Events, like people, come in every shape and size.
Some events are small, others are big, some are lavish, others are executed on a budget.
No matter the size or kind of event, the following seven universal fundamentals remain the same.
Use these event planning principles as a guideline when planning your next event, and we all but guarantee a successful outcome!
The 7 Key Event Planning Principles:
- Considering the date
- Selecting the venue
- Consulting the budget
- Defining your objective
- Deciding how to differentiate yourself
- Using trusted service providers
- Having great food
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1. Consider The Date For Your Event
Pinning down the date of your event is the most important and first step toward successfully executing an event, whether it’s an intimate bridal shower for a close friend, or an annual conference for thousands of delegates from all over the world.
You cannot actively make any arrangements for your event before you have settled on a date.
When narrowing down your choices on your calendar, you might want to take into account prospective guests’ availability.
For example, if the event will be an intimate affair and the attendance of specific persons is non-negotiable, you will need to schedule your event to coincide with their availability.
You cannot, for example, schedule a friend’s bridal shower on the night she takes evening classes.
Seasonal travel costs and the availability of flights may conversely affect your scheduling of an international conference to accommodate the widest variety of delegates.
When planning an event for so many people from so many different countries, you will never be able to find one date that suits everybody; so in this case you need to aim for the season that suits most if not all.
- No matter the nature of the event, get your chosen date out to guests in a timely fashion. Communicate your date too early and guests may forget about it by the time the event rolls around. Communicate your date too late and you run the risk of your invitees being unavailable. Depending, of course, on the nature of the event and the location of invitees relative to the location of said event, we’d recommend communicating the date of your event to potential guests no earlier than 12 months in advance, and no later than 1 month in advance.
- Depending on the nature of the event, the beliefs of your guests and their occupations, dates to avoid may include religious holidays, bank holidays, public holidays and school holidays.
2. Selecting The Perfect Event Venue
Events venues are like shoes, there is no “one size fits all”.
Choosing the correct venue for your type and style of event is second in importance only to pinning down your date.
Factors to keep in mind when venue hunting will include your budget, the size of your guest list, the venue’s availability on your chosen date, and whether or not you get along with the venue’s management.
If you have your heart set on a particular venue, you may enquire as to their availability before selecting your date, or may select your date based on their venue hire fee for off-peak or out-of-season events.
- Be sure to clarify what all is included in the venue hire fee upfront. When you are given a tour of the venue you may see the space decked out with banquet tables and Tiffany chairs, only to realise after you have paid your deposit that the rental of these elements is not included in the cost of the venue hire.
- Location, location, location. The ideal location for your shindig relies not only on the nature of your event, but on the interests and origins of your attendees. If, for example, you will have many out of town guests, selecting a venue with attached accommodation options is thoughtful. Similarly, if out of town guests would likely engage in tourist activities before or after your event, selecting a venue near tourist attractions they may want to see during their visit is thoughtful.
- Ensure that there is ample parking to accommodate your guests. Especially in South Africa, our public transport systems are unreliable at best. As a result, you will either need to ensure adequate parking for guests arriving on their own steam, or organise group transportation to and from the venue.
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3. Consulting The Budget
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as a free event either.
Hosting an event costs money, and deciding upfront how much you’re going to allow your event to cost you is crucial to avoiding “buyer’s remorse” later on.
Your budget will inevitably determine the style and size of your event, and should be committed to paper or a digital spreadsheet to avoid any confusion or overspending later on.
- Remember to leave room in your budget for unanticipated expenses. For example, for potential breakage fees or penalties on rented stemware.
- When drawing up your event budget, keep in mind that certain costs are variable, and will depend on others. For example, the cost of your photographer may vary based on their distance travelled to get to your selected venue. Similarly, the cost of the venue hire may increase should you choose to make use of outside service providers instead of their in-house caterers, for example.
4. Defining Your Main Objective For The Event
In order to define your event’s objective, you essentially need to ask yourself:
“Why am I hosting this event?”.
It could be to celebrate a milestone in your personal or professional life.
It could be to engage with clients, or to see your extended family.
No matter the answer to the question, the “why” will help you narrow down the appropriate “how”.
Knowing what you hope to achieve by throwing your event will help you narrow down the kind of event you’re throwing, and will allow you to narrow your focus in order to ensure your event achieves for you what you’ve set out to achieve.
