Whether you’re a seasoned veteran with global headliners in your back pocket or you’re a newcomer on a mission, the event management process can be complex and often daunting. Event planning, no matter how big or small, can feel arduous. It’s a machine that requires self-assembly and comes with instructions in a foreign language (if you’re lucky to get any instructions at all).
But you don’t have to grapple with the beast of event production alone. Follow these event planning steps when following an event timeline, coupled with various management tools, to ensure your event goes down without a hitch.
Defining Your Vision
First and foremost, you have to determine what your event is going to look like in order to start carving it out.
Here are a few questions you need to answer in order to finalize your event conceptualization:
- What is the event type? Is it a corporate summit, a 3-day festival with multiple stages, a non-profit gala, a trade show, a black tie event?
- What’s your target audience and demographic? If you can pinpoint who you’re marketing this event to, it’ll help you hone in on what the creative and marketing aspects of your event will look like.
- How many attendees are you expecting? It’s safe to assume the higher the number of attendees, the more security, resources, bathrooms, and overall space will be needed for activities.
- How many days is your event and what are your target dates for it? The number of days planned for your social event and your prospective event date(s) will help to better outline costs. It’s also good to keep a couple of other dates at hand in case bad weather or unexpected circumstances arise.
- Do you have a venue in mind or locked in already? If you already have a location decided upon, that’s great. If not, remember that time and costs are needed for event coordinators to scout and secure the perfect location.
- Does your event require talent, and if so, what kind of talent? Today, talent is often what drives events. If you’re planning on doing a blowout with some major artists, your costs (unless they’re personal contacts) will be hiked up significantly.
Write down all the types of talent you want at your event, whether it’s musicians, DJs, keynote speakers, hosts, dancers, MCs, actors, magicians, or acrobats. Once you have the various types of talent noted, start adding potential names to those lists if you already have some in mind. If not, some research will be needed to figure out who you want performing.
- Do you have any brand partners or sponsors attached? Sponsors and brand partners can help you carry the weight of the budget and help you amplify your event to your target audience. When creating your marketing materials for your event, make sure to include a one-sheet or sales tool that focuses on why brand partners should invest in your event and what they’ll get in return.
Once you have these questions answered and you’ve begun to wipe away the fog on the mirror of your event, it’s time to move onto what your design looks like.
Developing the Creative
The art direction of your event is important. With hundreds of events happening every weekend, people have become inundated with choice, which in turn, has made consumers fickle. And although people care about the experience itself, they also largely care about what pictures they can post on any given social media platform about it. The time of going to an event, solely for the memory, has been stored away in a shoebox somewhere along with floppy discs and the distant whispers of who killed Laura Palmer?
Here are some design elements you’ll want to think about for your event type:
- General Decor
- Stage Design
- Photo Moments
- Attendee Entrance
- Art Installations
- Theme / Color Palette
Think on the creative aspect of your event—whether it’s a fun photo moment made of palm leaves and giant letters, an interactive art installation, or full-on stage design that puts Tomorrowland to shame, your creativity will be another indicator of your event’s success.
Having an airtight budget is the next step in your event management plan. Here’s what you need to know to create and manage one:
- Software: Whether you use Google Sheets, Excel, Showbiz, Hot Budgets, or any other budgeting software available, your primary focus is making sure the app works for you and your team.
If this is your first event budget and you’re not sure where to start monitoring spend, you can always search online for event budget templates that will help you set up the fundamentals of what your event will need.
- Key Info: Next, you’ll create a section or tab that’s the first thing you see when opening the document and outlines the name of the event, the date, location, number of attendees, and primary production contact name (that’s probably you), phone number, and email.
- Departments: Then you’ll break your budget down into the following sections:
- Art Department & Creative
- Content & Media (Social)
- Food & Beverage
- Marketing & PR
- Site Operations
- Sponsorship & Brand Partners
- Stage Production & Design
- Line Items: Once you have all the different sections for your event outlined, you’ll start plugging in the corresponding line items. These are usually made up of a mixture of two things:
- Expenses: Physical items such as staging, speakers, tables, chairs, plates, cups, production vehicles, or event signage and marketing materials. These are the tangible objects you’ll need for your event to ensure your attendees have the most memorable time.
- Labor: The people required to make your event happen, such as catering companies, sound or AV technicians, production assistants, art or creative directors, and bartenders, all have their own hourly rates, day rates, or flat fees. This will require some research and reaching out for quotes for each individual or outsourcing as a service management agency that can provide these for you.
