How to Plan an Event
Don't start planning your next event without reading these 10 steps.
While we can't identify all of the details you’ll need to think about, since much of it will depend on the type of event you are holding, we can suggest some best practices that are important to follow for any event. We hope the following provides a starting point for your event planning.
10 Steps to Get You Started With Event Planning
1. Develop Event Goal and Objectives
The very first step is to establish a tangible goal and objectives. (e.g., why are you organizing this event and what do you hope to achieve?)
If you know your organization’s key goals before planning, you can ensure that every part of your event is optimized for success. Are you trying to raise awareness for a cause, or collect a predetermined amount of donations for your next project?
Setting a goal drives with quantifiable metrics of success will make it easier for your team to ensure that you reach your goals.
2. Organize a Team
Any event takes a concerted team effort to handle all of the details. Consider identifying one key Event Manager or Event Chair as well as individual Chairpersons for subcommittees, such as:
- venue management;
- volunteer management
Assigning individual roles to team members creates a system of accountability, as well as preventing tasks from falling to the wayside.
3. Set a Date
The date might already be pre-set for a recurring event, but if this is a new event, be sure to consider the following before firming up your date:
- Give yourself enough time! Ideally, you should have 4-6 months to plan (depending on the nature of your event)
- Be aware of statutory and religious holidays
- Avoid school holiday time periods (e.g., winter, spring and summer holidays)
- Check dates with key participants – e.g., speakers, presenters, VIP guests, etc.
Once you’ve set your date, book your venue immediately. Your event has to have a date and location nailed down before you can begin advertising, so this task needs to be completed as early in the planning period as possible.
4. Brand Your Event
If you want your event to stand out, you need to choose a timely and compelling theme that sets you apart from your competition. This means that you need to come up with a dynamic overall theme and you need to take great care with the actual name – since it can be a key attention-getter, especially in online media.
Brainstorm names: When you are brainstorming the event name, think about:
- how is your event different from other events in your sector?
- what are you hoping to convey through this event?
Create a Tagline: Once you’ve come up with a name, also try to craft a tagline – a short, memorable branding slogan that describes the event.
Design a Logo: The final step will be having a logo created to represent your event. A logo can be an effective branding tool – offering immediate recognition of your event in all of your publicity and promo items (e.g., t-shirts, water bottles, bags, etc.)
Once you have your name, tagline, and logo, use it in all of your marketing collateral! A catchy or pithy tagline can be invaluable on social media when used as a hashtag. It also sticks in your audience’s mind and keeps your event in their thoughts.
5. Create a Master Plan:
This plan should encompass all aspects of the event, including:
- Venue, logistics, & catering management (contracts, permits, insurance, etc.)
- Speakers/presenters (identifying, confirming, logistics & management)
- Publicity/promotion (online & off-line, e.g.,: web page & online promotion; events calendars; printed programs; media relations; signage; social media, etc.)
- Registration (online sign-up, payment and tracking; on-site sign-in, etc.)
- Sponsor/partner management
- Volunteer management
While planning your event, consider creating a detailed timeline, so that everything moves smoothly. Include when any permits or insurance policies need to be submitted, when registration ends, and a timeline of the day-of.
6. Determine Administrative Processes
In other words, how are you going to keep track of your planning, registration, budget, guest and speakers lists, etc.?
If you are a Wild Apricot Membership Management client, you can quickly and easily create an event and manage your registration through our online event management system.
7. Identify and Establish Partnerships & Sponsors
Are there organizations that you could partner with or call on for sponsorships to defray the costs and increase potential participation? When you involve other people or groups in your event, they have a stake in helping spread the word and making the event a success.
You might want to consider:
- Seeking corporate sponsors to fund a portion of the event. This can range from national organizations that might want to sponsor a dinner, offer a door prize or a key silent auction item, to local businesses that might be able to provide goods or services, such as flowers for the tables, gift bag items, etc.
- Partnering with community organizations who might be able to offer a venue and/or assistance with organizing or staffing an event.
- When you involve other people or groups in your event, they have a stake in helping spread the word and making the event a success.
8. Create a Publicity Plan
Even with the most amazing speaker or entertainment line-up, you need publicity to get people in the door. Event promotion starts with the initial notice or page on your website, note in your newsletter or email to save the date, and then builds to include online and off-line publicity, media relations and on-going outreach to encourage registration. And no plan is complete without the post-event thank-you’s, sponsor acknowledgements and articles about the event’s key messages or fundraising success.
9. Establish a Budget
Your budget should incorporate estimates for all of the key items identified on your Event Master Plan. Don’t forget to include any travel or accommodation costs for speakers, presenters, etc.
10. Determine Evaluation Process
How will you determine if your event is a success? Do you measure success by the number of registrants or attendees or is it dependent on you breaking even or raising a target amount in donations?
When you set your initial event goals and objectives, you should also consider how you will evaluate the event to determine your success. If you are using a membership management software package, such as Wild Apricot’s, you can easily track registration numbers and fees. But, if your event involves tracking, for example, a silent auction, then you’ll need to put some processes in place to identify goods offered in kind and funds raised at the event.
By the same token, if the objective of your event is to raise awareness, you’ll have to benchmark and gather data on online social media activity/mentions etc. and offline publicity – again based on your initial goals.