Want to know how to plan an event for your small business? If so, in this guide, you will find actionable steps to help you create a winning event that delivers results for your business and which attendees will love.
Now, while we have tried to provide a comprehensive guide, we can’t cover every little detail as each event is different and has its own nuances. However, the steps outlined here are the event planning basics that apply to all events, regardless of the size.
So grab a cup of coffee or whatever your favourite beverage is, and let’s get started.
#1 Define goals, objectives, and metrics
How will this event help my business? The answer to this question will define the goal of the event. The goal might be to increase sales, raise brand awareness, create a buzz around a new product launch, or recruit top talent.
With your event goal defined, set measurable objectives. These objectives should reflect what you hope to achieve with your event.
For example, if the goal is to increase sales, put a figure on the number of sales you expect the event to deliver. Likewise, if the goal is to raise brand awareness, how much of an increase do you hope to see from the event.
The next step is to establish the metrics you will use to evaluate the event’s performance and measure success. The type of metrics you use will depend on the event goal and objectives.
Examples of metrics you might use:
- % of new sales and leads
- X increase in branded searches
- X increase in direct traffic to your website
- Pre-orders for new upcoming products or services
- Social shares and brand mentions
- % of positive feedback of a post-event survey
- Number of new job applications
For some events defining metrics will be straightforward. For example, if the event’s objective is to increase sales by 10%, new sales will be the primary metric.
However, suppose the aim is to increase brand awareness. In that case, you will use multiple metrics – such as the social shares and brand mentions, the increase in branded searches, and the increase in direct traffic to your website.
Once you nail down the goals, objectives, and metrics, you and your team will be in a position to plan and organize an event that delivers the desired business results you hope to achieve.
# 2 Establish your budget (and leave a little wiggle room)
In your head, you might have visions of organising a grand event with all the bells and whistles. But, before you can turn your vision into a reality, you have to make sure you have the budget.
Typical event expenses include:
- Venue hire
- Food and beverages
- Guest speaker fees
- Decorations & installations
- Audio / Visual equipment
- Event branding
- Promotion & marketing
- Freebies and giveaways
When planning the budget, create a spreadsheet, and add each item that might incur a cost. Don’t group similar items such as food and drink; each cost should have its own line.
At this stage, you probably won’t have actual costs for each expense. So, add two columns, one for estimated and the other for exact costs. After you speak with vendors, suppliers, the venue, etc., and get prices, update the spreadsheet.
It’s a good rule of thumb to set-aside some contingency budget (wiggle room) because you will likely have unforeseen expenses.
# 3 Set the date in stone
I won’t lie! Setting a date for an event is a little stressful. The main sticking point is finding a date where all event stakeholders (guest speakers, entertainers, suppliers, vendors, and venue) are available. It can be a bit of a juggling act. So, be forewarned, patience is required.
But, locking down a date that suits all stakeholders is not the only consideration. As if that wasn’t enough of a headache! There are a few other factors to account for before you set the date in stone.
How much planning is involved: Depending on the event’s size, you might need more or less time to put it all together. Just make sure you have enough time to get everything organised.
The audience: Your target audience’s availability should be top of your mind when setting a date on time. For a B2B audience, Monday to Friday might be more convenient. However, for a B2C audience (who work during the day), evenings or weekends might be best.
Major Holidays: Around major holidays, many people are in wind-down mode, which means they’re less inclined to attend. The same is true for August when people are in vacation mode.
Seasonal weather: Heavy rains, storm weather, or snow will negatively impact event attendance. While you can’t predict the weather, you know (depending on where you live) that some months are more prone to adverse weather conditions.
Competing events: Check if other events are taking place on your preferred date that might be vying for the attention of your target audience.
#6 Get your team in place
Behind every successful event (regardless if it’s big or small) is a team of trusted people who have worked tirelessly to bring it all together. You will also need a team in place to help make your event a success.
Your team’s size will depend on the event’s scope and the human resources you have available. If you have a small workforce, some people (including you) might need to manage multiple roles in the event planning process. Of course, you can always bring in some volunteers.
