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How To Plan an Event in 10 Easy Steps

By Lee Rennick

Event planning, be it an intimate wedding for fifty guests or a comprehensive convention for thousands of attendees, involves a few basic steps. It is the scale and number of people involved that brings in the complexity. Once the basic outline of event planning is understood, it can be applied to everything from a child’s birthday party to the after party for the Academy Awards and from creating a small writing workshop to the National Finals Rodeo bring 175,000 people to the largest convention center in the world located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Having local resources handy is key to making the planning of your event, so we are happy to include a guide, not only to planning, but also to locate everything you need to execute. This feature should do just that!

As the scale of the project grows, then each step must be broken down into smaller parts, but as an overview, here are the ten steps to event planning. The main thing is to make sure you know the purpose and vision for the event. 

Then create a budget, take into consideration all of the items you will need to pull it together. Once a total budget is decided, then it needs to be broken down into the different parts of the project. According to Eventbrite, “Budget is broken down by marketing and promotion (43%), talent (32%), printed materials (29%), venues (18%).”

1. Hire a Professional Planner

Some events are put together by a team of business associates or volunteers, but it is possible to hire a professional planner who can help you make sure everything goes smoothly. They will help with the overall look and feel of the event, but also the logistics. Logistics are all of the moving parts. 

A professional planner insures that the tables are set as desired and on time, that speakers have everything they need like materials and a sound system, and that the entertainment has easy access to power for their equipment but doesn’t blow a fuse when they turn it all on. 

2. Find a Venue and Pick a Date

When finding a location for the event, make sure there is access to plenty of parking for those attending or offer valet service. Also look into what logistical items the location will be able to provide-- like tables, chairs, linens, centerpieces, sound equipment, and any audiovisual needs. 

Date choosing is tricky. When choosing a date, it is good to check and make sure that there are no conflicting events that will draw from your event’s attendance. 

3. Pick a Theme

When promoting a party, fundraising event, or major convention, choose a central theme or brand identity and use it consistently in the promotion, decoration, and orchestration of the event. There are several event supply rental companies that can help you pull your theme together. It can be as simple as the colors and décor you use for an elegant rustic wedding using mixed greens and an assortment of lush white flowers in vintage silver pitchers on the tables in an event barn on a country estate. Or it can get very complex.  

STORY, a two-day immersive conference in Nashville for innovators, creatives, artists, and storytellers sets a theme that permeates everything about the conference, from the first save the date to the program to all the materials received at the event. They transformed Schermerhorn Center into Alice’s Wonderland one year and a Carnival of Curiosities another. 

This theme (AKA the brand) should include the name of the event, the overlying concept, the logo, colors, topography, on-site décor, emails, signage, and anything else tied to it. For a simple celebration, a company that creates invitations can help (see more about this below). 

Sixty percent of millennials in the United States expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands on line, in person or by phone according to

4. Get the Word Out

Whether you are doing a wedding, fundraiser or other party, you need to let people know they are invited. This might be as simple as ordering invitations and getting them sent to your friends and family, or as complex as hiring a marketing and public relations company to create a complete campaign using both traditional media and social media, as well as working with printers, photographers, and graphic artists. 

Another factor in getting the word out is ticketing. Decide what they are going to look like and how they will be made and distributed. Will they be paper or electronic? Whether your event is on a large or small scale, you need to know who is coming so you can plan food, seating, favors, printed materials, and more.  

A detail oriented person needs to be in charge of registration, ticket collection and check-in. He or she will need to create the mailing and/or e-mail invitation list, make sure everyone’s name is spelled correctly, that the invitations have gotten to everyone that they are supposed to go to, and then keep a running list of who will be attending. On the day of the event, this person and their team of helpers needs to be there to get everyone checked in and to the right place. 

