Good planning is key when organising an event, be it a wedding, corporate event or a big birthday bash; the more thorough your plans and research, the smaller the chance of a nasty surprise or sudden last-minute panic. Some people are naturally organised, and some need a little help along the way. Whichever camp you fall into, you can always fall back on our event planning tips! Read on for the ultimate event planning guide.
The benefits of event planning
Organising an event is stressful. However much you enjoy the process, there are always multiple issues and logistics to juggle. That’s where a detailed plan will be your saviour. From seating plans to supplier details, the more you have organised in advance and the more you have available to hand, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with every eventuality. Using an event planning guide like this one is a great way to get started; it’ll give you a handy reference point and a framework to build upon. You can always add your own ideas and notes to the basic event planning checklist.
Be prepared: How to plan an event successfully
There are many different steps in event planning, so it’s vital to keep a checklist to ensure that everything is covered. How you do this is up to you; people have different organisational styles, so there’s no one-size-fits-all way to work. Some people adore spreadsheets while others need to write everything down by hand. You could even organise your ideas using Pinterest. Whatever your modus operandi, stick to your tried and tested way of working. Whether you’re using Post-It notes or a printer, be sure to use our comprehensive guide to planning an event as a reference.
Here are the basics that you’ll need to cover in your event planning checklist:
Budget and costs
Your budget is fundamental to the success of your event. Running out of money is not an option!
- Know your budget from the outset. Cost this out carefully and be realistic.
- If you are aiming to make a profit from your event, set your ticket prices and other prices competitively. Check out rival events to scope out what’s reasonable to charge.
- Keep some wriggle room for unforeseen costs. 5-10% of the total budget is a typical figure.
- Whether it’s venue hire, catering or entertainment, get quotes from at least 3 different suppliers to get an idea of the market price.
- Always ask for a discount – if you don’t ask, you won’t get!
- Keep track of your spending at every step of the process. If you’re heading into the red, it’s important to know this sooner rather than later.
Whether the date is set in stone or is moveable, your event date is the ultimate deadline.
- Ideally, give yourself ample time to put everything in place. The amount of time you’ll need will depend on the event you’re putting on – many wedding venues are booked up years in advance, for example. So before setting a date, it’s good to do some initial research about what’s feasible in the time you have available.
- Before settling on a date, double check a few basics:
- Does it clash with anything disastrous – a rival event, a planned transport strike or a VIP’s alternate engagement?
- Is it ‘high season’ – a summer weekend, for example, when costs are likely to be at their highest?
- Will weather be a factor? Is it likely to be favourable on the date you have chosen?
- Once your date is decided, or if it has been determined from the outset, everything else will need to fit in with this. Set yourself deadlines for each small step of the event planning process; this will help you to break things up into manageable chunks and ensure that you are always on track and on schedule. Meeting your later deadlines will depend on the initial tasks being achieved on time.
Finding the right venue
Everything hangs on what you’re looking for in a venue, so this is a really important decision to make – and one that you’ll need to sort out early on. When planning an event you’ll need to consider:
- Capacity: how many people will you need to accommodate? Is there any flexibility – for example, would it be easy to upgrade or hire another room in the building if you sell more tickets than expected?
- Location: any event planning guide will emphasise the importance of a convenient location that can be accessed easily by car or public transport.
- Amenities: make sure it has all the basics that you require for your function. These may include:
- Bar facilities and catering – do they offer these in-house?
- Dance floor
- Wi-fi and audio visual equipment
- Outdoor space
Styling and decorating your venue
Here’s where the fun starts. Designing the ‘look’ of your event and deciding how to style your venue is the most creative part of the event planning process. Here’s how to transform your venue into something stunning:
- Decide on a basic theme. This doesn’t have to be comprehensive at this stage; you can turn to expert stylists and designers later to offer their own ideas on how to execute it, or get inspired by the colours of the year.
- Contact furniture and prop hire companies. Request a free consultation so that you can discuss your aims and ideas for the event. You’ll be shown a range of different styles and examples of other events they have worked on, which should give you lots of inspiration.
- In addition to the aesthetics, discuss the practicalities of furniture and prop hire, too. Ask:
- Is delivery included in the price? Is the location of your venue covered? Will they take it away afterwards?
- Do they require a deposit?
- Can you see testimonials from clients?
- Whether you’re planning something lavish or need to stick to a tight budget, there’s lots you can do to completely transform your venue.
Logistics, permits and paperwork
Don’t get caught out by red tape. Do your research early on and make sure you’re covered for any licences or permits you may need, and that you’re fully insured. Your event planning checklist should include checks on:
- Entertainment licences: you may need one if putting on music or entertainment.
- Alcohol: check that you are licensed to serve it.
- Raffles, bingo and other gambling activities: these may come under special regulations, so check whether these need to be registered.
- Insurance: check what’s covered by the venue.
Publicity and invitations
Whether you’re holding a private function or publicising your event far and wide, you can start to tell the world about the big day as soon as you’ve firmed up the date and location.
- Get in early; send ‘save the date’ cards if appropriate and put details of your event online. You need to make sure people know about your event before they make other plans.
- For many, electronic invitations are now an acceptable and affordable alternative to formal wedding invites. Consider using these to save valuable time and money in the run-up to your event.
- Social media is your friend. Make full use of it! Always include a link to a page that includes all the pertinent details of your event and an option to book online if appropriate.
- Contact local media outlets and specialist press in order to publicise your event to your target audience.
- Branding is brilliant for engaging your audience. If you have a recognisable name or logo, brandish it on every piece of publicity, from paper handouts to electronic communications.
The day itself
- Timings: have an outline of the main events of the day, from the time your doors open until the fat lady sings.
- Contingencies: if things don’t run exactly as they’re meant to, have a Plan B to turn to. This may include swapping around different elements of your running order, or having something up your sleeve for an emergency.
- Delegate: separate out broad areas of responsibility and divide these up between trusted and capable members of your team.
- Take lots of pictures, or arrange for someone else to do this. You’ll want to post pictures on social media and remember the day. If yours is a commercial event these images will be invaluable as a marketing tool for your next one.
- Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! The day itself is the culmination of your hard work and planning.
So there you have it, a handy guide to event planning. We hope our event planning guide will help you to organise a day or night to remember!