“Before beginning, plan carefully” (Cicero, 106BC-43BC).
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” (Benjamin Franklin, 1705-1790).
Commence planning your event 6 months in advance; some might even take a year to prepare. It is strongly suggested that you start as early as possible as poor planning and last-minute decisions will most likely lead to a hasty, ill-conceived event that will not bring a positive image to your organisation and/or brand. The planning has a very strong grassroots element in that you should spend a bit of time reflecting on the goals/objectives of the event and its relationship to the goals/objectives of your organisation. Brainstorming sessions are good for this step.
Your organisation might have had previous experience with planning events; if this is the case, then you are at an advantage. You should revisit the previous event and check the organisation, the suppliers and the post-event reports to build on good planning and avoid previous mistakes. If your organisation already has a good business relationship with providers, it is strongly suggested that you go to them again because you are likely to get good quotes for a major event. If you are not so fortunate, thoroughly research the providers beforehand. There are many websites that provide business reviews to help you with this step. Don’t forget to compare quotes between a few suppliers; sometimes a new supplier who wants to build a client base will give you better prices than well-established ones. Think about hiring a public relations professional (unless your organisation already has one on its staff) as they will be especially useful if your event requires media coverage.
6 – 12 months prior
- Goal/objective – Determine the purpose of your event. The purpose is very important, as it determines the kind of activities you can organise for your event.
- Theme – If using a theme, make sure that it coincides with the values of your organisation and your sponsors. Avoid clichés that will not attract guests or media coverage.
- Venue – If you need to hold the event outside of your business space, start looking early. A strong purpose statement will help you determine the kind of space you will need. Conduct a site reconnaissance and include in your risk management assessment/plan. An extensive risk management plan considers likely hood versus impact and the viability of the event depends on the ability to mitigate and/or ameliorate risks to a deemed acceptable and manageable level. Consider contingency plans for inclement weather (if outdoors). Also consider infrastructure that may or may not be included with the venue hire.
- Does the venue hire include staff, security etc.?
- Is there suitable AV on-site?
- Is there sufficient parking at venue? (Consider traffic management plans)
- Is the venue accessible to all? (e.g. wheelchair ramps and/or elevators)
- Are there enough toilets? (e.g. see table below)
* Note that at least one unisex accessible toilet needs to be included in this table.
Table Source: City of Cockburn.
- Management – Appoint an official general manager for the event. Whether it is yourself or someone else, a clear chain of command must be set.
- Committees – After appointing the general manager, start building committees for the different aspects of the event (i.e., delegate tasks but DO NOT OVER DELEGATE). Breaking down the planning for big events is usually a good idea.
- Quotes – Get estimates from your usual or potential providers. If no relationship has been previously established, obtain at least three quotes. The budget committee will need these to build their financial projections.
- Event Entertainment – If your event has an artistic component, request quotes from well-known artists or have auditions early in the planning. Depending on who you book, may require artist visas, transportation, accommodation and ‘riders’. If your event is a MICE event , consider key note speakers, registration desks and ‘delegate bags’.
- Sponsorships – If you will solicit sponsorships, begin work on the sponsorship résumé right away. Potential sponsors will want to know the different sponsorship packages quite early, and it will also help with budgeting (also consider in-kind).
- Budget– While waiting for quotes and sponsors, build a preliminary budget. It can be modified throughout the planning stages.
- Permits and licenses – Check if you need any kind of permit or license around your event, especially if you plan on serving alcohol.
- Cover charge – If you will charge an admission price, determine the amount with the budget committee.
- Date – Finalise the date within the first three months of planning. This will help with coordinating artists, suppliers and other elements of your event without the risk of conflicts.
- Stationery – Meet with a graphic designer (in-house or consultant) and start drafting the different printed documents you will require for your event.
- Early printing – Hire a printer for invitations, reminders and sponsorship requests.
- Public relations – Meet with your practitioner and build a preliminary timeline (content calendar) for publicity and media relations.
- Photography – If you need any pre-event and publicity photos taken, hire a photographer and take these as soon as you can.
3 – 6 months prior
- Committees – Organise regular committee meetings and have them provide weekly reports to the general manager.
