Event planning can be complicated enough without the pressure of creating something otherworldly or building your client’s unconventional vision into something tangible. Here’s how to develop an event strategy plan that allows your event conceptualization to become a reality.
Brainstorming is a huge part of the development phase and must be factored into the event planning timeline. It steers the ship in the direction you want to go. Whatever type of event you may be planning, make sure you hold a brainstorm session with the key players of your team or your client’s team to discuss the goals and objectives of the project. If your event already has the shadow of a specific theme such as a futurist convention, a hip hop festival, or a fundraiser for education, use what’s already decided upon to help get you started on planning a successful event.
Core Elements to Think About
Whether your client has come to you with unique specifics or not, write down these elements to discuss while going through the brainstorm session:
- Entrance: The entrance of the event for both regular attendees and VIP attendees and talent (if needed).
- Stage Design: Whether you have a single stage or several, take into account what each looks like.
- General Decor: General decor can be anything from table settings to drapes and furniture.
- Photo Moments: Photo moments are an important aspect as they’re the driving factor of social sharing and, in return, impressions and amplification for your event. These will be what your attendees love to take pictures in front of whether they’re giant letters of your event name or a jungle installation they can hide within.
- Signage: What does your signage look like that directs your guests to the bar or the bathroom? Are the signs hand painted or digitally printed, large and monochrome or vibrant and colorful? Even what may seem like a simple concept is a very important detail contributing to event design.
- Foot Traffic: How do your attendees get around the event? Are they passing through or by anything special on their way from one area to the next?
- Art Installations: Art installations or interactive elements that will help add to the event. Such installations make for awesome activities to engage the audience.
- Theme and Color Palette: The overall creative theme (if there is one) of the event, and what the general color palette is that ties everything together.
The Proverbial Walk-Through
During your brainstorm meetings, and with the above elements in mind, try and pin down what the attendee experience looks like from start to finish. Have a computer at hand that can help you do any image searching in tandem with your creative thinking.
- Discovery: Start with how the attendee discovers the event, does your event marketing strategy call for digital or physical invitations and what do they look like?
- Preparation: How do the attendees prepare for the event? Are they dressing up in ball gowns and tuxedos or sipping margaritas in sandals?
- Getting There: How do they get to the event? Is the main mode of transportation via rideshare apps, shuttles, walking, or driving themselves?
- Arrival: When they first step out of their mode of transportation, what’s the first thing they see and do?
- The Entrance: What’s their entrance like?
- The Interior: Is there a holding area or vestibule that operates as a greeting area or does it open straight away into all the glory? What are the big components they notice?
- Walking Around: Once inside, where do most people go? Is it the bar, their table, a dance floor?
- Taking Photos: What inspires the attendees to take photos and what do those photo moments look like?
- Food & Beverage: What’s the eating and drinking experience like (if you have it at all)?
- The Big Moment: Your big moment is typically the reason the event exists at all. Whether that’s a keynote speaker, a major headliner, or an interactive art installation, describe what that looks like. Is the stage straddled by a giant hovering phoenix bird equipped with pyrotechnics, a suspenseful single spotlight upon a stage, confetti cannons? Think about the art representation that can go into setting your event apart that wows the crowd.
- Leaving: What do attendees see or do while exiting? Are goodie bags handed out, a merch booth strategically positioned near the exit, a giant “thank you come again” sign that ushers them out?
- The Recap: In the days to follow, are you sending a thank you note or a recap video and photos to your attendees that allows you to bid them a final farewell and to remind them to come to the next event?
Mood Boards & References
Once you have a pretty good idea of the experience, start collecting visual images as references for the build itself and to better hone in on what you’re creating. You can create folders on Pinterest for the various design aspects like your entrance, table settings, and stage design and begin saving references to each of them to then share with your event management team.
If you want to fully submerge yourself during the creative process, you can print the images out and create mood boards to be put up around your office.
A Creative Presentation
To finish up the initial phase of your creative event strategy, make a shareable presentation that allows you to run through your event from start to finish with images that you pulled for each element. This will help give you and your team guidance and serve as a tool for both your client and potential vendors when explaining what you’re trying to create.
Hiring Your Support System
Once the initial creative process is complete and you have your arsenal of creative references and a better understanding of what you’re trying to build, you’ll want to begin hiring key members who may not already be part of your team.
If you already have an Art Director or Creative Director in-house (or even if that is you), you may want to consider bringing on an AD or CD that’s specific to this kind of event.
Here are some of the titles you should consider when assembling your team:
- Art Director
- Creative Director
- Lighting Designer
- Scenic Designer
- Graphic Designer
- CAD Designer
- Creative Coordinators
- Art PAs
Next, you’ll want to begin gathering the supplies, props, and art required to fulfill your creative dream.
Once you have your creative team in place, ask them about their resources when it comes to creative vendors such as prop stores, print services, fabrication, and rentals, or begin your research and start reaching out for quotes elsewhere.
Also, make sure you’ve thought about whether you’ll be building on-site or if you’ll need to rent out a warehouse or storage space and then transport the creative from there to the event (for which, you’ll need production vehicles, trucks, and manual labor for). These are all factors that must be considered as they will contribute to a smooth and successful event execution.
Building the Vision
When the creative is decided upon, the team has the layouts done and the creative blueprint of your event, and the vendors are lined up, there’s only one thing left to do.
If you hired a stellar team or creative production agency, this part should largely fall upon their shoulders as they begin to build out the vision. No matter your level of engagement in this event management process, try and stay active in the build, so you’re hitting necessary deadlines and providing intel and support.
Safety and Fire Hazards
A great event is also a safe one. You don’t want a flying disco ball or falling prop piece to land you a lawsuit. Take the time necessary to test the stability of your creative pieces and have the correct insurance and guarantees in place.
It’s also important to note that all materials used need to be flame retardant and treated. When the creative is being built, you’ll want to gather small samples from each of the materials (plywood, polyester, velvet, etc) used in any of the props or creative pieces with details on each as this will be important when doing the safety walk with the fire marshall.
Having your event shut down due to an untreated, inflatable bear won’t leave you or your client particularly happy.
Launching the Event
Getting the creative right is so important for an event that you’ll want to arrive several hours prior to doors opening (if you’re not already on-site).
Once you and your team have arrived, walk through your event the same way an attendee would when arriving. Mark off spots where creative should go if it’s not already in place and watch your event begin to come to life.
Here’s a checklist for the big day:
- All the elements that you outlined above have been delivered and are being put in place
- Test any lighting
- Test any interactive elements
- Check the signage is correct
- Check the placement of creative pieces
- Check ambiance (fog machines, decorative lighting, plants, etc)
- Walkthrough with your team
- Walkthrough with the fire marshall
As the final hour before doors open dawns on you, have one final walk through with your team. Then, once everything is in place and ready to go, all you can do is wait for the guests to arrive.
A Closing Message
Event creation has become exceedingly more important as the years go by and each event may feel harder to top than the last, but if you follow the handy strategies above, you’ll be sure to create an incredible experience each time. If you have an event in the works and are looking for a partner to make those dreams a reality, reach out to the experts at Vario. With over 20 years of experience in event production, the Vario team will bring professionalism paired with high technology to make your event a huge success.