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How to Plan an Event (The Basics)
I've produced dozens of events over the years as part of my job and have also planned birthday, graduation & wedding parties. This guide is just the basics but it should get you started.
Whether you're planning a party for 10 people or a public lecture for 1000, there are steps that make every event a success. We can't cover everything in this guide, but here are some basics.
WHY? Determine what is the goal & purpose of the event (to celebrate, educate, raise funds, raise awareness, honor someone, mark a special date, etc.) Keep this in mind through the organizing process.
WHAT? What is the nature of the event you want to organize. Is it formal or informal? Solemn or celebratory? Small or large? Open to the public or invitation only? A few hours or all day?
WHO? Who is the audience or people you what to bring to your event? Friends and family of the birthday person? The general public? A specific constituency like young people or women?
WHERE? The nature of your event will determine where you'll hold it. It could be in someone's home or a rental hall. The kind of venue is also based on your budget and the number of people you expect.
BUDGET - How much money do you have to put on this event? What do you hope to raise if it's a fundraiser? Put together a detailed budget that includes all expected expenses and projected income.
PLAN YOUR CALENDAR - the more time you have to plan, the better your event will be. Ideally plan several months in advance for most events. Put together a calendar of tasks leading up to the event.
THE TEAM - Put together your crew of people to help with work leading up to the event as well as at the event itself. How many will depend on the nature of the specific event. The more the merrier!
Look to friends, family, coworkers, fellow students, paid staff to help. Make sure folks know what their tasks are and that you have communications in place for constant check in and follow-up.
SPREAD THE WORD - While the nature of the event will determine what kind of outreach you use, there are many variations from printed formal invitations to flyers to email and Facebook announcements.
MEDIA - For some events, you'll want to issue press releases & get announcements on radio & television to spread the word. Paid ads in local papers help as do free announcements through social media.
LISTS - Lists keep things organized. Make to do lists - break it down by main areas or the calendar. Have a list of all the people working on tasks. Make shopping lists. Phone Lists. Press lists. Etc.
CONTENT - There's not enough space here to talk about planning details for all different events. Basically figure out what you will need for the kind of event you're planning. Some examples...
KID'S BIRTHDAY PARTY - Some things you might need: food, drinks, cake, planned activity (ie games, bounce house, magician, etc.), party favors, plan for how to greet guests, how to open presents, etc.
LECTURE - Some things you might need: a lecturer, moderator, microphone/sound system, podium, chairs for audience, lighting, snacks, programs, book signing table, signs, box office, security, etc.
BANQUET - Some things you might need: Food, drinks, tables, chairs, linen, tableware, centerpieces, decorations, entertainment, program emcee, person to do fundraising pitch, servers, name tags, etc.
THE DAY OF - Make sure you're in top shape - well rested, nourished & organized. Have a hourly breakdown of the day's tasks but also be prepared for unforeseen problems. Have support AND backup plans.
AFTER THE EVENT - Follow-up is key especially if you plan any future events. Have an evaluation with your team to see what did and didn't work. Send out thank yous to everyone who made it possible.
I hope this guide was helpful as you plan your event. If so, ❤it! If you have a specific question, let me know. Or suggestions. Remember to have fun & know that others really appreciate your efforts.
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Bay Area, California USA
I love to create! All kinds of things. Food, crafts, jewelry, art, photos, theater, events, history, social justice. My proudest creation is my daughter!