How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (2023)

Are you looking for advice on how to plan an event? You're in the right place.

We have seen many organization events over the years. And while we can't give you all the details you'll need to think about (it often depends on the nature of the event!), we have plenty of best practices to follow.

In this blog post, we'll walk you through the 13 key steps needed to plan your event:

  1. Develop your event objective and goals
  2. organize your team
  3. Recruit and train volunteers
  4. set your budget
  5. set date
  6. Create a master event plan
  7. Choose your event software
  8. book your place
  9. Brand for your event
  10. Confirm speakers and special guests
  11. Identify and establish partnerships and sponsors
  12. Create an advertising plan
  13. Determine the day of the proceedings

We also treat:

  • Things to consider on the day of the event
  • How to conduct your post-event review
  • Perspectives from seasoned experts in the events industry.

And to make sure nothing gets overlooked, we've prepared this for free,easy to use checklistfor planning your event. If you're organizing a virtual event, you've come to the right place. Here is our downloadChecklist for virtual events.

We hope you find this guide useful. Without further ado, here's everything you need to know about planning your event.

What is an event plan?

An event plan is a guide to all components of your event.

It coordinates these elements with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals and objectives and a timeline. To identify your schedule, we recommend working backwards from the event date (a work schedule!).

The event schedule will help you stay organized and can serve as a north star as you prepare for the day of the event. Regardless of the size of your event, a good plan will cover the same essential components that we'll cover in the next section.

What are the main functions of an event plan?

Your event plan is the starting point for your entire event, so it's important to make sure it covers the right bases.

Your event plan should include:

  • Event Goals and Objectives
  • Individual roles and responsibilities
  • Volunteers and volunteer training
  • Budget
  • Date of the event
  • Master Plan of Events
  • Local
  • Event-Software
  • event tag
  • Speakers and special guests
  • partnerships and sponsorships
  • Promotional, publicity, marketing and publicity plan
  • day of lawsuits
  • seller information

While it might seem like a daunting list, we've put together a step-by-step breakdown of each item and everything you need to know to get started.

Without further ado, here are our 13 steps to creating a comprehensive event schedule.

1. Develop your event objective and goals

The first step in planning your event is to define specific goals and objectives.

First ask yourself: WWhy are you organizing this event and what do you hope to achieve with it?

Knowing your organization's key goals prior to planning can help ensure that every part of your event is optimized for success.

Do you want to draw attention to something or collect a specific amount for your next project? Do you expect to attract 50 or 500 guests?

Setting a goal with quantifiable metrics of success makes it easier for your team to ensure you reach it.

Better yet, find out what happens when you meet, exceed, or fall short of your goal. At what point do you close shop? At what point can you do something more exciting next time? Understanding where you're going will only help you get there faster.

How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (2)“Identifying a list of tangible and intangible goals for your event can give you a better sense of your event management needs. Your specific goals might be to attract 500 attendees, sell 100 products at the event, or raise $1 million for charity. Your intangible goals will help drive those tangible goals and can include raising awareness of a product or cause or recruiting volunteers.”

-DR. Yuanyuan Zhou, co-fundador daWow

2. Organize your team

Each event requires concerted teamwork to handle all the details. Consider designating a key event manager or event chair, as well as individual chairs for subcommittees such as:

  • Location Management
  • speaker
  • Entertainment
  • Announcement
  • sponsors
  • volunteer management

Assigning individual roles to team members creates a system of accountability and prevents tasks from falling by the wayside.

It also allows you to delegate - but don't forget to include committee meetings in the event schedule!

How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (3)“Delivering quality events requires buy-in from all levels of an organization. To create a truly memorable experience, you need support from your leadership team all the way to the onsite event team.”

—Bill McGlade, CEM, Vice President, Account ManagementCustomize A2Z Events

3. Recruit and train volunteers

Your volunteers kick-start your event. But before you start working with them, make sure you understand what their roles are and how to start recruiting.

1. Define volunteer roles.Make sure you know what types of volunteers you need and who will mentor them. You may need volunteers for parts of your event, such as:

  • Event setup and teardown
  • porter and cloakroom
  • the park
  • refreshments
  • Register

2. Make a recruiting plan.A good place to start is by sharing volunteer opportunities with your existing contacts. Then identify the best channels to post your volunteer post for example. B. Volunteer websites and social media.

