Planning an event for your company or business can be an insanely overwhelming. The sheer number of details can trip planners up. However, have no fear – there is a method to the madness. You just need to have some insight and help.
Whether putting together an all-day meeting or holiday party, the tips below will set you on the right path to hosting a successful event.
Have a clear purpose and audience for the event.
The first step in any event planning is getting clear about the purpose of gathering everyone and defining who needs to be in attendance. The purpose and audience dictate the rest of the planning parameters, including venue, budget, meals, and materials needed.
Gather the details.
Start a list of the event needs and wants. Ask questions and make notes of everything in one place.
Questions want to consider:
- What is the envisioned design/layout of the event?
- What will the flow of the event be? (Even a holiday party has an agenda!)
- What technical or audio/visual support will be needed?
- What are the ideal time parameters?
- What materials will be needed?
- Will food be provided?
Create a Planning Committee.
The planning committee should consist of co-planners and decision-makers. Define roles for team members and be clear on autonomy.
- What decisions or actions can be taken without approval?
- What needs to be brought back to the group or the decision-makers?
Create a Communication Plan.
You can never over-communicate about an event. People will get excited. Decision-makers and stakeholders will get antsy. Make sure you’re sharing frequently, concisely, but completely. Create two communication plans. The first will be for the planning committee and include a meeting schedule and status update communications. The second will be for the attendees, including dates for sending invitations and reminders, confirmations, agendas, events details, and thank yous.
Establish a Collaboration Tool and Knowledge Base.
Whether you have an internal share folder or use Google Drive, declare a location to track all information and save important files. Organize the folders ahead of time and ensure everyone who needs access has it.
Pro Tip: Create an event manifest using a spreadsheet. What does that mean? The spreadsheet will be the one-stop-shop for all key details, including attendees and RSVPs, venue details, agendas, etc. This creates a single source of truth and keeps all pertinent information at your fingertips.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
As you start speaking to vendors, remember to ask questions about what you’re getting. The biggest negotiation mistake in event planning is focusing solely on price. There are a number of things that can be negotiated into a contract such as comped hotel rooms, free wifi, additional meeting rooms at no cost, and food and beverage discounts.
Create a Contingency Plan.
No event is perfect. Outdoor events get rained on. Transportation breaks down. Speakers go over on their time. Play the “What if” game with the planning committee and create a list of genuine concerns. How can you alleviate any issues? What needs a back-up plan? Work with your vendors to create and document a contingency plan for big concerns.
Build the Agenda Along the Way.
Don’t wait until the end to make the agenda. As soon as you have a general idea of event flow, create an agenda. Add to the agenda every time a decision is made. Not only does this keep the materials up to date, it gives the planning committee immediate insight into how full the event is getting and avoid overpacking the time.
Walk Through the Event Start to Finish.
Sit down and walk through the event experience from the moment guests arrive to when they leave.
- How will they arrive?
- Is there a natural flow of action when entering the event space?
- How will attendees receive information?
- How and when are food and beverage served and cleared?
- How do attendees get where they need to go between meeting sessions?
- Is there a clear end?
- What is the call to action at the end?
Every step matters and clarity will reduce the amount of event management needed throughout the day.
Always Follow Up.
Every meeting should have a follow-up communication that accomplishes three things.
1) Thank the attendees for coming.
2) Send out meeting materials (pdf of presentation, list of resources, etc.)
3) Solicit event feedback.
Finally, debrief on the event with the planning committee to discuss what went well and what could be improved. But remember a debrief should be a thank you for the planning committee so provide yummy food or treats to celebrate a successful event!