Events can be great opportunities to strengthen your client or organization’s brand, but they can also cause harm if enough attention isn’t given to the details.
Whether you’re focused on a grand opening extravaganza or a celebratory party to mark a major milestone, the below essential elements of event planning will lead you on your path to success.
1) Establish goals.
Every event is rooted in a basic purpose, and that purpose should directly correlate to your overarching goals. So, while a store grand opening might center on event attendance, sales and local media coverage, a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization will likely focus on securing valuable donations and recruiting volunteers and patrons. Before you begin planning your event, ask the question, “is a special event the only way to achieve our goal?” Events are expensive and time intensive, so you’ll want to ensure the benefit outweighs the investment.
2) Define your audience.
You know your goals. Now it’s time to know your audience. Attendance is a key performance indicator of event planning, so determining your primary target is vital to your success. Who knows about your brand? Who needs to know about your brand? Are there geographical parameters or demographics that should be considered? Should media be invited? Who are the VIPs? All of these questions will come into play when determining who makes it on the guest list.
3) Create a budget.
Eventually, you’ll need to get down to brass tacks and decide how much of your budget you’re willing to allocate to your event. Grandiose visions and extravagant themes add up quickly, so be realistic and define “needs” versus “wants.” Yes, the board WANTS a fancy printed invitation with hand lettering, but the reality is that the target audience will be more receptive to a modern, interactive e-mail invitation (which also boasts a smaller price tag). Once you’ve established the must-haves, do some research, secure preliminary cost estimates, and allow yourself some wiggle room for last-minute, unplanned expenses. It’s also not a bad idea to consider event insurance.
4) Identify a location, and set a date.
In fact, identify a few locations. Unless you’re hosting an event at your own business venue, then you’re going to need somewhere to hold your soiree. Be mindful – venues, whether they’re restaurants, bars, event halls or historic homes – all come with a unique set of attributes and detractors. Make sure you read the fine print when evaluating contracts. Also, stay flexible on dates – you’ll need to collaborate with your venue partner to identify viable options that work well for all parties involved. It’s also important to ensure you’re giving yourself enough time to plan the event.
5) Create a timeline, and identify roles and responsibilities.
Events are multi-faceted, which means they take time to plan and execute successfully. Once you’ve confirmed your location and date, map out the key deliverables and deadlines so you stay on track. Important items to remember include: event checklist; agenda/run of show; guest list; invitation design and distribution; signage; catering orders; event rentals; guest speaker booking; and press release development and dissemination. Don’t forget to assign deliverables and tasks to members of your team. Surround yourself with the smartest people you can, identify a planning committee and some trustworthy volunteers. You cannot (and should not) do it all yourself. Designating roles and responsibilities will ensure group ownership of the event while also maximizing your time and resources. Also, play devil’s advocate. Think about what could go wrong at the event, and plan accordingly.
The most successful event is the one that achieves your goals and exceeds your (and your client’s) expectations. Evaluating an event is just as important as planning and implementing. Many people say they are going to evaluate and then get away from the event and it never happens. So, include a recap in your checklist to ensure you stick to the plan.
Are you an event planning pro? Tweet us @DEVENEYMKTG and tell us your secrets to success.