3. Identify volunteer leaders.If you have volunteers, who is responsible for training them? And how will you handle this training? Select volunteer leadership and offer written guidance or face-to-face (possibly virtual!) workshops. To knock it out of the park, you can even provide both.

To ensure you have the volunteers you need, organize your volunteer roles and post your volunteer post well in advance of the event.

4. Set your budget

Determining your event budget is one of the most important parts of event planning.

Creating a solid budget allows you and your team to generate ideas within realistic parameters. This means that the parts of your event that you look forward to are memorable. Instead, they are only adjusted to what you can afford.

Some of the critical expenses to include in your budget are:

  • Local:This cost should include rent and any insurance you may need to purchase.
  • To eat and drink:This field is pretty self-explanatory. However, keep in mind that the amount you can pay can also determine the number of tickets you can sell.
  • Entertainment:This field can be customized as needed - whether it's reserved for speakers, a DJ or even a talking pig, make sure you have room for travel and accommodation expenses, as well as any compensation.
  • Decoration:Are you going to opt for a DIY masonry glass theme or something a little fancier? Knowing the costs in advance can help you determine which ones you can afford.
  • Employees:This category is often overlooked, but it is critical to consider the cost of transport and accommodation for your employees, particularly when traveling abroad. Even the team's time budget (what would they be spending time on if they weren't working on that event?) can help you decide if that extra meeting is worth it.
  • Marketing:want you choosePromote your event on Facebookor go old school by putting up flyers all over town,
  • Software:If you are not already paying for some type ofevent management software, consider including it in your event planning. Software can help you streamline your processes, save time and empower your staff to do more.
  • A V:From projectors to WiFi to speakers, this category includes a variety of costs.
  • Other:Even the best-planned event will have some additional costs. If you include them in your budget, you will ensure that you are not caught off guard.

Even if some of these items are not yet fixed costs - for example, if you haven't decided on the location yet - it's important to consider the maximum you can afford before making these decisions.

5. Set the date

A recurring event may already have a preset date, but if it's a new event, there are a few things to consider. Before committing to your date, consider the following:

  • Allow yourself enough time! Ideally you should allow 4-6 months, if not more (depending on the event)
  • Observe legal and religious holidays
  • Avoid school holiday periods (winter, spring and summer holidays)
  • Review engagements with key players - speakers, presenters, VIP guests, etc.

Once you've set the date (and already set your budget), you can immediately start hiring any external staff (eg vendors) you may need.

Are you planning an event? Download our event planning checklist here.

6. Create a master event plan

Once you know all the costs and schedule for your event, it's time to start planning for real!

Creating an event master plan will help ensure that all aspects stay on track and facilitate coordination with volunteers and event committee members.

Your event master plan should cover all aspects of the event, including:

  • Venue management, logistics and catering (contracts, permits, insurance, etc.)
  • Speakers and Presenters (Identify, Confirm, Logistics and Management)
  • activities and entertainment
  • Advertising and promotions (online and offline, e.g. website and online advertising, event calendar, print programmes, press office, signage, social media, etc.)
  • Registration (online registration, payment and tracking; on-site registration, etc.)
  • Sponsor and partner management
  • Volunteer management and responsibilities

When planning your event, also consider creating a detailed schedule to ensure everything runs smoothly. Include when licenses or insurance policies must be submitted, when registration ends, and a detailed timeline for the day of registration.

While it might be tempting to say, "It's all in my head! I'll be fine!" and don't worry about writing everything down, beware: this kind of mindset will make it much harder for you to assign responsibilities. It will also make it harder to remember what to do for the next event done - so do your future self a favor and write everything down.

If you or your organization has hosted events of a similar nature in the past, reviewing existing documentation at the time can help ensure you don't miss anything.

How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (4)Make sure all your activities and services are designed for your audience size. In the past, we've operated a few bars open for our events and had a single bartender making each individual's drink from scratch. The queue would be too long and our participants would be frustrated. We knew we had to find a better solution, but we couldn't hire another bartender, so we decided to make some great cocktails beforehand. This reduced the queue tremendously and our attendees loved the drinks we made! When creating your master plan, try to see if there is any place you can cut costs by doing it yourself. Also remember that with new apps like TaskRabbit and Craigslist, you can often find a talented person who can provide a service for a lot less, making your life a lot easier when planning and running an event.