You’ll need to start digging around online or with contacts on finding the prices that work for you in order to meet your objectives. If this is your first event or you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you can always reach out to Vario to discuss sourcing these items for you and being the event support that you need.
- Revenue Streams: If you’re planning on creating a for-profit event, it’s also worthwhile adding estimated revenue into your budget. Using your target number of attendees on the guest list and your ticket prices and/or pricing packages, create a section that allows you to see what your estimated revenue would be depending on how many participants attended or bought different types of ticket costs. This will help you understand what your target number of ticket sales will be in each margin (i.e., general admission, VIP tickets, early bird tickets, custom packages, etc).
Once your budget is created, it’s time to create your Production Book. Your event planning guide that leads the way in times of darkness and outlines all processes. A running event planning timeline checklist that allows you to check things off one at a time. Either in a physical binder, online docs, or event management app, you want to have a place that stores all info in relation to your event.
Here’s what to include:
- Box Office
- Call Sheets
- Client Info
- Creative Details
- Crew & Payroll
- Event Details
- Health & Safety Details
- Hospitality Details
- Permits, Contracts, & Waivers
- Production Supplies List
- Production Details
- Radio Sheet
- Run of Show
- Sponsorship Details
- Staging Details
- Talent Details & Riders
- To-Do Checklist
- Transportation Details
- Vendor Details
- Venue Details
- Wrap Details
Lock in Your Staff, Vendors, Talent, and Sponsors
Then it’s on to locking in your event staff, vendors, talent, and sponsors. This section is best sprinkled with the virtue of patience; you’ll want to give yourself ample time to make all of these arrangements.
It’ll be a fair amount of back and forth between production supply companies, caterers, sound designers, and agents. When asking for quotes and confirming deals, make sure to keep your budget at hand and stick as close to it as you can.
Marketing for any event is always important. If you decide to go down the guerrilla approach or you’ve allocated $30,000 just to digital marketing, take into account what makes the most sense for your target demographic.
Here are the different tactics you can use to create an effective event marketing strategy:
- Social Ads
- Influencer Marketing
- Flyers / Handouts
- Street Team
- Website SEO
- Digital Marketing
- Experiential Marketing
- Editorial Marketing
The day has arrived to stop planning and start the event execution phase. Send out call sheets and the run of show to everyone involved prior to the first day on-site, so your team knows where they’re going, when to arrive, and what’s on the agenda.
Once on-site, you’ve handed out the radios and the event is beginning to come to life. If you did ample planning, the production itself should all fall into place. Keep everyone aware of what time doors open and whether there have been any changes in the program.
Here are the major elements you should keep in mind on the day of your event:
- Production walk through
- Box office set up
- VIP / talent hospitality set up
- Security walk through
- Fire marshall walk through (if needed)
- Last push before doors
Strike, Post, & Wrap
The event is finished, the doors are closed, and you’re emanating the glow of victory. But before you can rest your weary feet, it’s time to tear down. Typically your production company will be handling most of this as they break down the equipment, the catering and bar company will be packing up, and the cleaners hovering at the door until they can begin.
Whether you decide to stay and do it on-site or you’re going to catch a good night’s sleep and start in the morning, you’ll want to check your production book and make sure everyone has been paid out.
Here are some final notes for you to go through:
- Checking Documents: Go through your production book and make sure you have everyone’s correct documents such as W9s or W4s, addresses if you’re going to be mailing out checks, and any necessary waivers.
- Paying Everyone Out: Whether you paid in advance, on-site, or will be mailing out checks, you want to ensure everyone who did their part gets paid accordingly.
- Recap Video and Photos: If you had a content team at the event, check up on when you’ll be receiving the recap video and photos from the event.
- A Final Thank You: Using social media or through an email newsletter, use the content you’re given to talk about the event with your audience, say a final thank you for attending, and give any details about when your next event will be.
- Case Study: Be sure to write up a case study using the images for your own records, your website, or the pitch deck.
A Final Wrap Note
Events aren’t always easy. But it may be one of the most thrilling jobs in the world. The lights, people, and experiences give each event its own personality that always shines through.
If you’re ready to start planning an event and are looking for some strategic direction and support, reach out to the experts at Vario. With over 20 years of experience, the team at Vario can bring special elements to your event that you had never imagined and handle all of the nitty-gritty for you.