16 Tips for Planning Successful Events

Jamie Birt

Updated March 10, 2022

Published August 25, 2021

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

If you're an event planner who's preparing to host your next event, having excellent event planning abilities can be helpful while organizing it. Clients may have different expectations for each event, so it's important to identify techniques to help navigate you through the planning process. Identifying helpful tips or techniques may improve your event planning skills to ensure your events are successful. In this article, we address what event planning is, explain what an event planner is and provide 16 tips for planning events effectively.

What is event planning?

Event planning is the act of organizing and managing an event, activity or occasion. Some examples of event categories include social gatherings, seminars, wedding ceremonies, corporate meetings, charity events and various celebrations. Event planning often involves the following tasks:

  • Preparing budgets

  • Organizing staff

  • Creating schedules for staff

  • Setting timelines for each event

  • Selecting and reserving venues

  • Hiring vendors

  • Coordinating guest transportation

  • Renting equipment

  • Designing the layout of the event

Related: Event Planners: Frequently Asked Questions

What is an event planner?

An event planner is a professional in the event industry who's responsible for planning and managing meetings and special events. They oversee all the aspects of the event to ensure it goes according to plan. Event planners often manage budgets, establish event dates, select venues and organize accommodations for guests. The particular duties of an event planner depend on many aspects, including the event's size and category, the planner's education and their event planning experience.

Read more: Learn About Being an Event Planner

16 event planning tips

Here are 16 planning tips you can use as you prepare for your next event:

1. Start planning early

First, you need to set a specific goal for the event. Determine what the ultimate goal for the event is. It might be a fundraiser, social event or corporate retreat. Being clear on the purpose of your event will help you stay focused on the important details of the event, from the venue choice to gaining sponsors.

Start preparing and planning the event well in advance to ensure you speak with vendors and venues, book with them and plan a timeline for all aspects of the function. Early planning can help you identify potential obstacles, design solutions and provide a successful event.

Related: How To Plan an Event (With Tips)

2. Stick to a budget

 Determine how much you can spend on the venue, catering, entertainment and miscellaneous costs. Remember to consider all potential costs from the beginning to avoid ending up with a figure more than your initial estimate.

3. Get it in writing

As you negotiate contracts with your vendors, make sure you include rules for what happens when significant changes occur one to three months out, one to four weeks out and the day of the event. Set your vendors up with the same late fee policies and costs that you use with your clients. Also, be sure to get your scope of work in writing, too. 

4. Choose a venue with care

Know your audience when you’re seeking the right venue for your function. Choose an environment where your guests will feel comfortable. For example, a conference for senior executives needs a more formal venue than one used for a team-building activity. 

5. Plan your program

Consider what you want to include in the event’s program. For example, you might want to have a keynote speaker, workshops or trade shows. While you can continue to fine-tune details up until the big day, your guests will want to know what to expect. Provide them with the basic framework, or agenda, as early as possible.

6. Have a vendor backup plan

Be sure to communicate with vendors and venues a month before the event to ensure everyone is ready for your event. Review any contracts so that you can prevent miscommunication. If something goes wrong with your vendors, it will likely be a last-minute issue. It’s best to have at least three backup choices—with all their relevant details available—for every type of vendor your event will need.

7. Create a timeline and a checklist

Deadlines tend to work better than open to-do lists, so as soon as possible, start finalizing when specific decisions need to be made and certain jobs need to be done to keep you on track.

Checklists can help you arrange information so that you can understand what tasks you need to do, create deadlines for each task and identify any additional support you might need. A checklist may also help you create time and financial estimates while you're in the preparation phase. Additionally, having a checklist can make it easier to measure your progress as you complete each task for your event.

As the event date approaches, update your timeline and checklist with these suggested questions in mind:

  • When do the vendors arrive? 

  • Who is the point of contact? 

  • When does the food need to be ready? 

  • At what point should the live band make room for the disc jockey? 

8. Consider booking a photographer

You can set aside money to pay an expert photographer or videographer to commemorate your event. Research photographers and videographers near your venue and contact them for quotes. Often, videographers and photographers have event package pricing or an hourly rate they can refer you to while booking. Photographing or filming your event can provide useful content for all media channels. On-site photos can also give attendees a special take-home memory of an entertaining event.

