Events come in all shapes and sizes, from board meetings to black tie galas and everything in between. No matter the size or occasion, the best events all have the same basic formula. Read on for a list of event planning tips to make your next event a smashing success.
Before you start to plan, take time to define clear and tangible objectives for your event. Make sure that all stakeholders are on board. A clear purpose will help you build your overall event strategy and guide you when making key decisions during the planning process.
The next critical step is creating an event budget. Determine every moving part of your event that could potentially incur a cost – venue, food & beverage, entertainment, A/V, staff, printed pieces, transportation, swag items, the list goes on. The more detailed your estimated budget, the better. Based on your budget, decide which items are necessary versus nice to have. For instance, if having a high-end venue and upscale menu are important, you may need to scale back on the number of guests you invite. Keep in mind that many vendors are willing to negotiate and some event partners may accept full or partial compensation in trade.
Defined Target Audience
Everyone can agree that an event isn’t an event without guests, but you need to invite the right people to have a successful event. Define your target audience by tying back to your event’s purpose. This will determine who to put on your guest list and how to invite them. For instance, if you’re planning an elegant cocktail reception for VIP guests, your guest list will be exclusive and invite-only. If you’re planning a product launch event for consumers, you may want to partner with a media outlet with a shared target demo to advertise. No matter what, always define your key stakeholders and VIPs first and plan ahead to get on their calendars.
Once you’ve nailed down some of the bigger details, the creative and fun aspect of event planning begins. The best events have a cohesive theme throughout all elements – invitations, menu items, décor, gift bags, etc. Everything ties in to the event’s overarching theme to have the most impact. Having a theme doesn’t mean that your event is going to be cheesy; details can be subtle yet memorable. Incorporate branding in unique ways (custom logos on cupcakes, branded gift bags and swag items, etc.) for added awareness.
Carefully Selected Date & Venue
You need to decide where and when your event will take place and these two details work hand in hand. If your event date is set, you may need to be flexible when researching venue options and vice versa. When choosing a date, be sure to check event calendars in advance to avoid unnecessary competition. When selecting a venue, keep your guest list, the number of potential attendees and event theme in mind. The perfect venue allows enough space for guests to move around easily while still creating a feeling of intimacy.
Delicious Food & Beverage…And Plenty of It
Food and beverage can make or break an event. Great food that’s cleverly tied in to the event’s theme will stand out, but nothing can ruin an event faster than running out of food and drinks. When choosing a caterer or restaurant to partner with, be prepared with your budget and event plan to make sure that your needs align with their services. Then, we strongly recommend meeting in person to arrange a tasting. Once you’ve selected a vendor, a few different factors need to be considered to ensure that you’ll have enough food: the time and length of your event, the number of guests you’re expecting and the demo of the group. When in doubt, round up rather than down. You never want to risk under-estimating, and your team and event staff will appreciate the leftovers. Most vendors need final head counts one to two weeks prior, so plan your RSVP date accordingly.
Entertainment & Interaction
Plan unique entertainment and interactive elements throughout the space and at staggered times to keep guests engaged and energized. If they are having fun, they will stick around longer! Live music is always a good bet, and the genre should tie into your theme (an acoustic musician for an intimate dinner party versus a live DJ for a large-scale launch event). Photo opportunities such as step-and-repeat backdrops and photo booths give guests a chance to interact with each other and with your brand. If appropriate, create a hashtag for your event and post it visibly throughout the space to encourage guests to share their photos.
Preparation, Planning & Flexibility
The most important aspect of any successful event is the work behind-the-scenes. From initial concept development to day-of event logistics, adequate planning and preparation are essential. Begin with a broad event concept that includes high level details. Once these are confirmed, your next step is to develop a timeline that outlines weekly tasks, responsibilities and deadlines from the onset of planning to the day of the event. As the event approaches, compile a checklist for day-of needs and a run of show document to outline event flow. Create a detailed plan for everything – staffing, event flow, guest check-in, food and beverage setup, speakers, programming, etc. – and then always do a walk through the week of the event to test A/V equipment, organize staff and work out any kinks. Then, remember that no matter how much you plan, be prepared for the unexpected. What if it rains the day of your event? What if a VIP guest who is supposed to deliver a speech needs to cancel last minute? Think about everything that could potentially go wrong and establish backup plans in advance.
Even after following all of these steps, it’s definitely advantageous to work with an event planning and management company that has years of experience to ensure that your event will be flawlessly executed, truly memorable and meet all of your goals. The James Agency (TJA) has extensive experience with a wide array of special events: groundbreakings, grand openings, launch parties, corporate conferences…even fashion shows! Check out TJA’s recent events for Moxy Tempe and Marriott International