- Sponsorships – Start mailing sponsorship and donation request to potential sponsors and donors (consider that some grants may take up to 4 months to approve and require auspices for non-organisations).
- Logos – Request company logos from confirmed sponsors to go on the next printed documents.
- Design – Have your graphic designer confirm the templates for all future printed documents.
- Printing – After finalizing the designs with your graphic designer, send your next printing orders to the printer.
- Ticketing – If your event will use tickets, have them printed at this time also, and make them available for distribution (consider paperless tickets using platforms such as Eventbrite).
- Guest list – Build a final guest list, and email invitations and other documentation to them.
- Entertainment – After confirming with your entertainers, sign a contract with them.
- Posters –Send out people throughout your city to look for potential locations for posters. Have them report on space availability.
- Media – Meet with your PR practitioner and make appointments for interviews and other media coverage.
- Food & Beverages – After choosing a caterer and signing a contract with them, choose the menu with them. Provide choices for different dietary requirements.
- Licenses/Permits – At this time, you should request the different permits and licenses you will need. Consider requirements such as traffic management, fire extinguishers, tagged electrical leads and appliances as well as temporary structures, first aid posts and/or requirements for a St. John’s ambulance team to be contracted for the duration of the event.
- Insurance – Do not forget to get public liability insurance for your event; sometimes organisation insurance does not cover these kinds of events.
1 month prior
- Tickets – Check the ticket sales. Follow up with invited guests who have not yet responded. Consider scheduling Rush-tix (or similar) to promote greater attendance.
- Publicity – Reserve your publicity with radio and television stations as well as with printed media.
- Staffing – If you require extra staff for the event, start advertising the positions now or go to an employment agency for help. Consider volunteers, especially events students who may be seeking mandatory volunteer hours as course requisites. Treat your volunteers well!
- Site plan – Draw site/room diagrams and plan the space for seating, tables, portable toilets or whatever combination of space and tables you require. If outside, obtain schematic diagram of site to avoid underground cables and irrigation pipes. Re-assess risk management strategy.
- Catering – By this time, you should have a good idea of how many guests will come; you should provide this number to your caterer, so they can plan accordingly. Request a final quote from your caterer and sign a contract.
- Timeline – If your event involves a sequence of presentations or entertainment, write down the timeline as a run sheet/program. Give copies to the participants, request comments, identify and work through any potential problems.
- Security – Hire a security agency to estimate your security needs.
1 week prior
- Committees – Meet with your committees one last time. Solve last-minute problems.
- Waste Management – Arrange delivery of additional waste receptacles. Consider recycling, composting and general waste requirements.
- Guests – Confirm final guest-list and attendance numbers.
- Staff – Organise preliminary staff meeting to explain tasks and confirm availability. Hire new staff right away if necessary.
- Timeline – Send final timeline to the participants.
- Catering – Confirm your final order with your caterer.
- Publicity – Meet with journalists or media stations to finalize media coverage details.
- Rehearsal – Plan rehearsals as needed throughout the week.
- Payments – Have accounting write any cheques that need to be handed out on the day of the event.
1 day prior
- Clothes – Choose your attire for the event, and have a change of clothes ready, just in case.
- Providers – Confirm delivery times with all your providers and verify any previously delivered items (bump in/out schedules).
- Arrival – Get to the event space early to oversee bump in.
- Inventory – Make an inventory of all supplies and make sure you have everything you need.
- Staff & Volunteers – Put your staff in position and confirm their tasks.
- Light and sound (AV)- Check with your technicians for any potential problems with the technical setup. Depending on the event program, multiple sound checks may be required, so schedule times between acts to facilitate.
- Rehearsal – Hold a final rehearsal a few hours before the event and check the sound and lighting at the same time.
- Aesthetics- Ambience and one percenters!
- Enjoy the event and remember to relax – You’ve planned well, and everything will work perfectly.
- Payments – Remember to pay any outstanding invoices within prescribed periods. Suppliers may stipulate anywhere between 30 – 90 days.
- Final reports/acquittal – Request final reports from the committees, as well as a final budget. http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/funding/acquitting-your-grant/