the goals you describe. Even if you’re not ready, you’ll need to explain the details of the initial event including:
Date. Your time frame for the event, which is in 9 months.
Participant. Will this be a 100 people, 1,000 people, or 10,000 people event? You have to start thinking about size. Are you coming from across the country or is this a local event? You also want to keep your demographics in mind as you plan.
Location. Is your event local? Or, will it be hosted on a destination? Start by creating a short list of cities and places suitable for your event.
Event type. Are you driving awareness of new products? A one-day event with a keynote might make sense. Bringing together thousands of customers? A two-day user conference might be right for you. Holding internal or association meetings? A day of small sessions may be appropriate.
Establishing your goals and initial project scope allows you to frame your event and gain support from leadership. If your organization has already joined the event, your goals and scope will help move you to the next planning stage.
2. Set the event budget
Creating a budget is an important first step in event planning that helps clarify other aspects of your plan. Also, setting a budget helps avoid unwanted surprises (like running out of money on decorations, etc.). You’ll be more successful if you map out your entire budget ahead of time, keep it updated as you work out variables, and stay very close to the process.
Based on your high-level budget and coverage of initial needs. You should start charting line item costs to get an understanding of how your budget will be spread across your needs.
According to Eventbrite, “Budgets are split by marketing and promotion (43%), speakers and talent (32%), print materials (29%), venue (18%).
As your plans solidify, you’ll need to revisit your budget. Then, line items will doubt changes, remember to keep an accurate budget that reflects any changes or updates you make as well. And because you never want to go over your budget, planners usually make adjustments to make sure you stick to your budget.
3. Build your event team
For event planning the small events, you may personally handle many or all of the tasks discussed in this section. However, for large events, it takes an organized team to execute the production.
If you’re building a team from the ground up, it’s important to assign roles early to ensure accountability. Then, all team members must report to the project manager who has visibility in all moving parts.
Build the ultimate event team
According to Eventbrite, only 12% of events have teams of ten or more people and the most common number is 2 to 5 employees (45% of events), so often individuals wear multiple hats. If you’re among the few with 5+ team members, here’s how roles are typically distributed:
Overseeing all moving parts described below, this person is ultimately responsible for the execution of the event. Manage budget. Driving strategy. Make top-level buying decisions.
This person is the primary contact for venues, vendors, onsite sponsors, and onsite volunteers and staff: security, photography, and food/beverage. They remember everyone’s names, and they know where all the outlets are.
Creative designers put together all the visual designs for print and web materials such as timelines, warranties, signups and signage, and anything else needed for a mobile event app. To break it down: they make you look good. You may want to work with an event design agency.
Marketing and Communication
This person or team keeps the right people aware of the event, creates offers and timing strategies to increase signups, oversees branding, communicates with registrants, coordinates social media and media relations strengthening, and sends and measures follow-up materials. Oh, and they’re just crazy for measured performance.
This team ensures guests have everything they need to make the most of the event, from maps, schedules, speaker info and how to network. Then, they build and update the mobile event app.
Registration and Check-In
These people own the registration arrangements, work with software providers, create and manage badges, create reports, and ensure the registration process (pre-event and during the event) runs smoothly.
Members of this team work to map booth space, sell sponsorship opportunities, maintain sponsorship relationships, and explore community organization relationships. They have killer timing and great people skills.
Keeping your team organized
With a team, you are ready to plan your event project. Then, a project plan is more than just a to-do list. This is a detailed breakdown of every single action item identifying the owner, dependencies, due date, and completion status. You should be able to justify each action item by mapping it to your top-level event goal.
Event management tool
Project management tools simplify event management and organization. Use these tools to save all the moving parts. With the ability to assign and monitor projects, project managers can maintain an accurate view of progress and schedules with these tools:
4. Choose your place and date
Choosing a venue and date for your event are the two main considerations that will shape the rest of your project plans. Then, start event planning with researching the place as early as possible. The event market is busy, so figuring out when there will be space availability is important. When deciding on a venue, you should also consider dates for your location based on seasonal factors such as travel and cost.
“In January it was very challenging to find a large space,” said Romy, an event industry veteran at PRIME, a full-service events agency in Vancouver. “January and February were very busy with sales conferences, and it happened again in September and October.” He said that during this time it was difficult to find a traditional location with a showroom.
As you research and start talking to representatives from different places, ask as many questions as you can to make sure they are appropriate. Look for budget, theme fit, location (central, easy transportation?), amenities, and onsite staff. Then, are there toilets strategically located all over the place? What is the situation with fire control and emergency response?
Tip: Once you’ve found the perfect spot, don’t be afraid to negotiate your rate. Half of event planners negotiate discounts from published rates, and of those that do, organizers most often negotiate free WiFi, AV, or parking, according to EventManager.
5. Develop event branding
Next event planning is from the name and theme of the event to the design of the event website and the look and feel of the venue – your event branding sets the tone for your event. Then, when people think of your event, you want a strong personality to shine through. Plus, a strong event brand provides a vision and helps direct the direction of your event.
60% of US millennials expect a consistent experience when dealing with brands online, in person, or over the phone. (*)
When choosing your event branding, consider that the event brand should reflect your organization’s brand but should have its own brand. Also, think about how your brand will appear online and in real life. Finally, consider how you will weave your event branding into the individual elements of your event.
Then, when thinking about event branding, it usually includes:
event name. An important first step, your event name is the first thing that will be seen, so you want it to reflect your vision for the event.
Theme. Then, a name alone cannot tell the whole story. Often events will create a theme to tie the event together.
Logos, colors, typography. There must be consistency across all marketing touchpoints.
On-site decorations, emails, signage, and more. While each point of contact is irrelevant