At first glance, planning an event seems like a pretty easy task. After all, how much could really be involved in throwing a holiday party for the office, planning a birthday party for a
7-year-old, or hosting a retirement bash for a C-level?
Once you’ve been at it for three weeks and your list of notes has such items as “chairs???” and “DON’T FORGET THE BANNERS”, you begin to realize just how much is really involved. Event planning is something many people make a career out of, you know. That wouldn’t be possible if it was trivially easy for anyone to pick up and do themselves.
That said, if you do want to do it yourself, that’s perfectly fine! There are plenty of people online and off who are more than willing to help. That’s why we’re here today; to give you a variety of different tips and resources you can use to plan an event successfully. Of course, if you happen to choose us to assist you with some equipment rentals, we’re more than happy to help you there too.
10 Tips for Event Planning
First, let’s get into some tips. Tips, tricks, and advice from people who have been planning events for years can always help someone just starting out. If you have advice of your own – or a question we didn’t cover – feel free to leave it in a comment for us to address later!
#1: Create and Stick to a Budget
One of the biggest enemies of an event planner is feature creep. Every time you think “what if we did X too?” or “wouldn’t it be cool if we…”, you’re adding features to an event. Those features have costs, in terms of money, time, and personnel. The more you try to add to your plate, the harder it will be to fit everything in. This is how weddings go wildly off the rails, and it’s how events collapse when you provide 100 different options for 15 attendees to do.
In some cases, your entire event has a fixed budget before you can even begin. In other cases, you’ll need to develop a plan and submit a budget for approval. In the latter case, it’s a good idea to develop 3-4 options for various budget levels, so your can tune up or down based on feedback from whoever controls the pocketbook.
When planning your event, do some research into each aspect. Equipment rentals, bartenders, games, décor; everything has a cost. Note down costs (from more than one vendor if possible, and with rent/buy options) so you can pick the best choices for different budget levels.
#2: Research a Venue First
Depending on the kind of event you want to host, your choice of venue may be limited. You really need to pick a venue before you do much of any other planning. For example, you probably won’t be able to rent large carnival rides if your venue is going to be a few conference rooms in your offices. Conversely, it might be difficult to offer LAN-based computer games if your venue is a public park.
Your choice of venue will do several things.
- It will impose limitations on what kind of entertainment, facilities, and experiences you can set up.
- It may offer some things, like furniture, on-site IT/Internet, or even just electricity that you won’t have to worry about otherwise.
- Renting a venue often is a significant cost and will determine how much of a budget you have for other aspects of your event.
Picking a venue that is reliable, trustworthy, provides amenities, and comes in under budget is crucial for planning an event.
#3: Ask for Detailed Quotes
Event rental businesses will be able to provide everything from rides to games to décor items for pretty much any kind of event, but you’re going to want to look around for sources that will give you detailed quotes. Some companies specialize in one kind of event, or in one kind of décor. Others might have more robust inventories. You may need to rent items from multiple sources.
What you need to do is ask each vendor for a detailed, itemized quote for the items and services you need. This will allow you to compare prices for specific amenities and items, rather than just package deals. It might also allow you to ask for bundle discounts. Some companies will be willing to offer you a deal if you have a quote from a competitor, as well.
#4: Plan Early and Set Plans in Stone
Planning an event early is almost always the way to go. Venues and rental agencies tend to have higher pricing if you’re trying to rent something for a rush event, and will have cancellation fees if it’s too close to the date. After all, if you cancel an event at the last minute, the chances that they’ll be able to fill your space on short notice are slim.
The more last-minute changes you make, the harder it will be to ensure that your event runs smoothly. Many events require coordinating with several different companies as well, so you may end up with issues coordinating the details.
#5: Get a Guest List Early
Part of successfully planning an event is determining how many people are going to be showing up. You need to know, for example, how many different kinds of entertainment you need, how much furniture you’ll need to seat them, what kind of catering you’ll need, and so on.
