Working as an event planner isn’t easy. Still, it can be gratifying, especially when you put together an unforgettable event that leaves your client overjoyed and your attendees blown away. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of planning a successful event for a client or on your own!
The first thing you’ll need to do is determine what kind of event you’re going to plan. Are you going to start small? Big? Will it be a one-day soiree or a multi-day conference? What’s your budget? Once you have those questions answered, it’ll be easier to determine the next steps.
For instance, if you’re planning a small event with a shoestring budget and limited time to plan it, then you might consider going for a DIY approach that includes elements like crafting your invitations, sticking with free or low-cost venues, leaning on technology as much as possible, and involving family and friends who will work for pizza and beer.
If you’re planning a huge corporate event where money is no object, hiring an outside firm can make sense, especially if they have experience in your specific industry.
In most cases, you can’t go wrong with a hybrid approach that combines inside-industry expertise and creative thinking with outside-the-box ideas.
Let’s dig into each of those event managing steps in detail to show you how to craft an incredible event from start to finish.
Develop Objectives and Goal
The top reason for hosting events is promotion and marketing. Whether the goal of your event is to increase brand awareness, attract new customers or clients, or provide existing customers and clients with entertainment, the first step toward success should be identifying your objectives.
That way, like other aspects of planning, fall into place (i.e., venue selection, speaker/music booking), you’ll be able to ensure they support your goals.
Checklists: What is the goal of this event? Should my client achieve measurable results from it? This can be anything from:
- Attracting new customers.
- Heightening brand awareness.
- Keeping existing customers happy and engaged.
- How will we measure these goals by the end of the event?
- Number of sales made?
- Number of attendees, clients, or guests who buy tickets/attend/purchase products or sign up for a service?
It’s also helpful to think about where you’re hosting (i.e., what city) and who your target audience is (i.e., age group, income level, lifestyle preferences).
Organizing a Team
Even if you’re planning an event solo, it’s wise to have a team of dedicated people by your side. Think about who they are and how best to utilize their expertise. You can’t go wrong with hiring pros that specialize in the areas listed below. If you’re on a budget, consider doing more yourself or outsourcing tasks that aren’t your forte.
- PR/Marketing Expertise.
- Event Logistics & Venue Research.
- Event Design & Theme Development.
- Event Management.
- Bartender/Cocktail Glass Rental Company.
- Lighting/Sound Company
Prepare for the cost of hiring outside pros by negotiating with your client to secure more funds upfront. Approach it as if this is just one big project. If you’re good at what you do, then expect your client to invest in your services.
Work without a deposit for longtime clients or those genuinely confident in their ability to trust their event planner. The same goes for covering costs outside your fee. If you’re confident that the event will succeed and your client doesn’t have an issue with it, go for it.
Establishing a Budget
Working without a budget is one of the most common mistakes made by young professional planners. Since every planner is different (some charge hourly, some by project), there isn’t an industry standard for pricing out services. This means it’s up to you to estimate how much time each task will take (and whether or not it’s worth your time).
If you’ve never hosted an event before, then use this as practice. There’s no better time to learn than the present.
While it’s common for planners to ask for a budget upfront, that isn’t always necessary/appropriate (i.e., if your client is a long-time friend or family member). If you’re working without one, determine roughly how much you’ll need by reaching out to any professionals who have offered their services and tendering an offer based on what they charge.
Once again, having an experienced event planner book talent or execute invitations can ensure you don’t underestimate costs. If they say catering will cost $15 per person, then double it to be safe!
- Start with How Much Time Will I Need?
- How many guests are you expecting?
- How many days will you need help?
- How much time do you want to dedicate to the project each day/week?
- Determine how many hours of assistance you’ll need.
- What’s your hourly rate as an event planner?
- Estimate Event Logistics & Venue Research: hours and hourly rate (if applicable).
- Estimate Event Design & Theme Development: hours and hourly rate (if applicable).
- Estimate Event Management: hours and hourly rate (if applicable).
- Estimate PR/Marketing: hours and hourly rate (if applicable).
- Estimate Coordinating: hours and hourly rate (if applicable).