9. Network with others in the event planning industry

Event planners often develop relationships with event vendors and venues, so they can have a variety of options to consider while planning an event. Making connections with other professionals in the industry can help you identify which vendors and venues are best for what functions. These connections can also help you promote your services and generate leads.

10. Communicate effectively with vendors and staff

Providing clear channels for communication with vendors, sponsors, clients and company staff may help you coordinate an event more efficiently. Ensure all involved are aware that you are available at any time and encourage them to reach out with questions or concerns. Communication methods include email correspondence, in-person meetings, video chats and phone calls.

11. Plan for challenges

You may face challenges or obstacles during the planning process or the event itself, so it is essential to prepare for such challenges early in the planning process. Create a list of potential challenges, such as weather, low attendance, last-minute cancellations or absent event staff. Then, create solutions to these scenarios, including:

  • Having a backup venue to refer to if weather permits

  • Having additional vendors to contact in case of cancellations

  • Scheduling additional staff members for the event in case of illness

  • Using marketing strategies to promote the event effectively to increase attendance

12. Share your backup plan

It's important to prepare to execute a successful event, even if mishaps occur. Sometimes, events require overcoming unforeseen obstacles. It's helpful to have a backup plan to ensure your event will be a success, despite what plan of action you use. Share your backup plans with staff, vendors and the venue to gain approval and explain what policies and procedures to follow in case an obstacle occurs.

13. Implement event promotion strategies

It's helpful to begin promoting your event a few months in advance to build anticipation for the festivities and give your potential attendees time to plan for your event and RSVP. Use promotional advertising tools like social media invitations or online advertising campaigns. You may also create promotional products such as keychains, pens or stickers, with the date and time of the event. In your online promotions, include interesting information about the event's food and beverage, sponsorship, entertainers, vendors, theme and proper attire.

Related: How To Promote an Event Online

14. Use social media marketing

Social media marketing is a great online tool to reach guests and persuade them to attend your event. It allows you to announce the event on multiple social media pages to provide exclusive details and exciting updates such as who is sponsoring the event, what the theme is and which entertainers are performing. You can also include the event timeline, ticket prices and location. A month before the event, implementing a social media campaign can maximize audience reach and guest attendance. Other ways to use social media include:

  • Motivating guests to attend and share content using giveaway contests on various platforms

  • Encouraging guests to post images or videos of the event with a hashtag in their caption for brand awareness

  • Asking guests to share the event on their social media profiles to receive a discount code or special accommodations during the event

15. Have a cleanup plan

Your event doesn’t end when your guests leave. Consider every little detail from setup to backdown. Don’t forget trash removal, though these services are sometimes included in venue fees. A successful event is all about the details, even the small ones.

16. Ask for feedback

To evaluate the overall success of your event and to identify opportunities for improvement, gather feedback from your staff, vendors, attendees and client. Having actionable feedback will help you improve your future events.

Related: How To Professionally Ask for Feedback

How to enhance your event planning skills

Event planners may need a variety of skills to plan and host various types of events. Event planners may be responsible for many aspects of an event, from reserving catering services to selecting a color scheme or theme for the party, so it's valuable to have excellent event planning skills while pursuing this career. Some event planning skills include:

  • Attention to detail: Planning table decor, foliage and lighting, accommodating guests and following timelines all require strong attention to detail. Being detail-oriented can help you prevent conflicts in the timeline or with a client regarding their expectations for the event.

  • Interpersonal communication: Overseeing staff members, communicating with industry professionals and interacting with guests throughout an event involve interpersonal communication skills. These skills can ensure you're communicating genuinely and conveying information, so that all individuals you interact with understand what to expect before, during and after the event.

  • Multitasking: Time management, prioritization, concentration and coping skills are all multitasking abilities that enable event planners to excel in their profession. Multitasking skills are essential in this position because many parts of an event may occur at once, such as answering questions about the catering timeline while communicating to the client about attendance.

  • Organization: Excellent organization skills involve using time management and coordination to provide support throughout the organizational processes of planning an event. An event planner uses organizational skills while creating timelines, following a budget, scheduling staff and vendors and meeting event deadlines for reserving venues and entertainment.

Related: Essential Skills for Event Planners

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