If, for example, your aim is to connect with clients, you know you should narrow your focus to one of the various corporate event types.
Similarly, if your event is only meant to be attended by friends and family, you know you are planning a private event and can continue to plan your event from there.
- Check out our previous articles on the various popular event types and what you can hope to achieve with each unique type of event:
5. Deciding On How To Differentiate Yourself
No matter the event, you’ll want to ask yourself what is going to set yours apart.
We live in the age of Pinterest and Instagram, and in order to compete with the perfectly styled and presented events out there, you’ll need to think outside the box and narrow down your differentiating factor.
This will be particularly important to corporate events and/or events hosted for marketing purposes (e.g. product/brand launches, networking events etc.)
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6. Using Trusted Service Providers
Make sure that you have access to a network of trusted, reliable service providers.
This is key to pulling off a successful event of any kind.
Whether this means hiring an event coordinator who has their own network to tap into on your behalf, or making use of entities known to you personally, using trusted service providers is a make or break for any event.
- Any event planner is only as strong as their network. If you’re going to be using a service provider for the first time, do your due diligence and spend some time researching the company. Read reviews, ask for a portfolio of work and enquire as to whether they have any client testimonials or references. The more homework you do, the less risk of you hiring the wrong team.
- Go with your gut. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Similarly, if you don’t get along with a potential service provider, don’t hire them. You are far more likely to enjoy your eventing experience and have a positive outcome as a result if you and your service providers are on the same page from day one.
- Remember it is within your power to negotiate. A trustworthy service provider is worth their weight in gold, but that doesn’t mean you need to pay outlandish prices for premium service. Ask around and find out if a quote you’ve received is market-related. If not, you are well within your rights to attempt a negotiation.
- On that note, a trustworthy and reliable service provider is always going to be transparent with you and communicate with you openly. True professionals will never be offended because you’ve asked for a detailed cost break-down, or want to know if they can do a certain task at a better rate to match competitor pricing.
Here are a few of our own:
7. Having Great Food For Your Event
Your mother always told you: “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”.
In reality, the way to most people’s hearts is through their stomachs, gender be damned.
Eating and food are about so much more than nutrition in our day and age.
Food has become a culture, and eating is as much a social engagement as it is an act of sustenance.
Ask any event planner – the feedback that you and/or they will receive post-event (whether good or bad) is always about the food.
The one area an event planner should never skimp on is the catering.
If the food is great, guests may drop a subtle compliment, which may not seem like it’s worth the expense, but trust us, if the food is bad, you’ll never hear the end of it!
- Ensure that your caterers are able to cater to all tastes and are conscious of guests’ dietary requirements. This means ensuring beforehand that your caterer has the capacity and necessary certifications to cater to, for example, your Muslim guests (Halal), your Hindu guests (Vegetarian) and/or your Jewish guests (Kosher).
- Always advise your caterer of guest numbers beforehand so that everyone is catered for.
- As a bonus tip, just avoid the nut ingredients altogether – you never know who’s lacklustre about announcing their peanut allergy, and anaphylaxis is never an appropriate party favour.
- Communicate your day-of schedule to your caterer and stick to it. If you deviate from the schedule your guests could end up eating cold food, or having to wait for their next course. This sort of oversight doesn’t reflect well on yourself or your caterer and should be avoided at all costs.
- A buffet is not always inferior to a plated meal. The service style needs to be conducive to the overall flow of your event and the event objective. Sometimes buffet-style meal service fits the bill.
- Make sure there is adequate seating for all guests even if the catering consists only of passed hors d’oeuvres. Some people don’t like to eat standing up, and others (for example the elderly) may tire easily and need a place to sit down in order to enjoy their meal.
Ultimately, each event is unique and your individual event checklist will differ from anyone else’s.
Still, these seven event planning principles remain the same and deserve adequate consideration no matter the style or type of event.
If the basics are already overwhelming you, or you don’t know where to turn to for guidance, why not consult the professionals?
We’re always happy to consult on your festivities, and look forward to making the event planning process easy-breezy for all our clientele.
For more information, to obtain a quote, or just to chat, you’re welcome to make use of our contact page, or to contact us telephonically to set up a meeting.
We look forward to sharing our wealth of both connections and experience with you.
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