Event Planning Guide

How to Plan an Event


Event Planning Guide Table of Contents

  1. How to Plan an Event
  2. Event Checklist
What does event planning involve? Here is a high-level overview are some of the basic steps you’ll need to follow when developing an event. We can't identify all of the details you’ll need to think about (since much of it will depend on the type of event you are holding), but we hope the following provides a starting point for your event planning.

Ultimate Event Planning Checklist - printable

10 Steps to Get You Started With Event Planning

1.      Develop Event Goal and Objectives

The very first step is to establish a tangible goal and  objectives. (e.g., why are you organizing this event and what do you hope to achieve?)

2.      Organize a Team

Any event takes a concerted team effort to handle all of the details. Consider identifying one key Event Manager or Event Chair as well as individual Chairpersons for subcommittees, such as:

  • venue management;
  • speakers;
  • entertainment;
  • publicity;
  • sponsors;
  • volunteer management

3.      Set a Date

The date might already be pre-set for a reoccurring event, but if this is a new event, be sure to consider the following before firming up your date:

  • Give yourself enough time! Ideally, you should have 4-6 months to plan (depending on the nature of your event)
  • Be aware of statutory and religious holidays
  • Avoid school holiday time periods (e.g., winter, spring and summer holidays)
  • Check dates with key participants – e.g., speakers, presenters, VIP guests, etc.

If you want your event to stand out, you need to choose a timely and compelling theme that sets you apart from your competition. This means that you need to come up with a dynamic overall theme and you need to take great care with the actual name – since it can be a key attention-getter, especially in online media.

  • Brainstorm names: When you are brainstorming the event name, think about:
    • how is your event different from other events in your sector?
    • what are you hoping to convey through this event?
  • Create a Tagline: Once you’ve come up with a name, also try to craft a tagline – a short, memorable branding slogan that describes the event. 
  • Design a Logo: The final step will be having a logo created to represent your event. A logo can be an effective branding tool – offering immediate recognition of your event in all of your publicity and promo items (e.g., Tshirts, water bottles, bags, etc.) 

5.      Create a Master Plan:

This plan should encompass all aspects of the event, including:

  • Venue, logistics & catering management (contracts, permits, insurance, etc.)
  • Speakers/presenters (identifying, confirming, logistics & management)
  • Activities/entertainment
  • Publicity/promotion (online & off-line, e.g.,: web page & online promotion; events calendars; printed programs; media relations; signage; social media, etc.)
  • Registration (online sign-up, payment and tracking; on-site sign-in, etc.)
  • Sponsor/partner management
  • Volunteer management

Also see Event Checklist - see link below.

6.      Determine Administrative Processes

In other words, how are you going to keep track of your planning, registration, budget, guest and speakers lists, etc.? 

If you are a Wild Apricot Membership Management client, you can quickly and easily create an event and manage your registration through our online event management system.

If your website or membership database is not powered by Wild Apricot, you may want to determine how to best organize and track all of your event information. You could review event management software tools through a directory, such as Capterra (http://www.capterra.com/event-management-software).


7.      Identify and Establish Partnerships & Sponsors

Are there organizations that you could partner with or call on for sponsorships to defray the costs and increase potential participation?  When you involve other people or groups in your event, they have a stake in helping spread the word and making the event a success.

You might want to consider:

  • Seeking corporate sponsors to fund a portion of the event. This can range from national organizations that might want to sponsor a dinner, offer a door prize or a key silent auction item, to local businesses that might be able to provide goods or services, such as flowers for the tables, gift bag items, etc.
  • Partnering with community organizations who might be able to offer a venue and/or assistance with organizing or staffing an event

8.      Create a Publicity Plan

Even with the most amazing speaker or entertainment line-up, you need publicity to get people in the door.  Event promotion starts with the initial notice or page on your website, note in your newsletter or email to save the date, and then builds to include online and off-line publicity, media relations and on-going outreach to encourage registration. And no plan is complete without the post-event thank-you’s, sponsor acknowledgements and articles about the event’s key messages or fundraising success.

For details on promotion, check out the Event Promotion Guide.

9.      Establish a Budget

Your budget should incorporate estimates for all of the key items identified on your Event Master Plan. Don’t forget to include any travel or accommodation costs for speakers, presenters, etc.

10.    Determine Evaluation Process

How will you determine if your event is a success? Do you measure success by the number of registrants or attendees or is it dependent on you breaking even or raising a target amount in donations? 

When you set your initial event goals and objectives, you should also consider how you will evaluate the event to determine your success.  If you are using a membership management software package, such as Wild Apricot’s, you can easily track registration numbers and fees. But, if your event involves tracking, for example, a silent auction, then you’ll need to put some processes in place to identify goods offered in kind and funds raised at the event. 

By the same token, if the objective of your event is to raise awareness, you’ll have to benchmark and gather data on online social media activity/mentions etc. and offline publicity – again based on your initial goals.

Ultimate Event Planning Checklist - printable


BONUS

Video: How to increase event registrations and cash received as a nonprofit, association or club.


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Creative Commons Licence

Wild Apricot Event Planning Guide by Wild Apricot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.wildapricot.com.

Please include a link to http://www.wildapricot.com/event-planning-guide if you copy, distribute or re-transmit any of the documents that make up this guide. 
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