If you’re planning a party or successful event, you’ll have a lot to think about and do over the coming weeks. Being responsible for everything from the location to the party favors can be intimidating, but never fear. Here are some basic steps that will help you plan and host a successful event.
1. The Plan is the Party!
The single most important aspect of having a successful event is to plan successfully. Consider all the scenarios and build your events to address your best and worst cases. First, what is your goal? Are you throwing a bash for a friend or a baby shower for your relative? Are you selling a service or product to your customers? Are you raising funs for a charity? Your purpose for having an event should be the framework for everything you do from here on out.
2. Get and Stay Organized
Once you’ve established your plan and schedule, stick to it. Of course, you may encounter some problems and changes; However, you should make it a point to stay personally organized. There may be things out of your control, but you can control your time, health, and attitude. When you start wandering away from your plan, things will become chaotic and harder to manage. Don’t let the ankle-biters distract you. Be flexible, but keep your overall goals and schedule at the front of your mind. Keep your planning materials, contracts, and correspondence organized in folders. Use a day-planner to keep track of your appointments and commitments. And always plan “me time” to maintain your energy and interest in this project. Staying organized is a critical part of planning and executing a successful event.
3. Make A Venue a Driving Decision
Once you have your plan laid out, your first big decision will be the location of the event. How many people do you expect to invite? What type of entertainment are you planning? (A keynote speaker will use a lot less space than a 10-piece chamber orchestra) Are you serving a sit-down dinner, a buffet, snacks? How much space will you need for seating? Do you want to be in a facility where other services are available? How far are you willing to make people travel to get there? Do you want to an elaborate, expensive or a casual, relaxed environment?
When you know what type of place you want to use, identify at least three potential locations and visit each one in person. Talk to the facility managers and ask lots of questions. Find out what they’ll provide as part of the contract and what you’ll need to provide on your own. Ask for detailed formal bids from the candidates and be sure to let them know they are competing. That will bring in lower bids. The investment of time and effort in selecting and securing the perfect facility will pay off big time on the night (or day) of your wildly successful event.
4. Develop a Detailed Schedule & A Program
Once you have an appropriate location and established goals for the event, it’s time to consider your theme. You’ll also need to plan activities that are consistent with your theme. The larger the event, the more carefully each activity must be planned. For big events, consider the following: Will you have speakers or presentations? Any ceremonies? What type of activities are you planning? As a first step, sit down and make a list of every activity you want to happen. Then order them in a logical way that flows. Plan for some unstructured social mixing time at the beginning and end of your successful event. Allocate time for meals, speakers, announcements, and entertainment. Allow extra time in between for your guests to leave for a bathroom or smoke break. Keep your guests busy, but not so busy that they feel stressed or overloaded. Build in time for fun and relaxation as well.
5. Turn to the Details
The first major part of your detail planning is food and drinks. Food arrangements range from the complex sit-down, multi-course meal to the potluck munch-n-go party. You’ll need to decide whether you and others helping can provide food or whether it would be more appropriate to hire a caterer. If you decide on a caterer, go through the same process as you did when securing a location. Select candidates, interview them, and get formal bids. Decide what menu fits in your budget and you’d like to serve to your guests. When you’ve made a decision on your caterer, sign a contract with your agreements outlined very specifically. Have costs broken down by line item so, if necessary, you can make changes to adjust to your budget.
Make sure to also discuss beverages and see if you may need to hire a bartending service. Do you want to have an open free cash bar or will you ask guests to pay for their own alcohol? Do you want to have alcohol at all? If you decide on serving booze, you may also need to consider hiring security guards to make sure things don’t get out of hand. Again, whether through your caterer or an independent service, get formal bids and sign a written contract for the beverage service. Keep in mind, some locations will provide non-alcoholic beverages as part of the rental agreement. Check any alcohol requirements with your venue ahead of time.
6. Focus on Entertaining Your Guests
Once you are settled on the facility, theme, and the food and drinks, you’ll need to pin down your entertainment. For more serious gatherings, you may want to hire a keynote speaker or ask for presentations. For social gatherings, you should consider a DJ, band or orchestra, comedian, or other entertainers. Will your entertainment involve dancing? You’ll need to be sure you have the space for that. If you’re using an emcee, DJ, or comedian, a small podium will probably work. If you’re having a band or group of entertainers, you may need a larger space or stage.
You may even want to have structured games or entertainment (ever heard of a murder mystery party?) that your guests can participate in. If you’re holding a fundraising event, you might consider an auction or competition designed to get bids. Whatever entertainment you choose, make sure it’s appropriate for your theme. Make sure to time the presentation of entertainment after meals or snacks. If you have a keynote speaker, have them start their presentation about halfway through the meal so they’re not competing with the hustle and bustle of getting people seated, early dinner conversations, and the sound of glass and silverware.
7. Cultivate Your Providers
To have a successful event, you must develop and maintain a positive, productive relationship with your vendors. The first step is selecting reputable, dependable vendors that come with good recommendations. Avoid vendors who can’t and won’t get in touch with their clients. Always get your agreements down in writing to avoid confusion and disappointment later on. Be kind and considerate with them. Don’t think that because you’re hired them, you can treat them rudely or without respect. Your successful event may depend on the nature of the relationships you’ve built with your vendors.
8. Take Care of Yourself
No matter how busy you become or how difficult the job may be, you absolutely MUST take care of yourself. Stress can cause illness and the last thing you need is a bad cold or flue as your planning is underway. If you can afford it, hire an assistant to help you with smaller details, or get others in your organization to volunteer in their time. You may want to have a trusted friend or family member step in for certain details for a private event. Have someone you trust be a sounding board to make sure your ideas are attainable and make sense. Two heads are almost always better than one.
More than anything else, build time into your plans for self care. Give yourself time to take a day off at the spa or in nature. Take time each day to meditate, reach a novel, play with kids or your pet, or visit friends. Do what you enjoy. Make sure to eat properly and get plenty of rest. Aim for 8 hours of sleep every night or take naps if necessary. Plan social time too. Go to lunch or dinner with your friends. Ask your partner to go to the movies. See a play or go to a concert. Do things that keep you interested and positive in life generally. That will maintain your physical and mental health so you can cope with the myriad of decisions, activities, and events that will inevitably come up during the event-planning process. And remember “worrying means you suffer twice.” – JK Rowling