Event Planners! Stop vision boarding flowers and linens before you have done these 3 things.
Updated: Nov 19
Picture this…you just scored your first gig as an event planner. You are over the moon excited and have already started a dedicated Pinterest board to collect design ideas, you hired the most sought after French caterer, and you put a deposit down on your favorite jazz band.
You think you’ve got it all handled until you find out your clients budget is $5k (the price of just one of the custom floral wall backdrops you were dreaming of), and they remind you the party is a relaxed backyard bbq for 50 teenagers (you know, the type of teenagers that aren’t interested in French food and jazz bands…).
Ok…yes, I know that you have enough skill and intuition to make sure your planning is more on track than the above example. But, it is a good reminder that before you dive into the fun planning aspects of venue selection, entertainment, design, food/bev, you need to lay the groundwork for your planning process and outline a realistic approach.
Here are the 3 things you should do first in the planning process for every event! (Spoiler Alert: we included a 4th Step – just in case.)
Create Your Budget
Take the event concept and think of all of things that will be needed. Assign dollar amount estimates to each item based on your research or past experience. DO NOT GUESS. If you are new to this, take the time to get quotes from vendors.
If you are experienced with this type of event and your vendor pricing then you can make an educated assumption based on your experience. Be careful here though…it is always worth it to take the time to get a draft quote.
Here are some broad categories to consider when developing a budget.
Revenue (if appropriate)
· Vendor Booth Sales
· Ticket Sales
· Food & Beverage Sales
· Merchandise Sales
· Communications/Tech (Radios, Wifi, Scanners, POS)
· Food & Beverage
· Infrastructure (Rentals, AV, Fencing, Restrooms, Power, Staging, etc.)
· Swag/Goodie Bags/Favors/Freebies
· Transportation (busses, limos, golf carts, UHauls)
Outline Your Planning Timeline
This is your roadmap to success that helps to shape your monthly, daily and weekly to do list. I like to start by brain dumping every task I know needs to happen into a sortable matrix document. Then I go back to my budget and think about each micro-step needed for every line item to make sure I didn’t miss anything. From there I add Due Dates and assign Responsible Parties. Then sort by Due Date and VOILA!
Keep in mind that your Planning Timeline is a working document and should be updated and maintained throughout the planning process. When you meet with your venue and they mention that insurance documents are required for the event to take place, find out when they need them by and add that into your timeline.
Define Your Target Audience (or Attendee)
This can be simple…for a Sweet Sixteen party it might be enough to know that your Attendee is mainly 16 year olds. You might even want to take it a step further and identify that it is 16 years old athletes that love watching College and Professional sports and whose heroes are LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. This will help you tailor the event to their likes and interests.
For some events, especially public events, identifying the target audience can be a bit more tricky and even more crucial. If you are planning a free public festival in celebration of the 4th of July in your local community, you should take some time to understand the overarching characteristics of your Ideal Customer so that you can plan appropriate entertainment and promote effectively to them.
For example, your target audience might be young families who live in the community who are looking for fun and safe activities for their kids without having to travel far. You should consider focusing on interactive children’s activities and entertainment and leading with those in your promotional efforts.
Now…you can dive pretty deep into Target Audience exploration but at a minimum try to understand the basic demographics and interests of your TA so you can plan accordingly.
Bonus Step: Develop Your Concept
Don’t be fooled, establishing a Concept for your event is just as important as the previous 3 items and in most cases should actually be your first step…but, it is included here as a bonus because if you are working for a client, they might have already developed the concept and are hiring you to deliver on it.
However, this is not always the case. Often clients will approach event planners with a problem and they are looking for you to come up with a creative solution.
For example, a non-profit might be looking to do a fundraiser, but they don’t want to do a boring gala…their donors are sick of standard Taste events…they want to do something that has never been done before to attract new donors and build brand awareness. Any ideas?? Your first step will be to develop some unique event concepts to accomplish their goals.
Follow these basic steps for any event and you will have a solid planning foundation to create a star event from. Don’t skip ahead, don’t think you have it all in your head…do these 3-4 things first in your planning promise and we promise it is going to make picking color palettes and linen styles even more enjoyable…when you get there!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Thompson
Jenna is a mountain based Yogi with a love for veggie focused foods. When she's not in Warrior Pose you can find her spending time with her Avalanche Rescue Dog Luna with a Matcha Latte in hand!