Expert Event Planning Series: The Basics

Posted on Jun 10, 2009

Jun 10, 2009

By Krista Chapman

Planning an event whether it is a small gathering among close friends, large fundraisers communicating an important message or a once in a lifetime event like a wedding, can seem overwhelming and confusing. The following will break down the basics of creating a stellar event that will impress any guest and make you look like seasoned professional.

Why are you planning an event? Secondly, what are you planning? These can seem like silly questions but they are key to determine what services you will need, the timeframe that makes the most sense and all the other elements of the event. Planning a small business meeting, class reunion or rehearsal dinner will demand different traditions and expectations from your guests. The purpose of your event will also help with deciding the most important parts and what you should focus on. While business professionals will expect there to be enough power outlets to plug in their laptops during a meeting and comfortable chairs, wedding guests may be more focused on the variety of food and where the bathrooms are located. Trust your gut, drawn from your own past experiences and rely on professionals to guide you. We have all been to a bad event… think about what was “bad” and how can you do it differently.

Set the date. Before you can reserve any space, book any vendors or really commit to the event, you need to pick a date. Your schedule, vendor availability and potential conflicts are all important elements to consider. Don’t plan a luncheon in downtown Nashville during the Country Music Marathon… you are setting yourself up for disaster and a lot of stress. Have you dreamed of an outdoor garden wedding your whole life? Avoid July and August when your guests will bake under the hot sun. Pick a date in October for a fundraiser for a women’s shelter as this is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. Will you have a better turnout if you plan a fundraiser on a Thursday evening, when weekend conflicts are less likely? Every event will have different elements that determine what dates work best. Weigh the pros and cons to figure the best case scenario.

The Human element. Face it, there is not a party without people. This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle and should remain as an underlying element of all your decisions. The best laid plans will be created with your guests in mind. First and foremost, how many guests are coming? Before you can determine the amount of space needed, the food you will serve, the number of bathrooms on site, available parking, etc, etc, etc… you need to figure out how many people will be invited and attend your event. This will also be a key factor in determining a realistic budget as more people = more money, bottom line. Plan on approximately 75%of your invitees attending your event. Also, keep in mind how many guests will have to travel, other conflicts (numerous holiday parties to choose from), annual events with steady guest counts and particularly now, economic restrictions that may prevent people from attending.

Show me the Money! My best recommendation is to determine how much you can afford to spend and then determine what are the most important elements of your event (food, entertainment or location). Then go with your gut… event vendors all sell their products differently and price as they see fit. As a result it can be difficult to accurately compare apples to apples. Essentially all event contracts, regardless of the product, are promises to deliver a future service. Who makes you the best promise? Who comfortable fits your budget? Figure these details out and the rest is easy. Future Blogs will break budgets down further as I detail what type of costs you should expect for particular services and most importantly, how you can get the most bang for your buck.

Finally, Don’t rush perfection. It is never too early to get started, at least collecting ideas and information. As with any project having to-do lists, a timeline of tasks and enough time to research, meet with vendors, send out invites and organize your plans, is key to planning a flawless event. Just a important, a central location to keep ideas, notes, contracts and deadlines will help to keep you on track to produce a successful and impressive event that will “wow” your guests.

But most of all, Don’t go it alone. Thousands of people make their living producing events, endless books and other blogs like this one exist, loaded with endless advice. I would never attempt to tear apart my sink and fix a leak, rather depending on a professional to, at the very least, act as a guide. The vendors you choose will become valuable resources for all your questions, concerns, wonderment’s and logistical limits.

Next… Picking a Memorable Theme.

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