Planning an event is difficult. Period.
Event planning and organizing a fairly small meeting involving just five participants can be quite a challenge, especially if this is your first time.
Then, imagine planning a massive concert with a big-name DJ as the headliner and 100,000 attendees. Can you imagine the headache?
However, although event planning can certainly be challenging, it also can be exciting and worthwhile. Also, once you’ve got the hang of it, event planning isn’t exactly rocket science, and if you know the secrets, even planning a huge event can be a breeze.
Here, we will share those secrets, and while each event is certainly unique, in this guide we will suggest some actionable tips and best practices that you can follow for any event.
With that being said, here are some of the most important tips you can try right away in building a successful event:
1. Begin As Early as Possible
The golden rule of event planning is to begin planning as soon as you possibly can.
If your event is relatively large (i.e. more than 500 attendees), then realistically you should start planning the event at least four months in advance, with six months in advance being a more ideal timeframe.
Even for smaller events, aim for at least one month in advance to plan the event.
An event, as we know, can involve many different moving parts, so by planning early, you’ll get more options for different elements of the event: venue options, speakers/talents options, sponsorship options, marketing options, and so on.
The more options you have, the higher the chance you’ll be able to pull it off, period.
2. Decide Your Event’s Purpose and Goals
Before you commit yourself to plan an event, it’s very important to answer the most important question:
Why are you hosting this event in the first place?.
What’s the purpose of the event? In some cases, it might be very obvious, but in other cases, it might not be.
Based on the purpose of the event, you might be able to decide on the type of event you are going to organize, but it will especially help in dictating the objectives of the event.
If, for example, this event is planned to support the launch of a new product, then the objectives can be:
- 1,000 social media follows the new product’s social media page
- 1,000 social media interactions and engagements
- 1,000 preorders for the launched product
And so on.
Set your objectives with quantifiable metrics, so you can measure your progress in reaching them, and also in ensuring your team that they are attainable.
3. Establish Your Budget Early
We have mentioned the importance of planning your event as early as possible, but it’s especially important to estimate your budget as early as you can.
Your budget will dictate many different elements of your event, so while you don’t have to have everything set in stone, it’s important to at least have an outline of your budget estimation before planning anything else.
Some of the critical elements you should include in your budget are:
- Venue: both the rental cost and required insurance. For virtual events, you can skip this.
- Catering: all costs related to food and beverage
- Decoration: pretty self-explanatory
- Entertainment: speakers, talents, performers, exhibitors, and so on. Also, consider travel and accommodation costs.
- Marketing: consider how you are going to promote your event and in which channels
- Labor costs: staff and volunteers, including their accommodations
- Contingencies: very important. Plan at least 20% of your budget for contingencies to avoid surprises along the way
Once you’ve secured some vendors, make sure to also update the budget with your actual spendings. This will help you in evaluating your event’s performance.
4. Identify Your Target Audience
Another very important factor to consider early is to define and understand who your target attendees are.
You can define your target audience based on your event’s purposes and objectives, or the other way around: identify the event’s objectives based on your target audience.
Nevertheless, try to gather as much information as you can about your target attendees: demographics data, behavior, and especially what motivates your audience to potentially visit your event.
On the other hand, also try to identify potential obstacles that might prevent them from registering for your event and/or choose competing events.
5. Choosing Your Ideal Venue
For an in-person event, then your venue selection can literally make or break your success.
If it’s a recurring event, then the date of the event might already be set, so your venue options might also be limited. However, if it’s a brand new event and/or if you have enough wiggle room to decide the event date, then you should consider the following factors:
- Again, if this is a big event, make sure you have at least 4-6 months in advance to plan the event, the more the better.
- In most cases, avoid school holiday time periods, since venues tend to be more expensive in these times
- Pay attention to national and religious holidays
- Check dates with your key speakers, VIP guests, and other key participants
Once you’ve decided on the event date (at least, a rough timeline), then you can start researching for potential venues.
Here are some considerations when choosing the ideal venue for your event:
- Size: would depend on the number of attendees you’re planning to invite. Also, consider whether you’ll need separate rooms depending on your event type.
- Location: if this is a local event, then your venue should be located near enough to your target attendees’ homes or workplaces. If you are planning to attract attendees from other cities/countries, make sure the venue is near enough to the airport and station
- Parking: does the venue has a big enough parking lot and/or easy enough to access via public transport
- Accessibility: choose accessibility factors like all-gender washrooms, accessible entrances/elevators, interpreters, and other factors.
- Insurance: whether you are required to purchase additional insurance, which may add to your total cost
- Acoustics: the acoustics condition of the venue, especially important for conference and keynote speaking sessions
- Costs: pretty self-explanatory, but also consider hidden costs and possible cancellation fees.
