Written by Danielle Smith • March 16, 2023
The foundation of every successful event is a clear purpose - the reason why you’re throwing an event. After you’ve established the “why,” it’s time to build upon that foundation and create an unforgettable, enjoyable event that leaves everyone feeling connected and engaged around your goal.
To help you do this, we’ve collected the top 10 tips to help you plan and manage a great event.
It’s true that some people throw parties just for the sake of throwing parties. But behind these seemingly arbitrary events is the goal of bringing people together and connecting with one another. Establish your vision by asking yourself these questions:
A little pre-planning can go a long way. After taking time to reflect on the objectives of your event, you’re ready to dive into the details.
Depending on the size of your event, you’ll have many plates spinning all at once as you put together your event. To make sure that you stay on top of all of the details, find a way to stay organized.
You’ll likely need to keep track of invoices, budgets, contact information, guest lists, event promotion activities, presentation speeches, and more. Using a project management platform like Monday or Notion can be helpful in managing the many components of your event planning. Some people are “pen and paper people,” but to ensure that everyone on your team has access to key information and documents, try to leverage the amazing technology products that exist to support event management. If you don’t have access to these apps, consider ways to use Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to keep track of information. You can play around with using checklists or timelines, whatever suits your management style best.
Having a clear organizational strategy will also help you replicate the event, should you find yourself with that opportunity in the future!
When possible, give yourself as much time to plan the event as possible. If you have several weeks or months to put together an event, then you’ll find it easier to source catering, rentals, entertainment, and more. More time to plan also means more time to sort out the details, which means that if you plan further in advance, you can make your event that much more meaningful towards your purpose because you’ll have considered all of your options before picking the best one.
Try using a timeline: write down your event date and count backwards how many days you have until then. Add items to your timeline based on the requirements for that item, such as “need to book a caterer 14 days in advance” or “need to have speeches written by this time.” Once you have your to-do list drawn out, look at the key days or weeks that are heavy with activities. Now, see if you can get any of those items done ahead of time so that you’re not overwhelmed with tasks during the busy weeks.
Planning in advance can also help you keep your stress levels down! There’s nothing quite like a deadline to get the heart pumping, but if you start putting together your event with a lengthy lead-up time, you’ll show up cool and collected rather than stressed and frazzled.
It’s seldom that successful events are held without any expenses. Common event expenses include catering, chair and table rentals, music from a DJ or live band, microphone rentals, and goodie bags - though depending on the type of event you’re planning and what details you include to make your event special, you might have more.
To avoid unnecessary expenses, seek quotes from multiple vendors. These vendors will likely ask you the key details of your event and then provide you with a quote based on that information. When you have a few quotes to pick from, you can choose the one that makes the most sense for your budget.
If you still find that the quotes are still quite high, try negotiating with the vendor to see if you can keep costs lowered. Here are a few questions that you can ask them to get this conversation started:
The guest list can be one of the most difficult aspects of an event, especially larger events. As part of your preplanning, ask yourself who needs to be at your event based on the guiding purpose behind the event. You can also ask yourself questions about size feasibility and budget, as this will give you headcount limits.
Sometimes, if you have the flexibility, it’s best to set an event date around the key guests. If you’re planning on having a speaker for your event, see what their availability before you set the event date is so you can be sure to secure their time. You wouldn’t want to plan a whole event only for key guests not to show up!
Having a set itinerary for an event sets expectations and gives structure - both for the guests and the organizers. Give people information about the event, including dress code and food options, so that they can plan accordingly. It’s best to give them a breakdown of the event’s activities too, including what time each activity is slated to start.
Once you have a set itinerary, then share it with the guests. You can do this via Slack, email, or even snail mail. Remember that people’s judgments of the event begin before they arrive, and see this touchpoint as an opportunity to get them excited about the event.
There are many details about your event that you can control to increase inclusivity. If your guests are parents, consider the time of day - they might struggle to attend an evening event due to childcare responsibilities. Others might not be willing to travel across town for an event, even if the venue is fabulous, so be sure to pick a location that’s public transportation and parking friendly. Any detail that you can think of to make sure everyone feels welcome and comfortable at your event will go a long way.
You can also make your event more inclusive by offering different food and drink options. Be sure to have non-alcoholic options and to avoid centering activities around drinking. You can also offer vegan, vegetarian or kosher options, as well as options for those with other dietary restrictions.
Lastly, make sure that your venue is accessible for those who need wheelchair access. You might also consider other disabilities or neurodiversities by offering a quiet space to enjoy the event for those who become overwhelmed with loud noises or large crowds.
The birthplace of social anxiety is when you don’t know where you’re supposed to stand or what you’re supposed to do. People need to know where to be and what’s happening, so make it easy for them by making your event intuitive. There are lots of ways to physically set up a space so that it’s conducive for your event’s purposes. Want people to mingle? Try cocktail tables and canapes. Want people to stay seated? Try a served meal at round tables.
Signage is a great way to give people instructions. You can also make frequent announcements giving people an idea of what’s coming or what’s happening within the event.
Being intentional about the physical setup of your space can create an environment where people feel comfortable, which means they’ll be more open to connecting with others.
Lights? Cameras? Action! The day before your event, do a final run-through of the itinerary. Physically walk through the space and try to see the event with fresh eyes, predicting how people will feel at each point of the event. This can be helpful to notice any necessary changes - and save you a panicked moment in the heat of the event.
Even if you’re in charge of the event, you can’t do it all by yourself. Recruit teammates or volunteers to help you run the event. They can help keep the food table neat or usher people to their seats. They can also help you run last-minute errands and provide you with morale support.
After your event, be open to feedback. Even if your event went perfectly, there are always lessons to learn from the experience. Ask yourself if you would do anything differently next time, or search for contributing factors to any bumps in the road.
And don’t forget to feel proud of what you did! Events - especially big events - can be difficult and stressful to put together. After the event, be sure to take some time for yourself to unwind.