How to Plan an Event

Tips for Planning a business, corporate or local event and marketing it.
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Lany Sullivan
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How to Plan an Event

Unread post by Lany Sullivan » Thu Feb 25, 2016 5:58 pm

You’ve got a brilliant idea for this really awesome event, but you have no idea where to start. I’ve seen so many half assed blog posts that don’t have enough information that actually helps the reader create a quality event. I know I’ll say it further down in here, but let me just say now, that no event will ever be the exact same. You will have different struggles and challenges and there is no way that I could cover them all, but this will give you a good sense of direction.


First and foremost, do you have a budget? Do you know how much you want to spend? Do you have an idea of what this event might set you back? Do you know how much you want to make? Set some clearly defined goals about how much you want to spend and how much profit you want to make when it’s all said and done.

Once you have a clearly defined budget and goals, then you can start thinking about the aesthetics of your event. If you’re like any of my clients you’ve already envisioned what you want your event to look like. Usually it’s bigger and better than your budget will allow, but not always. You can throw a fabulous event on a budget if you do it properly.

Location, Location, Location

A venue is going to be your foundation for your event, so you want to get this secured as quickly as possible in the early stages of your planning. Your venue will determine the limitations and amenities of what you can do at your event, so choose wisely. When you are looking for a venue you will want to keep these things in mind.
  • Occupancy limits
    Food (either catering services or other local restaurants)
    A/V setup and costs
    Hotel accommodations onsite or nearby
    Travel costs for guests
    Taxes and Fees
These are just to name a few items to pay attention to. In planning an event for a current client in Hawaii, we are looking at all of these things. Putting on an event where attendees have to travel some distance can be quite expensive, so you need to make sure that your target audience is going to be a good fit.

Hotel Accommodations, Travel & Food

Before we get to your audience, let’s wrap up your location needs. Every venue will provide some or all of the amenities that you will want or need. When selecting your venue, talk to your account manager to determine what services and amenities they offer.

Here are some things to look into and ask about:
  • Reservations (room blocks)
    Meeting Room reservations
    Catering needs/Food service
    Discounts available on hotel amenities
    Local or Hotel recreational activities & entertainment
Licensing and Legal Issues

Some events are going to require city, county or state licensing fees. You will need to check with local ordinances to find out if any licensing is required to activate your event.

Target Audience

Who do you want to attend this event? Can your target audience afford to attend this event? Are you looking to drive a small or large audience to your event? Hundreds of people or thousands of people? If you look at events and conferences across the globe, the successful and well known events are highly targeted to a specific audience. Think about events, meetings, conferences and trade shows that you have attended. Why did you attend? What was the draw for you? Did you feel that you received enough value for the price that you paid to travel and attend this event?

These are question that you want to ask yourself when planning your own event. One of the key things you want to pay attention to is value given to your audience.

Guest Speakers

One of the best ways to provide value is to bring in quality speakers. No, you don’t necessarily need famous people, but you need to find speakers that your audience will connect with and want to listen to. If you bring in someone relatively unknown to your audience, they may not be that interested in attending your event, much less pay to attend.

Having a guest speaker though will cost you more often than not. Many well known speakers charge $5,000-$150,000 plus travel costs to speak. Speaking costs vary by speaker, experience, and length of time for event. Some speakers will discount their rates for non profit organizations, but not always. If you are looking to drive high attendance, a well known speaker can be worth their weight in gold.

I work with quite a few well known speakers as my clients are constantly on the lookout for that special speaker that will take their event to the top. Many of the most well known speakers are easy to work with and their teams are accustomed to these kinds of inquiries. Be respectful with your inquiry and provide as much information in your request that you possibly can. The more questions you can answer in your initial request, the easier it is for the speaker to determine if your event is a good fit for them.

Your request should include:
  • Date
    Speaking expectations
    Travel/accommodation options
    Event type
    Event Topic or Focus
    Audience demographics
    Your contact info
Some of these things may be obvious, but you would be surprised how easy it is to miss one or two of these key points.

The Money: Sponsors, Booth Sales & Ticket Sales


Sponsors are a great way to create a partnership with companies that have a similar target market. You will want to look at your sponsors in a similar light as your audience. You need to be targeted when on the hunt for sponsors.

Here are a few things to focus on when it comes to sponsors:

What are your potential sponsors objectives?
What are the benefits to your sponsors? What do they get out of it?
Make sure you pay attention to the timing of your pitch.
Who is the decision maker?
Niche down on your audience, so your sponsor knows you have their target market in mind.
Is your proposal specific enough?