6. Create a Written Event Plan
Once you’ve estimated your budget and have established at least a rough timeline for your event, then you should develop a written event plan as a roadmap for your event’s success.
Having a comprehensive event plan will significantly help you in managing your team and coordinating volunteers, and can also help in securing talents and sponsorships.
The event plan should cover the following elements of the event:
- Catering management
- Promotion plan
- Registration management (event registration software, event payment, tracking, on-site check-in)
- Sponsorship plan and management
- Volunteer responsibilities
Depending on your event, you can also add additional elements to the event plan, and you should also consider developing a detailed timeline/schedule to accompany the event plan.
Don’t forget all the details like required contracts, insurance policies, permits, and the logistics of each different element. If you have hosted previous events, especially with similar types, you can also use the past data and documentation in creating this event plan.
Even if your team is fairly small, or even if you are planning to run the event by yourself, don’t underestimate the importance of having a written plan, which can help a lot in juggling with different elements of the event and assigning accountability.
7. Create a Strong Brand
One of the key challenges of running an event is to make sure it stands out amidst the competition.
Thus, don’t underestimate the importance of having a unique and easy-to-remember event name. Decide on an overall theme for the event, then brainstorm for a strong brand name while considering:
- What is your event’s unique value proposition (UVP)? What sets it apart from other events in your niche?
- What are the purpose and objectives of the event? (As we have discussed above)
- What are the main components of your event?
- Check out other events’ names, especially your direct competitors
- Make sure the event name is easy to pronounce and easy to remember but is unique at the same time
- Create a strong and unique logo to accompany the event name
- Not mandatory, but you can also create a tagline for your event, a short but unique slogan that describes what your event is about
8. Establish Your Event Team
If you are going to plan the event solely on your own, then you can skip this one. However, it’s always better to share the load with others, even if it’s a relatively small event.
An event team shouldn’t be overly big, but it’s crucial to designate an Event Manager/Project Manager (if it’s not yourself) to lead and supervise the whole team.
Assign roles and responsibilities for different people in your team. If it’s a fairly small team, you can let one person handle multiple roles.
Here are some common roles in an event team:
- Venue management: handling everything about the venue, including being a go-to person for speakers and sponsors when on the venue
- Speakers/talents: securing talents and managing their needs
- Catering: handling food and beverages
- Publicity/marketing: how you are going to promote your event
- Staff/volunteer management: managing the human resource aspect of your event
By assigning roles to different team members, you ensure accountability to every member of the event team, and thus, can improve productivity and increase the chance of the event’s success.
Having a reliable event management platform like Eventtia will also help you in managing the whole team, delegate tasks, and track the progress of each team member according to their responsibilities.
9. Securing Sponsorships
Build a list of target sponsors you’d want to support your event.
It’s best to conduct thorough research for each of these companies. Remember that sponsorship is a two-way deal. You should also try to figure out how they can benefit from your event instead of solely focusing on your benefit.
Try getting sponsors that:
- Have sponsored an event before, so they understand the value of sponsoring an event
- Has similar target audience to yours, doesn’t have to be a perfect fit, but having mutual customers can definitely help
- Offer complementary services to what your business/your event offers
Based on your research, tailor personalized proposals with custom sponsorship packages. Don’t be afraid to get creative and offer unique sponsorship benefits when possible.
10. Creating a Marketing Plan
No matter how well you’ve planned your event: securing the best venue, a top speaker in the industry, the best entertainment, and so on, your event is doomed to fail if you can’t secure enough attendees.
It’s crucial to also consider how you are going to market your event, and in event marketing, it’s best to divide your marketing efforts into several phases:
- Pre-launch: you can launch “save the date” campaigns on social media, email marketing, and other channels to start generating buzz for your event
- Early bird: selling early bird tickets to build awareness and also to secure some cashflow
- Headliner announcement: announcing keynote speaker or headliner
- Additional announcement: announcing other speakers, attractive session topics, and so on
- Last call: last chance for early bird pricing
- Registration closing: end of the registration
- Post-event: “thank you” campaigns, sending post-event surveys, etc.
You can use various channels when marketing your event: advertisement, social media marketing, sending an event press release, email marketing, and so on.
However, the best approach is to design your marketing effort based on your target attendees: their online behavior, how they learn about new events, what channels they frequent, and so on. So, again, conduct thorough market research and gather as much information as you can.
While planning and organizing a successful event can be challenging, the 10 top tips we’ve shared above can be a solid foundation for you in planning your next event for success.
Above all, the secret of successful event organizing is a thorough understanding of your target attendees: the better you understand how you can deliver value to them, the more likely you can design a “perfect” event for them, and the higher the chance for success.