Planning with too much of any of it for the guest list makes the event feel empty and under-attended. Planning with too little means longer waits, crowded venues, and difficulty managing the event. Getting a more-or-less accurate guest list is hugely important.
#6: Know Your Guests
Knowing the kind of people who are attending your event will allow you to plan the event to cater to their tastes. You’re probably not going to want a bunch of inflatable slides and bounce houses for a C-level’s retirement party, but you’re likewise probably not going to want to center your event around an open bar for a birthday bash for a 5th grader. Everything from venue to entertainment is affected by the kind of people attending.
#7: Plan One Thing at a Time
When you’re planning your event, the first thing you need to nail down is your venue. Once you have your venue, you can plan entertainment, and get a contract with whoever is going to provide that for you. Once you have the entertainment down, you can send a draft of that itinerary to a catering company and get a quote there. A new draft with their contributions included can be sent to a photographer, and so on. If you try to plan multiple facets at once, you’re likely to run into conflicts and need to iterate again anyway.
#8: Don’t Forge the Wrap-Up
When your event is over, you can’t just leave and hope other people clean up after you. As the event planner, your responsibility doesn’t end until all of the vendors are packed up and on their way, all of the venue-owned equipment is cleaned and returned, and the whole area is tidied up.
You’ll be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, and you should plan accordingly.
#9: Don’t Forget Trash Service
One thing many people overlook with event planning is all of the trash that an event can produce. Catering produces waste from half-eaten food, paper plates, bottles, and more. Tickets for games and prizes will need to be disposed of. People bring their own consumables that they need to dispose of. It’s surprisingly common for people to forget they need some kind of trash service, from trash cans strategically placed around the venue to the people who empty them throughout the day. Make sure you have something lined up.
#10: Use Templates and Checklists
This last tip might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many people feel like they have to build their event from scratch when there are dozens or hundreds of available templates, checklists, and other resources they can use to plan their event. Why bother trying to think up every detail on your own, when someone else has already done it for you? That’s why we’ve put together the following:
5 Event Planning Templates
Now let’s get into some more practical tools. Templates are excellent for giving you something you can use as a foundation that covers all of the major bases. You won’t have to worry about thinking up every corner case or remembering the napkins when there’s a template or checklist right in front of you. Here are five you can use.
This isn’t one template so much as it is a bundle of templates – 61 of them to be precise – that cover many different aspects of corporate events. There are venue checklists, budget templates, proposal templates, and even templates for building marketing personas, for those corporate events that host the public and are aimed at sales in some way. You’ll have to fill out a form to access them, but there’s a huge wealth of information available to you once you do.
This is a checklist and template package with categories and descriptions of why each one is important and what sort of information you should include. Starting with names, dates, and venues, and leading into audience definitions, unique selling points, and budgeting, this checklist handles every aspect of a solid corporate event, with a downloadable template at the end of the post.
This article hosts 11 different templates, all of which can be downloaded and edited in Word or a comparable document editing program. They cover a range of different events, from business events with speakers and meetings, to wedding planning and agendas. There’s a lot there, and they will need to be heavily customized to suit your specific needs, but they can show you a good place to start.
This list of templates gives you a variety of different sheets you can use to plan out various aspects of your event. Most importantly, they have templates with information for your point of contacts, your event scope definitions, your task checklists, and your schedules. You might not need every detail on every one of the templates, but one or two of them may be just perfect for your needs.
We promised you five template, but this article alone gives you ten times that number. There are templates for checklists, templates for schedules, templates for planning, and a lot more. Most of them are generic enough they can be used for virtually any kind of event, though some are more specialized for corporate-style events.
Don’t forget that there are way, way more templates where those came from. Many of these companies offer a variety of different templates on other parts of their sites, and you can always get more specific kinds of templates by searching for your event type templates rather than more generic templates. For example, this post contains a bunch of wedding planning templates. There’s a wealth of information available online, so there’s no reason not to make use of it.