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How to Plan an Event in 5 Simple Steps

Last updated June 25th, 2021

It is the most exciting and rewarding job on the planet. There is nothing quite like the buzz of delivering a live ‘show’ - often with no rehearsal - it's creative, energetic, intense & totally varied . No day is the same

Lorne Armstrong, Director, The Event Academy

Event planning is a detailed and involved process that can be overwhelming in its scope and depth. Whether you’re planning your next corporate meeting or a society wedding, more time and effort goes into planning than into the execution.

While the process itself is detailed, the strategy is actually quite straightforward. It contains only five main steps.

They are:

  1. Planning
  2. Organisation
  3. Promotion
  4. Hosting the event
  5. The aftermath

The planning process itself contains many more steps but each will fit into one of these five areas.

1.   Event planning

Event planning begins with the brief. What is the event for? What is its goal? What are the objectives of the event?

Every event has a goal. Whether it’s a successful wedding, to raise funds for a nonprofit, to thank employees for a great year, to promote a brand and so on.

You’ll likely set some tangible and intangible goals for the event to achieve. Tangible goals could be to raise a set amount of cash for a nonprofit or hold a successful wedding with no hiccups. As long as they are specific, measurable and attainable, you’re all good.

Intangible goals could be raising awareness about a charity or good cause, recruiting new interns for a company or showcasing a new product or service to a new audience.

Once you have the brief, objective and goals in mind, you can move on to event organisation.

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2.   Event organisation

Event organisation is when you begin putting a team together to achieve those goals and objectives. You’ll have a core team with the range of skills necessary to deliver the brief.

That should include planning, budgeting, marketing, technology, scheduling, health and safety, communications, design and the core skills you know are involved in event planning.

Organisation is also where you come up with event ideas, the event design, the budget, set the date and create the overall strategy for the event and the event plan.

Your plan should include:

Once you have an overarching plan, you can begin building out your budget. From a rough estimate of what it would cost, you can begin adding specific line item costs and gradually increase its accuracy.

There are dozens of event management tools out there and deciding on one early means everyone is using the same tools in the same way. There should also be time to train everyone to the same standard in using those tools.

The location or venue is something you should decide early. Venues get booked quickly, locations may need preparation, they may be seasonal or have busy schedules. The earlier you can book your venue, the better.

Consider size, location, accessibility, parking, insurance, catering, audio and visual, venue staff and cost when deciding your venue.

Event themes and design can be both fun and fraught. Coming up with ideas can be tough. Coming up with ideas that haven’t been done before in quite the same way while delivering on the core objectives is even tougher.

Spend as much time as you have refining your theme or design until there is nothing more you can do.

Each of those points will need careful research, planning and execution. Not all of them will be relevant for every event but the larger the event, the larger this list!

3.   Event promotion

Once you know the what, where, how and when, you can begin putting a marketing plan together. Once the venue, the date and the overall event plan is in place, you can begin communicating it to the world.

That means building out the event branding, getting buy-in from stakeholders or sponsors, ensuring everything has the same message and devising strategies for communicating that message while delivering on the core goals and objectives.

For smaller events, you may be handling marketing yourself. For larger events, you’ll likely use a team or outsource it.

You’ll need to consider the event name, the tagline, colours, logo, branding, hashtag and the hundreds of smaller elements that make up event promotion.

You’ll also need to identify the target market, build target audience personas, identify the channels they are most likely to engage with and begin communicating as soon as you can.

Promoting an event begins as soon as you have a venue and a date and doesn’t stop until after the event. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so plan for the long haul!

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4.   Hosting the event

While the day or night of the event is definitely the most stressful, it’s also the easy part. It’s where your planning, your strategizing, your team and all those hundreds of hours pouring over plans, budgets, contracts, small print, agreements and meetings come to fruition.

It will pass in a flash and seem like an eternity at the same time. You’ll be stressed, emotional, fraught, tired, happy and elated within a few seconds of each other. It’s a rollercoaster of a time but we wouldn’t swap it for the world!

You should have your day-of planner to help you keep oriented and a collection of checklists, but a lot will be down to you as the event planner to put the right people in the right place at the right time.

5.   The aftermath

Just because the event went smoothly, doesn’t mean your job is over. Many events will need a post-event review, or post-mortem depending on how it went.

These are important for learning and for assessing whether the event met its goals and objectives.

That means counting donations, counting new interns, getting the bride and groom’s feedback on how the day went or following up on whatever measurables you set for those goals.

It can also mean taking a long hard look at how the event was planned and executed to answer key questions like ‘how did we perform as a team?’ ‘Did we achieve the goals?’ ‘Were stakeholders happy with the outcome?’ ‘What did guests or attendees have to say? ‘What was said on social media?’ and so on.

If things didn’t quite go to plan, what can you learn for future events? What needs to happen to prevent it happening again? Are there steps you can take for mitigation?

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Event planning

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into planning a successful event. This page just scratches the surface of what’s involved but hopefully gives you a good idea of what happens before, during and after an event.

There’s a lot to plan, a lot to do and a lot to learn but that’s why we love this industry. No two days are ever the same and it’s so much more challenging and interesting than a desk job!

We run the only Event Management courses endorsed by The Chartered Institute of Marketing - an organisation recognised with a Royal Charter for excellence. Our range of event management courses provide you with the essential combination of knowledge, experience and industry-respected endorsement for every level.

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