Updated: Apr 19
How much time is enough time for planning and executing a successful event? When should I start to find the venue, secure speakers, market to attendees, plan all the details, place my orders….
I constantly get asked the “When Should I….” questions when hosts are considering, or in the early stages of planning an event. When it comes to your event, it never hurts to be over-prepared. There are so many details and moving pieces and when things are left to the last minute, or rushed, the risk of things slipping through the cracks increases. So, I can say with 100% certainty that there's no such thing as too much time when it comes to planning an event.
I know, that sounds a bit crazy, right? Let me explain.
Without a strategy and plan in place, organizing an event can be super stressful for everyone involved and can leave you feeling like you’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off (event planning takes a lot of strategy, effort, organization, and detail management).
It is not uncommon for things to come up at the last minute, it’s just the nature of planning an event. So it’s important for you and/or your team members to allow yourself time to respond to last-minute details, and build in time for unexpected things that may (and often do) arise throughout the planning process. This is where having extra time (and a planner) pays off big time.
There are many stages of event planning, and for the simplicity of this blog, I’ve broken it down into the three primary stages that every host should be aware of :
Execution - Day(s) of the Event
Stage 1: Planning
This is the time from conception up until the first day of the event, and it’s where the majority of your time will be spent. Without a reasonable amount of time allotted for this phase (and this will differ for every type of event), your event's chance of success (and your sanity) will take a major hit. There are countless factors to consider as to how much time to allot, and generally speaking NO LESS than 3 months (if it is an event you have hosted before) and NO LESS than 6 months if this is the first time you have hosted an event.
The pre-event planning stage includes, but is not limited to:
1. Strategic Vision, Budget, and Goal Setting
Every event starts with a vision. Start by asking yourself some questions:
What is the purpose of the event (for you, for your attendees)?
What type of mood or atmosphere do you want to create?
Who will be involved in the event (speakers, entertainment, etc.)?
Will people be able to purchase things at the event (vendor booths, swag, sponsorships, etc.)?
Do you plan to make an offer at your event?
These are just a few important questions to think about when it comes to envisioning your event. You also want to take this time to determine who your ideal attendee is, and why they would want to attend your event.
As with any event, determining your budget and the maximum amount you are willing to invest is another critical step early on in the process. It will contribute to many of the decisions you will make. If you’ve hosted events in the past, think about your budgets for those events and how effective they were. If this is your first event, you will need to do some research as to what you should expect to spend in each area.
Finally, in order to make your vision a reality, you will need to set a list of goals. Think about what you want to achieve by hosting this event. What type of impact do you want to have on those that attended? What actions do you want them to take once the event is over? Keep this list on hand to review after the event.
2. Tasks, Timelines, and Teams
Event planning includes layers of details and involves a tremendous amount of coordination. It is important to first define all of the tasks required to successfully execute your event.
This is where a detailed (reverse engineered) timeline will come into play. This is also the time to identify who will be responsible for completing each of those tasks.
Considering how many elements go into planning even the simplest of events, you’ll need to put a team in place in order to make things happen. At the very least, you’ll need one or two people to help you plan, organize, and execute every aspect of your event. This includes everything from venue selection and budgeting, to design and decor, to marketing and ticket sales. You’ll need someone to coordinate speakers and sponsors, food and beverages, audio visual equipment, and most importantly, the attendee experience.
There is never a better time than during the planning stages to hire a professional event planner or producer. A single person can’t be expected to be good at everything. That is why hiring a team will allow you to benefit from experts in each category. Need more convincing? Be sure to take a peek at our recent post, 5 Reasons You Need To Hire an Event Planner (And The Benefits!).
3. Securing a Venue and Vendors
Selecting and securing both your venue and your vendors is a crucial part of the planning process.
Now more than ever, venues are in high demand, and if you have specific dates in mind for your event you’ll want to secure your venue right away. Even if your event is YEARS from now, it is never too early to secure your venue.
Take some time to research venues that you love and once you have a list in place, it’s time to review contracts, make negotiations, and secure it for your event. Our recent blog post, Venue Selection and Contract Negotiations, will help you with all the details.
Planner Tip: Provide as much information as possible (in an organized and concise format) so your first round of proposals provide you with as many details and prices as possible, eliminating all the time going back and forth filling in the blanks.
As with venues, vendors book up quickly as well. So it’s important to decide on who you want to work with and to lock in those contracts as soon as possible. Even if you won’t begin working with a particular vendor(s) for months down the road, you’ll want to have them contracted for your event from the beginning.
When it comes to making a lasting impression on your attendees, what happens at your event and what they take from it matters.
You’ll want to provide them with an agenda for the event, whether it’s digital or printed, to let them know what to expect and if they should plan ahead.
