Whether you own one of the 32 million-plus small businesses in the US, volunteer for a charitable organization, or just like throwing lavish parties for your family, the odds are good you’ll have to organize an event. They’re great for having fun, wooing investors, or impressing donors.

Of course, if you’ve never had to plan for an event before, it can feel like an overwhelming mass of people and things. While event planning requires a lot of attention, it is something you can do.

Keep reading for some critical tips on event management.

Clarify Your Goal

One of the most common reasons why events fall short is that the people planning the event never get clear on the goal. Events often fail because the planners try to fold too many goals into the event.

Let’s say you want to throw a casual corporate event as a meet and greet for potential investors. You start strong by booking an outdoor venue and an ice cream cart rental. It’s fun and keeps things light in tone. 

Then, someone says you must push the sales harder with an audiovisual presentation. Suddenly, your original venue likely won’t work, and the ice cream cart feels out of place.

You scramble for a way to do the presentation at the original venue. Meanwhile, someone else suggests inviting major shareholders and doing a mini shareholder’s meeting after the potential investors leave. Suddenly, you need a bunch of printed material aimed at an entirely different group of people.

You virtually ensure that everyone will walk away from the event disappointed. Get buy-in from everyone from the outset about the single goal of the meeting so you can focus.

Get a Firm Budget

Another critical problem that many an event planner faces is budget vagueness. This can prove a problem for a family party as it does for a business event. It’s also a recipe for hard feelings all the way around.

Pin down the key players on a firm number. You can work around a smaller than expected budget. It’s much harder to walk back goods and services you already paid out to vendors or entertainment.

Once you have a clear budget for the event, you can move on to the next steps.

Find an Appropriate Venue

In many ways, the appropriate venue depends on the nature of the event. You need kid-friendly venues if you’re a party planner for kids’ events. That might mean booking a greenspace or amusement park.

If you do party planning for businesses, appropriate venues can range from a banquet hall to a conference center. If you aren’t the person footing the bill, get some input from the business or individual about their preferences.

If necessary, you can likely talk them around to a more appropriate alternative. This is particularly important if you’re working with a new client. Apologies often fall short when your event doesn’t coincide with a particular vision from the outset.

Create a Program

Unless you’re running a somewhat formal event, the program will primarily serve as a sanity check for you and the organization. Once you get all of the proposed entertainment, speakers, and food listed on a schedule, it will often become apparent that you must tone down the event.

This program can also prove especially useful in reigning in an overzealous client. It can also help you negotiate the financial aspects of the event, such as the types of entertainment and food offerings.

If the client wants an expansive menu, you can point out how offering all of that will strain the budget. If they want that popular local act to come in and play music, something has to give. You won’t necessarily get a bigger budget, but you may walk your client back from the ledge of unrealistic expectations.

Booking and Scheduling

Once you have the program hammered out, you can start the process of booking and scheduling. You need to lock in the venue first.

Once you know the venue, you can schedule the caterers and work out the details with them.

Pro Tip: Make sure the caterer will provide dishes, cutlery, and linens if you need them. If they don’t, you must make arrangements for them.

At this point, you can also lock in any entertainment you need for the event. Bear in mind that good caterers, entertainment, and venues often book themselves well in advance. So, set your plan in motion as far in advance as possible.

Otherwise, you might have to book your second or third choice venue.

Lead-Up and Day-Of Plans

In the week or two leading up to the event itself, a smart event planner does many things. They confirm the following:

  • Venue
  • Entertainment
  • Catering
  • Technical help

This helps you discover and avert disasters while you still have time.

You should also develop a reasonably detailed day-of plan that includes things like when setup will begin, when caterers and entertainers will arrive, and when the event will officially kick-off. That plan will help alert you if a last-minute disaster happens.

You Can Plan for an Event Successfully

If you want to plan for an event successfully, start with a single, clear objective. After that, it becomes mostly a matter of staying organized.

Get a clear budget, so you know what you can realistically book. Pick out potential venues and create a program. Those can help you keep your client’s feet on the ground regarding expectations or get you a bigger budget.

Book venues, entertainment, and catering as far in advance as possible.

Are you looking for more tips on making events come off smoothly? Check out our business section for more posts.