5. Decide on Food and Beverages

Food and beverage can be considered a superfluous part of an event by some, but any event planner worth their salt will tell you that the food better be deliciously memorable and there better be plenty of it. Just read blogs on this year’s Met Gala and you will know that event planners of huge prestigious events can crash and burn when the food is bad. I mean who wants to pay $30,000 for a ticket and get a tiny scoop of creamed barley with corn, pickled turnips, and roasted maitake? 

Try to choose food and drink that fit the theme you have decide upon. If the theme is “Southern Nights,” then barbecue is a good choice, but a tropical theme needs fruity drinks with little umbrellas. 

6. Choose Entertainment and/or Speakers

Entertainment and speakers are as important as the food. They need to be engaging and enjoyable, even if it is just background music.

Music can be provided by a band or a DJ, a classical guitarist or an acapella group. It all depends on the goal. Should the music get people dancing or play quietly in the background as people talk during a cocktail hour? Keeping to the theme will help with music choice, just as it helps with food choices.

Entertainment can be more than music, it might be a theater group doing a murder mystery play during the event, or a magician may perform to small groups before a larger magic themed performance. 

Speakers can be informative, humorous, or good at telling tall tales. Just make sure the guests get a usable take away. 

7. Furniture and Rentals

Rental companies can, as state previously, help choose and create a theme, but they can do much more. While small rental companies primarily focus on tables and chairs, table cloths and serving dishes, others can come in and transform a ballroom or a tent into a snow dusted wonderland in the middle of the summer, or a pirate infested sea on dry land. 

Brides today are turning large party venues into multiple intimate gathering spaces by bringing in rented couches, rugs, tables and greenery. With the pandemic, it gives groups places to stay safe in small groups in the middle of a large party. 

Some rental companies can also bring in the latest technology. The type of event and the age of the participants will determine technology needs. Obviously, a small dinner party will just require a text, email or phone call as an invitation, and maybe a large-screen TV set up to watch the game or a movie together. But a large conference is going to require bringing in the latest hardware and software, lighting and sound, bells and whistles to ignite the interest of those in house during the event. Much like a magician using his or her greatest tricks. So much can be done with these elements to totally transform a space. 

8. Choose Plants or Florals

Just as bringing outside in is big for the home, it is also big for events. Floral arrangements, ferns, trees and even potted bushes are finding their way into the setting for events. They can separate seating areas, soften same-same hotel ballrooms, and add a touch of elegance, 

An elegant old home used for a wedding may only need a few delicate florals, but a large blank tent can be turned from blah to ah with the right green plants and flowers.

9. Make a Schedule
These days there is an app for that. While planning and scheduling used to be done on paper and kept in huge notebooks, according to Eventbrite, in 2019, 83% of event organizers used an event planning app.

From the first day of planning to when the last piece of trash is thrown out when the event is over should be scheduled. The schedule should contain a list of activities, times, who is in charge, vendors, contact information, and a description of what is supposed to be taking place. This will be the project plan that the event coordinator will work from on the day of the event. 

For every step in the planning of an event, there must be deadlines because many different elements will dovetail into each other. For example, the theme and creative designs for the logo and décor will have to be created just after the location and date are selected so a save the date card can be sent to potential participants to insure the event gets on their busy calendar, and so everyone else can coordinate their efforts using the same theme and logo. This means that the person in charge of check-in needs to have the list of potential attendees completed before the save the date cards goes out.

10. Be Prepared for Anything

On event day, wear comfortable clothes and shoes while pulling things together. Bring back-up supplies in case anything goes wrong, from a sewing kit to scissors to stain remover. The supplies might also include light bulbs, batteries, a stapler, pens, paper, and scotch tape. And don’t forget the schedule. It will be the outline for everything that happens all day. Have a cell phone charger, emergency contact numbers, and back-up plans. 

Have the smallest detail of what you want to happen planned out, scheduled, and staffed, so that you can be ready to take care of those things that weren’t planned. 

Pulling together an event is a lot of hard work, even if those doing it make it look easy. When you are done, bring the team together and celebrate success. Then meet to get everyone’s ideas on how to make it even better next time. 

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