- Estimate Photography: hours and hourly rate (if applicable).
When estimating costs, remember that no one has all day to work on an event! And if resourcefulness is part of your company culture, then bidding low may not be the best approach. You can always come back to your client with a more reasonable estimate (and if they refuse, then it’s probably not the right fit).
Once you’ve estimated all tasks in terms of time and cost, add them together and submit them to your client. If they balk at paying that much, see if there are any areas where you can cut costs. But remember to stand firm on what you believe is appropriate.
If the budget needs to be $1,000 less than what you’ve suggested, then so be! You do better work when you do it for a price you believe in.
Setting the Date
Once the event planning process is underway, you should secure a date that works best for your client with relative ease. But does that mean they’ll stick to it? Not always! Be sure to agree on a hard date and tie all loose ends up with the appropriate party before moving on.
Creating the Event Master Plan
What’s the essential part of every good event? The plan! Sure, you can wing it with some events (even professional planners), but if this is a big wedding or corporate function, make sure not to skip out on preparing an Event Master Plan.
Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, having a clear layout of how everything will go down from start to finish is an invaluable resource that you’ll both enjoy.
Booking Talent and Venue
Using common sense, and there’s no way you shouldn’t be able to secure a venue without any issues. Just make sure you’ve got backup options if the first location on your list doesn’t work out, and the same goes for talent. If you need performers or a band, make sure they’re available before giving them a final commitment!
- Book Your Venue.
- Book Talent & Guest Speakers.
Remember that every event has its own needs, which typical venues or providers may not always meet. For example, in the case of a fashion show, you might have to look into renting out fashion event spaces.
The point is that you want every element of the event (venue and talent included) to be perfect! And if your client wants one place over another simply because it’s more expensive, then see if there’s any way possible to accommodate them. And don’t let cost overwhelm everything else.
Branding the Event
If the big day comes and goes without anyone knowing about it (even those who were invited), then all this effort was for nothing! Don’t make the same mistake by forgetting to brand your events, even if it’s something as simple as an office party.
When determining how your event should be branded, ask yourself these two questions:
- Who’s the target audience?
- What does this event need to communicate?
This will help you develop an overall theme for your event and ensure that everything from the invitations to signage on-site is cohesive.
Establishing and Identifying Sponsors and Partnerships
Don’t neglect this step! If you’re working on a big-ticket item like hosting the Olympics, then finding sponsorships is easier than it sounds. But if it’s something low-key like organizing a surprise birthday party, then it may not be as easy (and that doesn’t mean you should do it alone).
Many brands are looking for ways to create unique experiences (aka content) that cater to their customers and communicate their message. Use this to your advantage by aligning yourself with the right partners and creating a win-win situation for it all!
- Identify Partnerships & Sponsors.
- Create Partner & Sponsor Agreements.
Creating a Publicity Plan
You can have a fantastic event planned out, but was there even a purpose if no one knows about it? You need to let people know what’s going down! And not just on social media either; make sure you’ve got solid earned media strategies too.
Doing things like getting announcements published in newspapers or having influential personalities promote the event is an excellent way of generating buzz. Remember, though, don’t overdo it and get lost in the noise.
Determining Day-Of Processes
Once you’re down to the last few weeks, getting caught up in all the excitement is easy, and that’s when many things can go wrong. Ensure not to neglect any final details or opportunities for error by scheduling a complete final walkthrough a couple of days before the event.
This way, you’ll be able to pick up on issues early and make corrections well before they escalate!
- Final Walkthrough.
- Create an Event Flowchart.
- Execution Flowchart.
- Schedule a Site Inspection.
- Create a Venue Checklist.
- Create an Event Plan Checklist
By now, you should have the tools to plan your event easily. You no longer need to rely on countless business events that can’t seem to do anything for you! Now it’s time to go out and rock it. Bring your A-game and impress all those around you.
Just remember: No matter how smoothly everything may go (even if everyone is wowed), always create a post-event review step or process! It’s essential to find out what went right and where improvements can be made for yourself and future projects.
There will be plenty of time for celebration later. Make sure you still stay ahead of the curve and remember to do what got you here in the first place!