No one sets out to plan a failed event (or at least we hope not), but as most professional event organizers know, sometimes things fall apart. Sometimes, things do not go according to plan. But, there are actions you can take to mitigate disaster and increase the odds that all elements of your event will fall perfectly into place. From golf fundraisers to silent auctions; school fundraisers, corporate conferences, and virtual events, these 12 tips for planning a successful event have you covered!
First things first, figure out the “why” of the event. If you don’t know why the event is taking place and what you or the organization hopes to achieve with it, it will be next to impossible to make tough decisions or concrete plans. Is the event being held to raise funds for a charitable cause? Will the event launch a product or business? Are you trying to get as many people through the door as possible? Are you trying to raise awareness? Once you answer these questions, you will have the foundation to begin planning from. This information will help you determine the event’s target audience and allow you to establish measurable and actionable goals from the outset.
Making sure you set a budget (and stick to it!) is an essential part of planning a successful event. Nothing ruins plans quite like running out of money. If know how much you have to spend, you can then set the event details to be in line with the budget. Things you will need to consider in your budget are:
Once you have set your objectives and solidified your budget, you can begin confirming your event details. It is time to start thinking about the where and the when of your event. Choose a date and start looking at venues. Be sure that you give yourself lots of time. If you allow yourself 4-6 months, you will have time to work out the details and iron out any wrinkles, ensuring a more successful (and less stressful) event. Be conscious of any religious or school holidays and, if possible, try to avoid booking your event at the same time as other large events in town. Don’t forget to check these dates with the speakers or entertainers you want to book to make sure that they are available. With the date and the venue in place, you can get to work booking any external vendors you may need and solidify your marketing strategy.
It is always a good idea to establish clear roles for your event management team. This way, everyone knows their responsibilities and you, as the event planner, can know who to speak to should you have a specific concern. The number of roles you need will depend on the type and size of the event you are planning. But in general, you will need someone managing marketing, ticket sales/inquiries, the entertainers, venue set up and tear down, and registration or check-in on the day of the event. Before you assign these roles, it may be useful to draft a document that clearly lays out the tasks and responsibilities of each role. Doing this means that the entire team can know what is expected of them and know who they should be speaking to should something go sideways. If you are going to have volunteers working elements of your event, make sure you have a team member in charge of volunteers and a clear set of tasks for those volunteers. You do not want anyone just standing around looking bored.
Early in your planning stages, set a timeline or checklist for you and your team. Include hard deadlines and designate the person who is responsible for the specific tasks. This is the best way to keep your entire team moving forward and ensure that no one loses sight of the goals and objectives that were set at the beginning of the planning process. This is an effective and simple way to make sure that all parties involved remain on track and that all necessary things get done when and how they are supposed to. An event planning timeline is also a good way to make sure that any problems that arise are addressed in a timely manner.
Event branding will identify and differentiate your event by telling attendees who you are and what you are about. It allows you to play a greater role in how attendees experience your event.Make sure that your event brand is visible across all touchpoints. This means using your event logo and tagline as much as possible. When you are not able to use the logo, be sure to use your color scheme.By making your branding consistent, you create a clear association for attendees. Clear branding cuts down on confused messaging and guessing, allowing people to just enjoy themselves. Attendee enjoyment is a central part of event success and will be reflected in the post-event survey responses.
Sponsorships are necessary for event success as they can offer two things: social proof and money. If you can attract sponsors to your event, whether they are local businesses or larger scale national brands, you will be giving your event a certain level of credibility. Because your audience is likely to trust these brands, the partnership will make them more likely to trust you as well. A sponsorship can add legitimacy, particularly to brand new events, and validate your event goals in the eyes of your attendees. And, of course, partnering with certain brands can help you woo a particular segment of your audience that may be otherwise difficult to reach. Sponsorships can also provide you with cash flow that may help expand your event budget. Sponsorship money may be what’s necessary to help you pull off the bigger, more exciting, elements of your event.
You cannot host a successful event without a proper marketing strategy. How exactly this strategy looks will depend on the size and type of your event. Begin by establishing a branded event website. Use this as your launching point. Once this page is built, you can share it to your social media platforms and begin an email marketing campaign. On your website, keep things fresh by sharing any relevant blog content, behind the scenes details, and video sneak peeks if appropriate. Leverage social media to reach a larger portion of your target audience. Not only can you use these platforms to engage people, but you can also purchase advertisements to expand your reach. Consider creating ads that target a lookalike audience. This means ads will be aimed at people who are likely to be interested in your event because they share qualities similar to your current audience. One of the most effective things you can do on social media is to create a hashtag. This will generate buzz and give people something to watch when they want to know what people are saying. It’s also a way to encourage user-generated content and increased shares. Sure, social media is all the rage but do not forget to promote your event through traditional forms of advertising. Event posters/flyers, print ads in the newspaper or trade publications, radio spots, and/or community bulletin boards can also be an effective way to reach your audience and spread the word.
The day of the event can be stressful for an event manager. Set yourself up for success by making a schedule and to-do list.Make sure everyone knows when they are supposed to arrive at the event venue and that they know exactly what to do when they arrive. Perform a venue walkthrough well in advance of the attendees’ arrival. This will help you spot any problems or last-minute things that need to be addressed. Once the walkthrough is complete, have a short team meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page. Send everyone to their posts and then walk through again to make sure that everyone has what they need. Do not forget to include venue teardown and cleanup as part of your agenda/checklist. You don’t want to be the only one left at the end of the event!
Sometimes things go wrong. It is a good idea to have a backup plan in place to mitigate disaster.Have alternative vendors, caterers, and even an alternate venue in mind so you can make changes if they are necessary. For example, if you are hosting an outdoor event, make sure that you have arrangements in place to deal with inclement weather. Yes, event managers are powerful but as of yet, we’ve not heard of any who have managed to control Mother Nature!In this example, maybe you will opt for event tenting, set up a rain date, or choose an indoor venue as a backup. Your emergency plan will have to be determined by the type of event, it’s size, and your budget but if you want your event to be a success, always be prepared for a worst-case scenario.
Successful events are often built off the backs of other events. Send out a post-event survey to gauge the attendee experience. The only way you can improve your events is to find out what went right, and what went wrong and the best way to gather that information is to just ask.Include questions about:
It is also a good idea to send a survey to event volunteers and event sponsors. Again, this will help you identify any gaps in your organization and improve your relationship with sponsors. --At Accelevents, we know how much work goes into creating an event. In order to host a successful event, you need to set yourself up properly. By following these tips you will be well-positioned to host an event that becomes the talk of the town for all the right reasons!