How to plan an event

Over the past four-years I have spent the majority of my professional life planning events. I’ve planned conferences, trade shows, VIP parties, festivals, private dinners, and many more. And clearly, I’m not the only one. Just take one look in the paper this morning and check out all the different events that are going on.

In a future post I will talk about my history and how I got into events, but with this post I want to discuss the first “job” an event planner is tasked with, and the basic process I go through to complete this task.

CHOOSING DATE AND VENUE

The first task of any event planner – once they know what kind of event they are going to plan – is to choose a date and a venue. It’s the most important step. Without a date and a venue, you don’t have an event. So that is the first step, to choose the date and the venue.

But choosing a date and a venue isn’t as easy as it sounds. An experienced planner isn’t going to just arbitrarily select a date and run with it. In fact, the first thing an experienced event planner is going to do is consult a calendar and use the Internet to research the date under consideration. For example, let’s say you want to host your event in Austin, Texas on the first Saturday in May. The weather is going to be nice. People are excited about the upcoming summer. And you just think the first Saturday in May is the perfect date for your event. Perfect. So what you want to do is begin looking at the calendar for the first Saturday in May and see if anything is going on. Personally, I like to start on a national-level. What events are happening nationally that could possibly interfere with my event? In this case, the Kentucky Derby is held every year on the first Saturday in May. Will the Kentucky Derby, in anyway, impact the enthusiasm and participation in my event? If so, I need to choose a new date. If not, I will look at any regional events happening that weekend that might compete with my event. If there are many, I need to find a new date. If there isn’t any large events happening regionally during that time, I will narrow my focus down one more time to any local events happening that weekend. Any local events that have a long tradition? Will that event have a negative impact on your event participation? If so, you must choose a new date.

But let’s assume that everything works out. There isn’t any major event happening on your date that you are concerned about. Great! But the work isn’t done. You still have to consult the calendar and make sure a competing event isn’t scheduled too close to your proposed date. For example, let’s say you are planning a large electric dance music festival in your city. One of the first things you need to be aware of are the dates of the other large EDM festivals around the country. If you schedule your event too close to one of the major productions, you’re going to have a difficult time drawing attendees because they just dropped a bunch of money two-weeks earlier. So you want to make sure your event is not overlapping with a major competitor because you are going to chasing the same entertainers, the same sponsors, the same attendees. If your proposed event is scheduled too close to a similar event, you want to consider changing the date.

When choosing a date for your event, you really need to be aware of the other events happening around you.

Once you have a good understanding of the other events that exist in the marketplace, and you’ve made a decision on your event date, then you need to choose a site or select a venue.

Choosing which venue to host your event at might be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll have when planning an event. In my experience, because we have organized a lot of cannabis-themed events, finding a venue that will work with us is always a challenge. Some events are going to be more difficult than others, that’s just the nature of the beast.

But venue selection is critically important. The venue is going to set the tone for whatever you do next. The venue sets a lot of expectations. For example, Online Marijuana Design hosts their annual mixer on the top floor of Seattle’s tallest building, the Columbia Tower. The venue alone sets the expectation that this event is going to be more formal or “high-class.” People get excited for that. But at the same time, High Times Cannabis Cup holds their event in an empty parking lot; and it’s the perfect venue because it’s not in a hoity-toity venue, attendees are comfortable to be themselves, light up, be loud, and enjoy themselves. The point I’m making is: the venue you choose is going to set the tone and expectations of your event.

Another big thing to think about when choosing a location/venue is how many people do you want to attend? If you are expecting a large turnout, then you need to get a space to accommodate your attendees. For large event spaces, a simple Google search will turn up the majority of venues available to you. However, also ask your network if they are aware of any event spaces. You’d be surprised at how many spaces are available that aren’t being advertised, for whatever reason. But, if your event is going to be more intimate, checkout AirBnB for an event space. Set the filters to what you are looking for – location, how many people you want the space to accommodate – and then reach out to the owners. You don’t have to tell them you are hosting an event there either.

But that’s how it’s done. That’s essentially how you “plan” an event. Choose a date. Choose a venue. And now you have an event. Obviously, there is a lot more work that goes into having a successful event, which I will write about later, but this is the first step.

If you are interested in learning more about event planning or maybe you want to coordinate and produce your own event, get ahold of me and I’d love to answer any questions you may have about organizing a successful event.