No matter how many events you’ve planned before, each new event presents a unique challenge. Even if your event recurs annually, you still have to account for fluctuations in factors like weather or group trends. Managing all the steps involved can definitely feel intimidating.

Whether your event is a fair, a haunt, or a company bonding trip, this Event Planning Guide will give you the information you need to plan with confidence and ease. 

In this 9-step guide, we’ll teach you the basics of event planning and show you how event management software can help simplify your process.

9 Steps to Planning Your Event

  1. Identify Your Event’s Purpose
  2. Clarify Your Audience
  3. Build Your Budget
  4. Establish a Timeline
  5. Take Inventory of Your Event Needs (with a planning checklist)
  6. Find Your Venue
  7. Market Your Event
  8. Generate Engagement: Before, During, and After the Event.
  9. Celebrate and Reflect

Step 1 - Identify Your Event’s Purpose

Before you lock down a location for a venue or fork over any hefty deposits, make sure you have some clarity on the big picture of your event. Why are you having the event in the first place? What are your objective outcome goals

These questions might sound too obvious to explore, but they’re worth asking because the goals of your event should drive the direction of your planning. 

Step 2 - Know Your Audience 

No matter what your specific event goals are, as an event organizer, you want your audience to leave satisfied and delighted. That said, it’s impossible to blow away your audience if you don’t understand who they are. 

How do you get to know your attendees? First, map out what you know about your audience on a broader level. Knowing whether your event is designed for young kids and their parents, or single twenty-somethings will help you decide the voice and style you use to communicate throughout the event. 

If your event is a Renaissance Faire, for example, you can infuse the event copy with Old English and well-known Renaissance jargon. A picnic and slip ‘n slide event for kids, on the other hand, will have different objectives and a less formal tone of voice.

Once you’ve identified your audience on the macro level, put a magnifying glass on the micro details. Use your email list and social media accounts to poll the audience. What are they curious to learn about? What problems are they trying to solve? 

Then, use the information you gather to delight your audience and deliver beyond expectation.

Step 3 - Build Your Budget

From the speakers to the venue to the food, the amount of money you have to work with has a direct influence on nearly every facet of your event. And yet, far too often, event organizers will neglect to budget ahead, and instead, spend as they go. Avoid this financially fatal mistake by drafting a budget and determining how much you need to pull off the event you envision.

If you’re wondering where to begin, start with data from your past events. If this is a first-time event, find some data from other, similar events. From marketing to meals, make a detailed list of both fixed and variable expenses. Next, list out all of your projected revenue, from ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise, etc. 

As you develop your budget, examine whether the totals in each category accurately reflect your event values. If healthy food is a top priority of your farm event, then going big on alcohol while simultaneously lowballing the organic snack budget might send the wrong message. 

Pro tip: Aim for ballpark accuracy on the larger expenses, such as the venue, but don’t agonize over hitting an exact bulls-eye. Your goal here is to kick off a working document. Keep this budget handy when it comes time to negotiate and commit. As a general rule, decide how much you want to allocate for this event and then plan for 10% more. Be it a costly weather change, or simply inflation, you won’t regret having a margin. 

Step 4 - Establish a Timeline  

Similar to projects, events have a series of tasks and deadlines that require management in the lead-up time beforehand. While we touched on the relationship between timeline and size, earlier, there’s also a connection between timeline and budget. 

A larger budget tends to offer a greater range of choices. It means you can afford to book venues during the pricier peak times and pay for rush services. A tight budget can require extra time for bargain hunting. Regardless of budget and size, however, make sure time is on your side! Using a collaborative project management tool, like Asana or Trello, will help ensure that people know what to do and when. For a visual layout of your timeline, try using an event timeline template or spreadsheet.

Step 5 - Take Inventory of Your Event Needs

Planning a large event requires you to keep track of a staggering number of details. Give your mind a break from juggling, and take inventory of your event specifics with a checklist. 

