If you’ve never hosted a big event before, it can feel overwhelming. There are a lot of tasks to complete and people to manage. But don't worry, you'll be fine. The key to creating a stellar event is to take it one step at a time. You can’t do everything all at once, so the first rule of event planning 101 is: start with the foundation.
Why is this event happening? What do you hope to accomplish? A conference is quite different from a festival, and you can't evaluate success unless you have some way to measure it.
Establish a Budget
Get bids or estimates for every expense. Add a “contingency” fund to your AV budget and allocate a generous amount. Chances are good something will cost more than expected or you’ll have an unforeseen expense. If by some miracle, this doesn’t happen, your bottom line will look even better. If your event will generate revenue, estimate that conservatively. As the event planner, you’ll be judged by final results, not your budget.
Secure a Date and Venue
The purpose of your event, the scope of activities, and expected attendance will all drive venue selection. Make sure your date doesn’t conflict with national holidays, school, religious calendars, or some other major local event.
Identify Key Components to Build Your Team
The most important thing to remember about event planning is you can't do everything yourself. It takes an entire team to plan and execute a large event. Assign someone to be responsible for each of your event’s key components. This spreads the workload, ensures nothing gets overlooked, and establishes a go-to liaison for each area. Typical components might include:
- Venue (logistics, catering, security)
- Presentations (depending on the scope of your event, you might want to treat speakers/presenters, entertainment, and activities as two or three separate components)
- Finances (if you’ll be handling money at the event, you’ll need specific procedures and protections)
- Vendor management (food & beverage vendors, exhibitors, and sales booths)
- Marketing and promotion
Make your AV vendor part of this team. Today’s big events rely heavily on audio-visual equipment and technology that can be highly complex. This is one aspect of your event that has to be flawless. Including your AV expert from the very beginning will make planning easier, execution more efficient, and your production far better.
Create a Master Plan
Once you identify your event’s key components, you now have the framework for your master plan. Work with your management team to flesh out the plan with every task necessary to prepare for the big day. Use it as a working checklist and calendar because you will not remember everything. (Event Planning 101 Tip: event pros often use specialized software, like Bizzabo and etouches, to help with this.)
Create a Name and Logo
You’ll need an event name and logo right away to use for correspondence as well as marketing. While the design is underway, work on completing the other first steps on your list. Then, you’ll be ready to unveil the name and logo as your first PR push to formally announce the event.
Follow these steps and you’ll be off to a great start.