If you do not know how to secure sponsorships for your event, I recommend you consider hiring an expert like Danetha Doe

Booth Sales

If you plan on having vendors participate at your event, you will need to determine with the venue a proper layout to maximize space and traffic flow. Most venues will already have a designated or preferred layout, so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Based on layout and design, you can then determine the number of booths that your event will be able to handle which then allows you to determine your vendor limits. Some vendors will want to have larger booth spaces, so make sure you take that into account when signing up vendors and assigning space. Often, the venue will have a coordinator on hand to help you with these details, especially if this is your first time putting a larger event together.

When pricing out booth space, you once again need to take into account your target audience and your vendor demographics. You can’t necessarily price out a booth for $2,000 for a craft fair, but you will easily be able to go higher with more popular events in certain verticals, such as the tech space.

Price according to your market. Do your research. Look at your competitors to help you determine a rate that will make sense to your vendor and not leave you paying out of pocket at the end of the event.

Ticket Sales
It’s not rocket science that we continue to focus on target audience and demographics. Every single factor in your event ultimately leads back to your demographics. Price point really matters to attendees. There has to be at least perceived value for any ticket sale, but the higher you go in price the higher the expected value becomes. A $12 ticket to many attendees may seem like a drop in the bucket, but a $5,000 ticket should not only meet their expectations but exceed their expectations by 100.

**Special Pricing: If you have attended any event in the past, you may have noticed early bird pricing. This is a great way to get vendors and attendees in early and fuel their F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out). Create a sense of urgency early. Provide some unique offer or value to your early signups and you create excitement which can create a snowball effect if they start sharing the awesome deal they just got with their friends, family or business associates.

There are many pricing tactics that are highly successful in driving an audience to an event, so it is key that we implement the right one immediately. The more time you have to promote the event, the more time you have to test which methods work and which ones do not.

Promoting the Event

If you want attendees, then you need to promote! I know, that is obvious. The timing on promotion is however, not obvious. Many events you will want to promote 6 months to a year in advance. This is where early bird specials mentioned above can be a quick boost of revenue early on in the planning stages.

Different events will require different promotion, Are you selling booth space and consumer tickets? Is your target a higher end audience or is it the general public. Remember to define your audience as stated earlier.

Every event should have a landing page where your audience, vendors and sponsors can find you and learn more about the event.

Here are some ways that you can promote your event:
  • Search Engine Traffic
    Banner Ads
    Facebook Ads
    Twitter & Linkedin promoted posts
    Social sharing
    Email marketing
    Word of mouth
    Fliers/Banners/Print Media
Budget, audience demographics, geo-targeting and more are factors that you must know to help you define the right way to spend your marketing dollars.

Marketing Collateral

Marketing collateral covers all the material digital or printed that you will use either to promote your event or to use on site at your event. Think about big conferences like CES and E3. Every thing that has a company brand or brand messaging on it would be considered marketing collateral; even the small branded promotional pieces that you get for free at events.

You will want to work with companies like Deschamps Printing who can cover all your printing needs from the small promo pieces to a tradeshow booth design to vehicle wraps. I have found that working with a vendor that covers a larger percentage of my needs provides me with the best value and pricing overall.

The Finer Details

Now that you have knocked out all of the big tasks, you can move on to the finer details of the event. Making your guests feel special.

Think about how you want to decorate the event. What is the caliber and focus of your event? Is it marketing related or is it exclusive? Is it a conference, meeting or tradeshow? The type of event will determine the “look” of your event.

Then there is swag, gift bags and awards to think of. Are your sponsor donating money or product? What can you give away or encourage speakers or sponsors to donate to your swag or gift bags? Are you running a raffle or contest? Think about what your audience would be interested in procuring?

The more you give away and the more special you make your guests and attendees feel; the more inclined they will be to share the love on social, with their friends and even in the form of business for you or your sponsors.

Closing Out

There are many minute details that are missed in event planning, the key is to hire the right person, team or agency to manage your event. When your event is over, it’s not really over. After the event, you have clean up, post event promotion, thank yous, evaluations and more to manage. Then when all that is done, you start planning next year’s event!

With more than 15 years of sales, marketing and event management, I am happy to answer your questions about and/or manage the logistics of your upcoming event.

Interested in hiring an event planner? Connect with me to learn more.

Lany Sullivan
Management, Marketing, Events

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