Every event – whether a conference for thousands of delegates, a gala dinner for an eminent figure, a team building initiative for a few employees or a wedding reception – is a unique occasion. However, there are a basic set of rules and tips that can be used effectively to ensure that your event is organised, relatively stress-free and fondly remembered. These include:
6 months before…
- Ask as many questions as possible so that you know the nature, scale and purpose of the event completely. If the same event has been held before (e.g. an anniversary or retirement party), examine and discuss the previous occasion to learn there from.
- Establish an organising committee or a team that will back you up and take on some of the responsibility. It is paramount that you are not the only person that knows what is going on.
- Set a realistic budget; one that allows for unexpected expenses. This will determine the number of guests that can be invited, as well as the tone, venue, catering, and so on. If appropriate, consider asking delegates for a registration fee or companies for possible sponsorships (depending on the nature of the event) at this stage.
- Choose a date (which may or may not depend on when your desired venue is available).
- Choose a venue. This should include site visits and meetings with the venue’s management to ensure that you are aware of all facilities and that any potential hitches are discussed. If you are working along with a committee, take one or more representatives from the group too so that you are not the only point of contact.
- Set up a project timeline working back from the selected date to ensure that everything gets done in enough time to allow for invited guests and delegates to make their necessary plans.
4 months before…
- Decide on a décor or design theme and use this on all printed material (invitations, menus, and so on) as well as in all venue decoration and furnishing. This may involve discussing your options and desires with a professional designer.
- Design, print and send out invitations (remember to mention an RSVP date and ask for any dietary requirements to be included). Design and print as much other promotional material as possible.
- Choose your caterers and / or menu after having sampled or seen their work.
- If you will be having entertainment, begin your interviews and confirm the supplier(s) now. The specific profile of the guests of the event should play a major role in determining your entertainment choice. If you want guests to dance, choose a vendor that has had experience at parties and weddings so that they are familiar with setting the right ambience, for example.
- Select your decorator and florist, if applicable. Take them to the venue so that they can measure it and get a good feel for your decorating needs. Be sure that you have seen a sample of their work or their portfolio before agreeing to use them.
- If your venue has audio-visual equipment, ensure that it is all within working order and available for your event date. If they do not, you will need to hire this from a reputable company.
- If necessary, book overnight accommodation for guests.
- Choose a professional, experienced photographer and / or videographer. Give them a detailed description of your needs and make sure that you understand one another and can communicate openly.
2 to 3 months before…
- Confirm flights, taxis, airport transfers etc…for all guests travelling to and from the event.
- Find out if you need any special permits or permission to host your event and proceed with organising these.
- Read all relevant contracts (from vendors or suppliers) well and make sure that you understand their terms and conditions. Once you are happy with these, sign them and return them in good time so that there are no last-minute panics.
- Ask those that you would like to act as speakers if they are prepared and available to do so. Give them a clear brief and ensure that you have the opportunity to review their subject matter ahead of time, if appropriate.
- Finalise the agenda and print the programmes for the delegates.
6 weeks to 1 month before…
- If you plan on publicising the event, put your press release together and send it to the local or national newspapers.
- Confirm your speakers.
- Confirm who will be attending and give these final numbers to the venue, decorators and caterers. Verify final numbers with hotels and guest houses too.
- Prepare any materials and name badges for the event, as well as all signage.
It is vital that you realise that not everything will go precisely according to plan. You will need to be flexible and ready to handle unexpected complications with grace and professionalism. If you manage to do this, your guests will likely be quite oblivious to any little hiccups along the way.
Photo Courtesy of Bells & Whistles Event Planning