I was just sitting here wondering about the things that make an event successful and if there was a recipe.

Looking back at the range of events we’ve seen through the years there are common success factors regardless whether you are planning a big birthday bash or a corporate function. You must plan your event well in order to get people in and ensure they are entertained.  The planning process adjusts to the size of your function…  The gist remains the same.  Plan well ahead and properly and you will have little to worry about during the event itself.

Let’s have a look at what those are, and what you can do about them.

Once you’ve decided that you are going to throw a party or hold a corporate function, it’s natural for your mind immediately jump to the result and how wonderful it’s going to be.  You imagine how perfectly the theme is going to fit and all the happy guests.  You can image the food; the entertainment and a wonderful time being had by all.

Between deciding to host an event and the actual function date, there is a minefield that needs to be safely crossed to ensure success on the other side.

Time to begin…  Your first thought is probably to sit down and consult the oracle Google, typing in “How to plan an event”.  The ring spins and voila! you’re presented with “How to Plan an Event: A 10-Step Guide”.  “Ha!” You think.  “This is going to be a piece of cake”…

Step 1, Develop a vision for your event – check.
Step 2, Put your team together – that’s me, check.
Step 3, Create an event budget…. And then things start getting fuzzy.

You don’t have an actual figure, and if you do, how realistic is it?  Whatever you have in mind, I guarantee you, it will be more than you expect.  The costs of putting together an event are not nice and tidy being made up of the venue and the balance being the bar allowance and food multiplied by the number of guests. Pulling off a successful event is multi-pronged.

#1 Planning

Pretty obvious I know, but you’ll be surprised.  The question is, what does planning look like?  What ARE all the actual components that you need to consider, not which components you THINK you need to consider? Start mapping out on paper all of the various components of your event.

#2 Picking your Date

Another obvious one you’d think.  Not so much though.  There are a few things you must consider when picking your date if it does not have to be on a specific date.  These include any major holidays or other events. Unless you have a holiday-themed event, you don’t want it to clash with major public holidays.

Big sporting events or festivals could prove competition for attendance, and if a major event is happening in our area, access to the venue could be blocked.  Think about road running races or cycle races like 94.7 Cycle Challenge in Johannesburg that blocks off complete areas.

#3 Choosing the Venue

When choosing a venue, weigh up using your own against an outside venue.  You may think that using your own venue saves you venue hire, but the cost of bringing all the furniture, catering equipment, etc. could work out more expensive.  You should weigh up various options by drawing up a comparison and a short list of venues you like.

Location of your venue is very important.  Give some thought to the following:

  • Distance – how far will your guests be travelling. How far is too far? How easy is it for your guests to find?
  • Time of day – what time of day will they be travelling from a traffic and security aspect. This could impact the start and end time of your event as well as security concerns.
  • Special Needs – if you have guests that require wheelchair access, you need to find out if the venue can accommodate them.

Your spreadsheet should include the following columns to compare:

  • Cost – What is the venue hire and what does it include. Don’t assume everything you think should be included, is included.
  • Services – Do they offer catering or bar services. If you have guests with dietary requirements, is the venue able to accommodate them and is there an additional cost.  Are there noise restrictions, do they carry insurance and what are the parking options.
  • The Vibe – Some venues are just not made for certain events. The only way you can really tell is to get into your car and do a site visit.  Don’t believe everything you see on a website.

#4 Getting to Grips with a Budget

Having a budget is essential so that you can prioritise your spending.  You may love that ice sculpture, but if you have that, you may need to cut back on the champagne.

Basic expenses include:

  • Catering
  • Decorations
  • Printing and design – menus, seating plans etc
  • Furniture – your furniture may not have all the furniture you require eg. Cocktail tables, podium, dance floor
  • Equipment – your venue hire may not include AV equipment
  • Entertainment – and special requirements they may have
  • Branding – for corporate functions
  • Gifting – corporate or thank you gifts

#5 How is your event going to play out?

Don’t wait for the day before the function to start putting together your event timeline. Picture the perfect day where everything goes off without a hitch.  Visualise how the day will go from start to finish.  The order of events, the atmosphere, performances, speeches, fun activities, food and drinks.

Now write up a draft timeline with highlights.  You will fill in the details later. Here is an example.

  • 07h00 Furniture & Décor crew arrives
  • 08h00 Caterers Arrive
  • 09h00 Entertainment set up and sound check
  • 10h00 Hosts arrive
  • 11h00 Guests arrive
  • 11h30 Programme commences
  • … and so on

Doing this early on will help catch things that you may miss.  As you picture your guests dancing, you may suddenly remember to check whether the venues on your list have a dance floor, or do you need to hire one.

#6 Are you flying solo, or do you need to bring in a team?

Flying solo, is fine.  If not, you may want a core team of people to help organise and host the event. Especially if you want to be part of the celebration and not in the background making sure everything is going to plan.

#7 The Ultimate Game Plan

The ultimate game plan comes down to the strength of your checklist.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you will remember everything. There are many checklists available online that can help you through the critical steps of planning and managing your event.

Start early enough, be organised and remember your checklist and you will be on your way to a successful event.