Ciara Hautau, Chief Digital Marketing Strategist,stocked

7. Choose your event software

The right event software can make all the difference in streamlining your processes when planning your event.

Types of event software that might be worth your while include:

  • Register
  • Ticketing
  • event website
  • Attendee retention solutions
  • Lead tracking tools
  • Virtual event solutions
  • Hybrid event solutions
  • participant management

If you run a membership organization and are tired of manually processing event registrations and payments, membership management software might be for you. It will fully automate the online process!

Here's what it can do:

  • Allows easy creation ofOnline event registration forms
  • Put an events calendar on your website
  • Automatically update your website with upcoming events
  • Deposit event payouts directly into your account
  • Send automatic invoices and appointment reminders
  • Transfer event attendee data directly to your contact database
  • and more

Membership management software not only takes care of all event logistics, but also makes it easier for member organizations to function. You can automate administrative tasks such as managing your contacts, website, finances and email communications.

If you want to see if this type of software is right for your business,Experimente WildApricot, to die#1 Membership Management Softwarein the market. The best part is that you can try WildApricot for free for 60 days.Click here to start your free trial now.

How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (6)

As a small non-profit organization, this software has made organizing and communicating with our members so much easier. Membership is now automatic and registering for our events is easy for our guests and much less of a hassle for us.

—DeeDee LaBaron, Oregon Work and Training Association

8. Book your spot

Once you've set the date, it's important to book the venue as soon as possible. Your event must have a date and location before you start promoting it, so this task should be completed as early in the planning period as possible.

(Note that some flexibility with the date might also help you at this stage and open up a wider choice of venues.)

When choosing a location for your event, consider the following:

  • Accessibility.Does the venue have barrier-free entrances and elevators? Are there bathrooms for all genders? Do you have space for interpreters or a screen with live subtitles? These and many other factors play a role in choosing a room in which all participants will feel comfortable.
  • Size.An event for 50 people requires a very different space than one for 500. Also, consider whether or not you need separate rooms for breakout sessions or other small group activities (or, hey, even a green space for your speakers and/or VIPs! ).
  • The park.Is there a car park or is it easily accessible by public transport?
  • Safe.Do you have to take out separate insurance? What are your liability rules?
  • VON.If your event requires speakers and microphones, make sure they can be easily placed in the available space - including plugs or extension cords in the right places. The same goes for Wi-Fi access (and cellular connection!) or any other technology requirements your event may have.
  • Cost.How much deposit does the site require? Are there any additional costs? How much do you get back if (for God's sake) you have to cancel?

How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (9)Don't believe everything you see on Instagram or Pinterest. It's a sad reality we face, but this industry is getting more creative when it comes to your marketing materials. They know the right shots, the right angles to shoot, the right photo edits to make venues look bigger, cleaner, and prettier. So we recommend looking at the place in person, meeting your vendors in person, and taking the time to do your due diligence. And if you don't have the time, hire the right professional to secure these components on your behalf.

—Lauren Grech, CEO and co-founder ofllg events

9. Book your event

A contemporary and eye-catching theme can be exactly what sets you apart from other events. Choose a dynamic theme and apply it to all elements of your event, including the name. Highlight the elements that make you special, especially in online media, as this can be what attracts people to join.

  • Brainstorming-Nome:When thinking about the name of the event, ask yourself:
    • How is your event different from other events in your industry?
    • What do you want to convey with this event?
    • What are the main components of your event?
  • Create a slogan:Once you've come up with a name, come up with a slogan - a short, catchy branding slogan that describes the event.
  • Design a logo:If you're planning a big event or a recurring series of events, make sure you've created a logo. A logo can be an effective branding tool - it provides instant recognition of your event on all of your promotional and promotional items (like t-shirts, water bottles, tote bags and more).
  • Create your visual identity:Create a cohesive visual identity for your event to pull it all together. Choose a specific font, colors, voice and tone, story, graphics and thematic elements. That way, you can be sure you're creating an unforgettable experience for your attendees.