The Planning Checklist

  • + Time and date of event
  • + Ideal location
  • + Transportation to and from the venue
  • + Parking
  • + Lodging
  • + Post-event entertainment
  • + Catering and refreshments
  • + Post-event feedback

Step 6 - Find Your Venue

The ideal venue is one that meets the needs of your event and enables you to bring your event vision to life. If you book the wrong venue, you’ll be forced to build your event around the location, rather than the other way around. 

As you go about searching for your venue, consider the following list of factors.

  • Availability - Is this venue available when you need it? If not, is your event flexible?

  • Capacity - Does this venue have the capacity to accommodate an event of your size? If so, does it have space for all your attendees to gather in one place? 

  • Aesthetics - Will this venue bring your theme or desired aesthetic appeal to life?

  • Location - Does the broader location, outside of the venue itself, meet the needs of your event? If you’re hosting a few hundred people from all over the country, consider factors such as airport proximity, post-event entertainment, food availability, and public transportation.

  • Technology - Can the venue provide sufficient technology for the planned audio/visual of the event and live stream? This is especially important for events such as concerts or films that are centered around the presentation component.

Drawing from the list above, write a venue Request for Proposal (RFP). Include as many relevant details as you can, including your objectives, budget, and event requirements. 

As you sift through the proposals and quotes, keep your event checklist by your side. Compare your categorized budget with the costs and offerings in the venue package. Does the total venue cost allow you to stay within your budget barriers? 

We recommend keeping track of the factors in a pro/con list, a spreadsheet, or an online venue sourcing tool. Pay attention to your experience with the customer service team, too; consider it a preview of what’s to come if you decide to choose them. 

Step 7 - Market Your Event

Developing a marketing strategy for your event generates attendance and drives engagement among attendees. Not to mention, it’s a great way to keep your attendees informed. 

In the lead-up to the event, create a buzz by posting regularly on your social media channels. Take advantage of email, a marketing powerhouse, and send out regular drips, newsletters, or promotional videos. Whichever strategies you choose, make sure the voice in your marketing matches the tone of your event. 

Marketing is a big job, but thankfully, there are plenty of tools out there to help you. 

Step 8 - Generate Engagement…Before, During, and After the Event.

One of the many measures of event success is the level of attendee engagement. If you’ve organized enough events, you know there’s a big difference between an engaged attendee and a checked-out attendee. 

The engaged attendees tend to learn more and make more connections! Engagement strategy starts with knowing your attendees. Examine the audience information you gathered earlier, and consider the three main types of engagement.

1. Attendee Engagement with Event Organizers 

Before and during an event, attendees will contact event organizers for countless reasons—logistical questions, and special requests, to name a few. Show your attendees that they matter by making yourself available to help them when they need it.

2. Attendee Engagement with Sponsors 

If you want your sponsors and attendees to hit it off, don’t have to leave their encounters up to chance. Strategically design the setup of your event flow to help attendees and sponsors connect.

3. Attendee Engagement with Other Attendees 

From networking to new friendships, meaningful connections between attendees can leave a positive impact on their entire event experience. Whether it’s group games at a fair, or an icebreaker at the banquet, think about interesting ways to facilitate connection between your attendees.

Pro tip - Kick off attendee engagement—on social media and over email—before the event begins and keep it rolling throughout the event.

Step 9 - Celebrate and Reflect 

Finally, after the event is over, soak in the accomplishment and celebrate. And then, before you toss out your event materials, take some time to reflect. 

Did you consider the event a success? Why or why not? What would you have done differently? Take the attendee’s opinions into account as well. What were their biggest wins and toughest challenges? 

Gather as much information and feedback as you can. The takeaways from this year’s event can provide valuable insight to help inform next year’s event. 

Alas, with this guide by your side, you’re ready and equipped to hit the ground running with your event planning. Have more questions?

Don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help you have the best event ever!

— The TicketSpice Team