Hosting an event is an important promotional tool that is often underused by business owners. But there’s an art to successful event planning, writes Karine Brighten.
Planning events can be an exciting process. The keys to a successful event are to be super organized, do your research, and know when and how to delegate tasks.
Event planning requires many different skills such as organization, balancing multiple projects at once, management, communication, and thorough following-up. Wherever possible, establish a team – even if it’s just one or two others – to help you with the planning because it can be a full-time job.
Planning an event for the first time can seem daunting because there are so many things to consider, lots of decisions to make, and if you’re working with a small budget it can be more difficult.
The second time around is always easier because you can assess what worked and what didn’t from the previous event and make changes as needed.
Whether you are planning a small film screening or a large-scale fundraising event you will want to think carefully about the following considerations:
The first question to ask yourself is what are you hoping to achieve with this event? Are you hosting this event to give your business more exposure, showcase a new product or service, or to get new clients/customers?
Perhaps your goal is to provide an educational experience, or maybe you just want to put on the event for the fun of it? These answers will set the tone of the event you are planning.
Are you hoping to generate a profit from the event, break even, or absorb the cost as a business expense? Will you charge an entry fee, ask for a donation, or make it a free event?
Establishing a budget will help you determine those answers. At the beginning of all my events I create a spreadsheet and write down my biggest expenses (promotion, venue, food, entertainment, staffing). I then write down some realistic estimates for how much revenue I can bring in (sponsorships, vendors, ticket sales).
When planning an event for the first time it’s hard to determine how much of a profit you can generate since you can’t base your estimate on past events. If your goal is to break even, you can add up your expenses and this will give you an idea of how much to charge for tickets or how many vendors you will need to have.
3. Timing of your event
The timing of your event is crucial. Before selecting the date for your event you will want to make sure it does not fall on the same day as a holiday (or even a holiday weekend) since it could dramatically impact the outcome of your event.
It may seem obvious, but I made this rookie mistake the first year I started planning events – I scheduled an event on Good Friday! Granted, I still got a great turnout, but it could have been even better.
You will also want to cross-check if there are other veg events happening in the area during the time you’re thinking about hosting your event. You probably don’t want to plan your event the same weekend as a big veg festival.
Oversaturation can be a big problem. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, there are three big veg events happening the month of April! So do your research and figure out the best timing for your event.
4. Where to host your event
Before you start looking into potential venues you need to know what your budget is, how many people you are expecting, the type of set-up you will need (tables and chairs, staging, kitchen and so on), whether you’ll need audiovisuals (screen and projector) or any special lighting.
The venue can be the most expensive item on your list. When I’m planning an event for the first time I prefer to rent a smaller venue. Then, if it sells outs, I’ll rent a bigger venue the next time.
It’s always better to have a packed space than to rent a huge expensive venue and have it feel empty; or worse, not sell as many tickets as you had hoped.
Location is key! I always recommend getting a venue that is easily accessible via public transportation. You will also want to make sure there is a loading zone and ideally a parking lot nearby.
I recently hosted an event in downtown San Francisco which did not have a loading zone and the street was a major construction zone the day of my event! I had several vendors, along with me, that needed to unload and it made things more complicated.
If you’re hoping to get a lot of walk-in ticket sales, you’ll want the venue to be in an area with lots of foot traffic and easily visible to the public.
5. Working with vendors
If you’re working with a small budget it’s tempting to want to cut corners to save money, but sometimes it’s just not worth it. Attendees will remember your event and you want them to remember you in a good light, especially if your goal is to bring in new clients.
If you have food at the event, make sure it’s prepared by a professional caterer, tastes great, and is nicely presented. Vegans especially will take notice if the food at the event was bad. No matter how fun the event was, people may focus on this negative aspect.
If you have presentations, workshops, or are doing a film screening, hire a professional who will handle the audiovisual equipment, sound, and lighting. Don’t get a volunteer to handle this very important task because the last thing you want is to have a technical difficulty that can’t be resolved by that person.
If budget permits, consider working with an experienced event planner. Doing this can save you lots of time and money by avoiding costly mistakes.