Once you have your name, tagline and logo, use them in all of your marketing materials so people unfamiliar with your organization will recognize your brand - and remember the event is happening!

How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (10)In addition to creating a name, tagline, and logo for your event, create a hashtag for all of your marketing materials and for attendees to use when talking about your event on social media. The shorter the better, but it must also be unique.

For example, if your event is the National Conference on Dogs, you could create a hashtag like #NCDwoof2019. It's unique, memorable and short.

During the event, designate someone to monitor live posts with the hashtag: “like” Facebook posts, “retweet” tweets, and so on to build excitement during the event.

After the event, you can search all social media platforms for posts that include your hashtag for great follow-up.

—Nicole A. Meyerson, founder,project parity

10. Recognize speakers and special guests

Industry leaders, subject matter experts or local influencers are examples of great speakers or special guests for your event. The right speaker can make all the difference in increasing registrations and attendance!

If you plan to include top speakers and special guests, here are our tips on how to find and invite the right people.

  1. Use social media.Use your Linkedin network to find potential speakers or guests who have interests or expertise that match your organization. You can also search for hashtags related to your organization's mission to find people who would be a good match for you.
  2. Browse professional speaker websites. sites like thisNational Association of SpeakersESpeakHubare great resources to turn to to find a great speaker. The directory is organized by topic and also lists a history of your past events.
  3. Access your existing network.Ask the staff in your organization – or on your board! – according to the recommendations. See if they can also look into their social media networks, then compare lists of potential connections.
  4. Contact your local chamber of commerce.If youThey areB. a Chamber of Commerce, see tip above. However, if your organization is not, a chamber of commerce can be a great resource for finding like-minded businesses that may have had success with a speaker at a previous event. Ask them for recommendations.
  5. Ask your members. Events are great ways to grow your membership base. So who better to ask what would resonate better with your participants than your members? Reach out to them and ask for suggestions on who they would like to see at your event. Amember searchis a great way to do this.
  6. Check the poll results after the event. OQuestions about event searchyou asked in the past are full of useful information. Review the poll results and use that information to find a speaker your attendees are interested in.
  7. Review events you've attended in the past.Do you remember a great speaker from a past gala you attended? Get in touch with them and see if they are interested in making your event special.
  8. Find out about industry publications.Whether in print or online, look for notable people who have written about topics of interest to your organization that could be a part of your event. Depending on who they are, they could be keynote speakers or special guests at your event.

11. Identify and establish partnerships and sponsors

Partnerships and sponsors can help cover your costs and increase potential attendance. When you involve other people or groups in your event, they have an interest in spreading the word and making the event a success - the more the merrier, right?

You might want to consider the following:

  • Looking for Corporate Sponsorsfinance part of the event. This can range from national organizations that want to sponsor a dinner, offer a door prize or a key for a silent auction, to local businesses that can offer goods or services such as: B. Flowers for the table, gift bags, etc.
  • Work with community organizationswho can offer a venue and/or assistance in organizing or staffing an event.

If you are looking for companies to sponsor your event, remember that they are more likely to do so if they can see a clear benefit to them. If you've had sponsors in the past who are willing to help, even better - but if not, be prepared to make a compelling case for endorsement when you first pitch in.

Keep reading: How to write a sponsor letter

12. Create an advertising plan

Even with the biggest speaker or entertainment program, you need a promotional plan to get people in the door.

Make sure you've covered the three main functions of event promotion:

Some components you might want to include in your advertising plan include:

  • Marketing:Think of it as the analytics side of your advertising plan. Your event marketing must be guided by key objectives and KPIs to mark success. Everything in your marketing should be informed by the needs and pain points of your attendees, as well as the purpose or goal of your event. This could include creating a marketing landing page, social media campaigns or email drip campaigns.
  • Announcement:You want to make sure the right people are learning about your event. Whether it's on event listing sites, social media, in your community, through partnerships or in print, use your audience information to figure out which channels to focus on to promote your event. Then distribute and publicize information to get people excited and interested in attending the day of the event.
  • Media and public relations work:News channels, radio and print media are great ways to generate interest in your event. Reach out to the media and suggest an idea for a compelling story, for example B. a story about a well-known speaker or the purpose of your event.

