The best way to begin the event planning process is to start by making yourself enough coffee to boost an entire office. And don’t give your colleagues the wrong impression by letting the delicious aroma waft through the kitchen. This is your moment – save that coffee as your life depends on it. Once you have enough liquid coursing through your veins, it’s time to sit down and really contemplate the event at hand. At the beginning of any project, you will always have more event planning questions than answers. This is why brainstorming is essential to any planning process.
What will really get you where you need to go is to make sure you ask quality event planning questions. You need to dive into every nook and cranny of your event, because it’s the details that make your events shine. Clients won’t let your hard work go unnoticed if you put in the time. Keep these essential event planning questions in mind the next time you prepare to plan an event.
What are the goals of the event?
Focusing on the small decorative touches and fun aspects of the event is both exciting and important, but you need a solid, clear foundation to build upon. Just like building a house, if the foundation isn’t solid and the contractors aren’t all on the same page, all the pretty walls will fall down. Communicate regularly with everyone else involved in the event to identify problem areas and prevent disaster well in advance. You’ve had the idea.
Remember your SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals and make detailed notes and action plans for each. Once you have the basics down, you can start selecting all the details to complete your event and make it shine.
What type of event is it?
The first question to ask is what kind of event it is, as all subsequent event planning questions will be determined by this answer. Is it a meeting? A corporate event? A promotional event? For this article, let’s assume you are hosting a promotional event for the launch of a client’s new outdoor recreation equipment. There will be a paddle boat race on a lake, followed by a celebratory picnic.
When is the best time for this event?
Now that you know what type of event you’re hosting, you can begin to outline each of the details that define it, asking more specific event planning questions. Knowing that the boat race will be held outdoors, consider the time of year. Warm weather is ideal, but intense heat or humidity could deter guests from participating or make them uncomfortable. The time of day will affect the conditions you endure, in addition to the time of year. You will of course have some constraints on timing and choosing a date, but within your realm of possibilities, take full advantage of the freedoms you have.
For outdoor events like your boat race, don’t forget to consider the possibility of inclement weather. Will your event be rain or shine? Will you offer a rain check or make-up date? Will guests be reimbursed in the event of a complete cancellation? These are details your guests will be interested to know when choosing their RSVP response.
Once you have an idea of when to hold your event, don’t forget to check local and surrounding event calendars for other important vacations, events and similar happenings in the same time frame. Know your target guest list and be aware of their interests and schedules. After you’ve thought about perfecting every detail of your event, it would be terrible to be overshadowed by a major annual event and lose guests because of a simple oversight.
Where will the event take place?
You know for sure that you will need water access for the boat race, but what other event planning questions do you need to consider regarding location? Is this a long race that will require seating for more than just the picnic? Since the event is outdoors, you will need to determine whether or not you need to provide a shaded or sheltered area. Some venues may have large shade trees, pavilions or access to an indoor facility with restrooms. The location you choose will impact the type of severe weather plan you provide. If you have access to a shelter, you may not need to set a cancellation policy or rain date.
When thinking about the venue, also think about your food plan. Will the food be served by the venue or by an outside company? Do you accept dietary restrictions? If you are serving alcohol, you will need to think about permits based on your location. What type of dishes will you need if not provided by the venue?
The amenities offered by your venue will determine the gaps you need to fill in your plan. It is important to decide exactly what type of experience you want to provide your guests in order to make these decisions.
What should the theme be?
You want to draw people to the event, so you’ll need to do something to capture their attention. The purpose of your boat race is to promote your client’s new outdoor recreation equipment. Partner with the client to create an identity that people will recognize and want to get involved with. If it’s a stand-alone event, think about ways to engage people. Will you offer games or prizes? Will there be an unusual attraction like a portable rock wall or access to boats and boat rides after the race? Pique their curiosity with eye-catching attractions and features that fit your theme, and they’ll likely want to participate.
What’s unique about this event?
If you were a participant instead of the organizer, what would make you want to attend? What has stood out to you from previous events? Let’s say your race/picnic has a Wild West theme where all participants must be in costume. Tie in all the pieces of the event by carefully choosing the details, such as making sure all promotional materials use fonts and images from that era, or having part of the picnic treated in the theme, or awarding unique, era-appropriate prizes for the best costume. This attention to detail brings your event to life and leaves a lasting impression on your guests.
What services will you need?
Once your event starts to take shape and the foundation is laid, you don’t want to forget about marketing and documenting the inevitably amazing moments with your guests! Will you have an event teaser to excite your guests and make them want to attend? Would you like a photographer for your event, or perhaps a photo booth? Have you considered a videographer or live streaming of your event to extend your reach and accessibility to guests? Having an outside vendor handle event services such as registration, live social stream walls or any other audio/visual setup can add to the overall experience and engagement of your event and allow you to focus on your attendees and the overall event experience.