The word 'event' circled in red in a personal diary

How to get event planning right

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The event is often overlooked in favour of those social media channels, but its power and value is mighty and should not be underestimated… however all this comes with a big BUT! To really unlock its value, event planning must be done well.

A little while ago, we wrote about why the event is still a hero in the marketing mix. If you're thinking of planning an event, we have compiled a list of things to consider which should help keep you on the right track…

Set objectives

First and foremost, decide why are you doing this and what you want to achieve from the event. Often, people want to have an event to launch a product, which is a great idea but if you’re a new start-up business, is this the best way to spend your budget? Could you tie it in with another event? i.e. if you’re attending a conference, could you showcase your product or service here?

As Emma Williams, marketing manager at Credas says, “Events come in so many shapes and sizes and it's notoriously difficult to measure their success - especially when compared to the digital world we are living in - but this shouldn't deter businesses from including them as part of their strategies, just make sure you are clear about what success looks like before you start!”

So questioning its purpose is one of the most important things to do when event planning - is this the best way to spend your budget and what do you hope to achieve?

A person writing their to do list in a notebook

Budget

Always set a budget for an event, whether it’s a wedding, a birthday party or a networking event, always, always have a budget in mind. Once you get started on planning the event and you look at options for entertainment, ice luges and roulette tables, it’s easy to get lured in by the excitement of it all - so start with a figure and make sure you stick to it.

As Sally-Ann Roberts, Senior Culture and Internal Communications Business Partner at comparison site GoCompare, says, “There are lots of things to consider when planning an event, but the most important is knowing what budget you have to play with. This will help you determine important factors such as venue, entertainment and catering.”

Venue

A lot of the event planning will start with the venue – for example, once you know where the event will be held, you will have a capacity in mind, you’ll also know if the venue can take care of the catering and room decoration, or if it’s just an empty hall that you need to fill.

You might think this is an obvious thing to consider, but someone I know* once organised an event for 20 people, in a room that could easily hold 100. No, no, that wasn’t awkward at all.

The venue can also set the tone for the event – if it’s a fancy hotel in London in the city, then that’s a very different type of event to the skittle alley in your local. It’s worth looking at a couple of venues and comparing the pros and cons for the different set-ups. Also, you can get a feel for parking capacity, public transport links, acoustics and most importantly, the loos!

As Sally-Ann continues: “Birthday parties are smaller and can be organised pretty quickly, but for weddings and larger events, the more popular and in demand venues get booked up well in advance. So, choosing the right venue is vital to ensure that it will hold the number of guests you’re inviting and offer the service you need. It’s also good to get a network of reliable suppliers, who can assist with the overall theming, catering, audio visual requirements and entertainment.”

A crowded event held in a museum with display tables set up

Timing

Some people can approach an event with a degree of winging it – but if you’re not that person, then you have to really think about the timing. How long do you want the event to last? Do you have a number of presentations to get through? What’s the format? How much time do you want for people to network?

It’s a good idea to prepare a timing schedule in advance and think about the practicalities. If you have five speakers coming from different places, do you have time for them to set up their laptop? Have you made sure their 10 minute presentation isn’t a life story that would rival The Lord of the Rings in length? How long have you given people for food? Often, common sense will get you through here, but give yourself buffers so that you allow for people arriving late and/ or presentations running over.

Project management

Once the date is set, the venue booked and the objectives agreed, then you need to get a spreadsheet in place and delegate some tasks. If you’re responsible for the overall event, then make sure you have a team of people helping you with invites, food and making sure it all goes smoothly on the day.

If your event is a few months away, agree a working group (even if it’s just two of you) and meet at regular intervals to run through the spreadsheet of tasks and keep everyone updated.

people sitting on chair in front of table while holding pens during daytime

Making the most of the event

Lastly, if you’re running an event for your company, or even if you work for someone else, it’s worth thinking about ways to get the most out of it. For example, if you’re going to have 50 of your customers in a room, ask for their biggest challenges in business and the answers will no doubt form a good article for your website.

See if some of the speakers will do a short video you can post on social or your website for additional content. If you’re holding a panel or a roundtable, get someone in the room to write up the findings and use this as a press release – with permission from the attendees of course.

Hopefully these six tips will help you think about planning for your next event. But if you’ve been commissioned to organise an event and you’re struggling with the detail, it might be worth thinking about getting an agency in.

*me

About the author

Lynsey Walden is Co-Director at Front Door Communications and has over 15 years of experience in PR and event management. She has worked for Lloyds Bank and Weber Shandwick, one of the largest PR agencies in the UK, before joining GoCompare in 2007 to manage PR, events and digital marketing for several years.

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