Take time to consider what you want to happen during each stage or session and what you need to make those things a reality. This means booking speakers and planning entertainment or other activities.
Also, think about what you want your attendees to have during the event such as workbooks or other materials or tools they’ll need to participate.
Laying everything out ahead of time and considering how the event will flow from start to finish will ensure that you don’t miss a single detail.
5. Marketing & Promotions
Everyone wants a full house at their event. Marketing and promotions are two of the most common fears among event hosts.
Successful marketing and promotion all comes down to creating the right plan. Executing that plan will help ensure that your event is in front of the right people.
Often it takes people three or four times before they make a final decision on what to buy, so it is important to allow yourself enough time to not only develop the marketing plan and execution, and also to allow time for the attendees to make the decision to purchase a ticket.
6. Logistics Coordination
There are SO many details! Big or small, your event is guaranteed to have layers upon layers of details - tasks to complete, decisions to make, and things to consider. It can be overwhelming at any stage.
From ordering supplies and materials, to planning out menus and on-site execution, to web and graphic design. There are plenty of things to consider and it’s important to think through your event from start to finish.
Again, this is a step that you shouldn’t leave to just anyone. It can be easy to overlook a crucial detail if you don’t have prior knowledge and experience in planning events.
Ultimately, you’ll want to have each step and the details of that step written out, as well as who will take care of it and when.
7. Confirmations and Final Details
Finalizing the details with all of the key players involved prior to your event reduces the risk of mishaps. Never assume that because you spoke about it a couple of weeks/months ago that it will be remembered.
Be sure to finalize all of the details with each individual vendor a week or two prior to the event. In writing, recap all of the key decisions, details, and roles and responsibilities while on-site, and make sure you receive a written response confirming those things.
In the final week leading up to your event, it’s important to have one final meeting. This meeting should include everyone involved in the planning and execution. It ensures that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and has the opportunity to ask questions if needed. It also allows the team to be aware of not only what they need to do but what others will be doing as well. It’s time to discover if anything has fallen through the cracks. You’ll also want to host a quick meeting with everyone again when you’re on-site the day of the event.
There is so much that goes into the pre-planning stage - in fact, it barely scratches the surface. To anyone other than a professional event planner this could be overwhelming.
Above all, be sure to allow ample time for this stage of planning based on the size, scope, and complexity of your event. The more detailed you get with your planning, the smoother everything will go on the day of your event.
Stage 2: Execution - Event Day(s)
This is often called "Do or Die" in the life of an event planner. Remember, I mentioned how it's important to have enough time allotted for the pre-planning stage? Now that all the hard work has paid off, it's time to execute your game plan. And during this second stage, you'll be doing exactly that -- executing what you've already planned out in the pre-planning phase.
There are a handful of “tasks” that are still outlined on your list and can only be completed once you are on-site at the event. Make sure you arrive with enough time to execute these tasks so you are not pressed for time. Aside from general setup, tasks may include receiving shipments, inventory management, setting up registration, filling swag bags, placing signage, pre-con meetings, final walkthroughs, etc.
This is also the perfect time to have that final “all-hands” team meeting to run through the flow of the event and go over roles and responsibilities (YES, Again!)
Stage 3: Post Event
The event happened so fast, faster than you could have imagined, and now it's time to wrap up and reconcile. Assuming everything was outlined and managed accordingly during the planning phase, then this should be fairly simple and just a matter of crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s.
The post-event phase is broken down into 3 categories:
This includes budget reconciliation, final inventory, updating all documents, calculating final numbers, and organizing your files (you will thank yourself when it comes time to plan your next event!)
2. Attendees, Speakers, Sponsors, Vendors
This includes follow-up surveys, sending thank you’s to speakers and sponsors, vendor deliverables and final payments, and finally, a post-momentum call.
The importance of this step can’t be overlooked. Ideally, a debrief should be scheduled before the event begins, no more than 10 days after the event is completed. This allows the details to still be fresh in everyone’s minds. If possible, you can host a team dinner or informal discussion before everyone heads home after the event. This would be something in addition to the debrief itself. It’s an opportunity to go over everything and jot down ideas to discuss later. If you can make this happen, you will find it is pure gold for the value it brings to your team and how successful you are in the final process.
Considering everything that goes into planning an event, it makes sense to get the help you need to make that event a success.
And there is no better time than now to begin planning. Start by investing in a professional team of planners who can take you through the process from start to finish.
Our team at Be Bright Events can make your vision a reality. We’ve helped countless clients not only achieve their goals, and also go beyond to create what they never even thought was possible.
Reach out NOW to schedule a 20-minute clarity call and we will help you create an event that is not only memorable but makes a big impact.