Whether your job is to plan a corporate event for 1,000 or organise a family reunion for 20, your question is the same: ‘how do I start planning an event?’ Being in the events business for over fifteen years, we have seen our fair share of party planning faux pas. So whether you are a newbie or fully initiated: here are six important questions to ask when you plan your event.
All good decisions grow from this first essential piece of event planning advice. Know your audience. Once you get clear about your audience, you know who you need to cater for and what they are interested in. It will be easier to decide if you are going to have a theme, and if so, which one. You will know what things your budget should go towards. Catering quandries? Entertainment enjoyment? Venue vibe?… All the answers become easier when you know your audience.
Get clear on your budget early. Then stick with it. Plain and simple. From party favours, to the drinks allowance, to the entertainment: it is so easy for costs to add up.
If you start with a clear budget then break it down, you will know how much is left in each category for various elements. You will also know if anything needs to be cut from the wish list so you can concentrate on doing things properly for what there IS budget for.
If you want to give your guests an event they will say was worth attending, you need to allow good time to plan all the details. Large events or ‘monumental’ ones in terms of importance (regardless of size) can take four to six months of preparation. Smaller gatherings can take a month. You also should research and book entertainment well in advance as good entertainers get booked up.
A rule wise magicians follow is to brainstorm the top 5 or 10 worst things that could happen during the performance and have a contingency plan for them. This is also a good technique for event planners to put to work for them. So when things do not follow Plan A, Plan B is ready in the wings.
Sometimes event organisers overlook the impact the venue plays on their peace of mind and their event’s success. Will your entertainment be allowed enough time in the venue to set up before guests arrive? Have you met the manager who will be there on the night? Is the events manager you are working with going to be there in four months when you have the event? Are you booking a big enough room for your number of guests and the area needed for your show?
The reason for having the event will help you decide answers to many of the other questions on this page. The answer to this question will warn you what to avoid and inspire you with ideas for what to include.
Is everyone rolling up on a weekend relaxed and ready for your drinks reception? Or are they joining a dinner after a quick change of clothes following a heavy day of seminars? Is there a dry speech to be worked in at some point? Knowing the context of your event will help you make informed choices about entertainment and all other details. Only an experienced entertainer will be able to hear your unique context and know what to recommend as the best format and approach.
It may seem obvious for some, but it is an often overlooked piece of advice. From your venue agreements, to catering, to the entertainment contract, always make sure you are happy with the fine details in your contract. Knowing the small details help you with your contingency planning, cancellation and payment terms.