Some components you might want to include in your advertising plan include:

  • website ad
  • social media
  • email blast
  • printed materials
  • Press and Media Office

Finally, no promotional plan is complete without post-event thank you notes, sponsor acknowledgments, and articles about key messages from the event or fundraising success.

How to Plan an Event: A Complete Guide (11)Hire a professional photographer to attend the event and take photos, making it super easy to submit your event for publication. Also, a big thank you to the participants!

—Jen Naye Herrmann, founder,Girls Dating Party

13. Determine the day of the processes

OK. Are you ready to go!

Or almost. The last thing you need to put together is a full-day agenda for your event. This schedule should run throughout the day, from setup to cleaning. Consider every detail, no matter how small, and you'll be in control!

Here's a quick example of what that might look like:

  • 5:00 pm: Delivery of Silent Auction items to the venue (Diana)
  • 6:15: AV setup (Terry, Diana)
  • 7:00: Volunteer Coordination Quick Meeting (Terry + Volunteers)
  • 7:30 am: Arrival of participants
  • 08:00h: Served hors d'oeuvres
  • 8:30 am: Speaker 1 enters the stage
  • 8:45am: Break
  • 9:00: Announcer 2 enters the stage
  • 10:00: Awards Ceremony (Diana)
  • 10:30: Mixing, silent auction ends
  • 11:00: Start clearing the tables
  • 11:30 am: Bar closes
  • 12:00 End of the event; All guests must leave

Identifying who needs to do what and when can also ensure there is clear accountability ahead of the event.

Things to consider on the day of your event

In the days leading up to a big blockbuster day, you need to check off some last-minute important items.

Here is a list of what to prepare 48 hours in advance:

  • Reach attendees with a reminder email
  • Get in touch with your media visitors
  • Check out your venue setup and take a tour
  • Set up a room or area to serve as your command center
  • Check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly.
  • Liaise with your team to ensure everyone is on the same page
  • Registration of suppliers and deliveries
  • Confirm speakers and special guests
  • Review your event checklist
  • Charge and review all technology devices
  • Prepare a set of supplies for the day (extra pens, markers, paper, USB drives, chargers, extension cords, etc.).
  • Prepare an emergency assurance kit that includes public relations documents, itineraries, etc.
  • Take an extra outfit (in case something happens to what you're wearing)
  • Take time to focus and relax.

The last point is crucial. You've done all the hard work putting together a solid schedule of events, so the last part is resting up and remembering that you're primed and ready for whatever comes next!

Bonus: Post-Event Review

Congratulations: you survived your event!

But wait a second. Not over yet.

Before you hit the couch for a well-earned nap, evaluate your event to see what went well and what you can do better next time.

How do you know if your event is a success? Do you measure success by the number of entries or participants, or does it depend on breaking even or meeting a fundraising goal?

When setting the initial event goals, you should also consider how you will evaluate the event to determine its success. If you use a membership management software package,like the one from WildApricot, you can easily track registration numbers and fees.

But if your event involves tracking, for example,a silent auction,Then you need to set up some processes to identify in-kind contributions and funds raised at the event, for examplea post-event survey.

On the other hand, if your event's objective is to raise awareness, you need to measure and collect data on online activity and social media mentions, as well as offline advertising - again based on your original objectives.

Once you've received your participant survey and spoken to your team, there are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How have we evolved compared to the forecast?It could be your attendance forecast, your budget, or any other prediction you made about the event. If you hit the target, great! But if not, think about what you could do better next time.
  • What was the feedback from participants?Some punctual comments can be discarded, but if there are some points that come up several times, positively or negatively, they should be taken into account.
  • How did our team fare?You can use your event as a great feedback generator for everyone else who helped - and reserve volunteers for specific tasks in the future.
  • How has our marketing evolved?Which activities brought the highest ROI? Whether you've created a Facebook event or spoken to the local press, determining which performed best will help you decide which path to take next time.

With the right software, your event planning can be streamlined to make the most of your resources. Reduce time spent on administrative tasks with Wild Apricot with features like membership renewal, waitlists, discounts, early registration, email automation, QR codes and more.

Are you interested in taking advantage of what Wild Apricot has to offer?Access your 60-day free trial here.


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