- Event scheduling and program design
- Venue hire and set-up
- Marketing and promotion
- Vendor sourcing (such as catering)
- Guest speaker booking
- Entertainment booking
- Branding and creative design
- Securing sponsors (if required)
- Audiovisual and equipment hire
- Ticket registrations & sales
- Day of event management
You might have multiple team members performing different tasks and roles. However, there should be one person who oversees everything. This person will act as the project manager, ensuring that all the pieces come together and that everything runs according to plan and schedule.
#7 Choose a suitable venue
You will make many big choices while planning an event. But, your choice of venue is by far the biggest. This decision will affect nearly every aspect of your event. It will have an impact on planning and implementation, the attendee experience, and also attendee turnout.
But, don’t worry, below are some tips to help you choose wisely:
It’s all about location: The venue should be easy to get to by both public and private transport methods. If attendees are traveling long distances, the venue should be close to hotels. Also, consider if proximity to amenities like restaurants, shops, and bars is required.
Parking is a must: People who drive to the event will expect to have a parking space. Many venues have on-site parking, but car parking should be available within walking distance if a venue doesn’t.
Size matters: It’s important to choose a venue that’s the right size for your expected number of attendees. Your event will feel empty, cold, and devoid of atmosphere if you have 250 attendees in a venue that holds 1000 people. On the other side of the scale, a venue that only holds 300 people would feel cramped and claustrophobic.
Consider the vibe: Every venue has a style – luxurious, rustic, underground, trendy, funky, or unique. And the style of a venue will set the vibe for your event. When reviewing potential venues, ask yourself if their style matches the ambiance and vibe you want to create.
Know your layout requirements: Have a clear idea of your layout requirements to ensure the venue has space to accommodate. Depending on the event, you might need different spaces for activities such as workshops, networking (mingling areas), or sponsor product booths.
Check food & beverage minimums: Some venues charge a set fee for food and drink based on a per head minimum or a spend minimum. This means that if you don’t hit the minimum requirement, you will still have to pay.
Ask about venue equipment: If you need audio/visual equipment such as lights, microphones, PA systems, or other equipment types, check if the venue provides them. If not, you will have to rent the equipment.
Ensure you have the right insurance: Many venues provide basic insurance cover, but it might not be sufficient. Talk with the venue owners about the insurance coverage they offer, and determine if you require additional insurance.
#8 Devise your marketing plan
You can plan the best event ever, one that will blow the attendees’ minds. But, all your planning will go to waste and count for nothing if you don’t have a marketing plan to fill the venue with eager attendees.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all event marketing plan. Every event is different and requires its own unique strategy. The scale of your campaign, the channels you use, and the marketing methods and tactics you employ will depend on the following:
- Your marketing budget
- The scope and size of the event
- The target audience
- Event reach (local, national or international)
However, although there is no one-size plan, some common strategies that event planners utilise in their quest to get the word out and pack the house include:
- Promoting the event across your social media profiles
- Using paid social media advertising to reach a wider audience
- Asking guest speakers and sponsors to promote
- Writing about the event on the company blog
- Promoting the event to email subscriber lists
- For a local event, advertising on local radio and print publications
- Using influencers marketing
- Advertising on websites where the target audience hang-out
Depending on the event, you can incorporate some (or all) of the above strategies into your marketing plan. For more strategy ideas (100 of them), check out this post on eventmanagerblog.com.
# 9 Create an event landing page
An event landing page is a page you create on your website. This page is the centrepiece of your marketing strategy. Most of your marketing activities will lead potential attendees back here. So, it’s essential to create a page that excites people and encourages them to take action and register for tickets.
Follow the below tips to create a landing page that delivers results:
Design matters: Keep the landing page design simple and clean and structure the flow in a way that moves visitors down the page towards your CTA (call to action).
Write a strong headline: The first thing visitors will notice on your landing page is the headline. Ensure that it grabs attention and piques their interest.
Sell the benefits: Before someone registers for your event, they will want to know what’s in it for them. Clearly convey why they should attend and what they expect to learn or gain.
Add guest speakers bios: If you have guest speakers, add a bio for each (with profile pictures) highlighting their credentials, experience, knowledge, and expertise.
Outline the program: Let people know what to expect by outlining the event program. Include the timelines, activities, entertainment, breaks, and anything else that’s relevant.
Craft a compelling CTA: The CTA (call to action) is one of the most critical elements on a landing page. In your CTA, use an action word like buy, sign-up, register now. Also, reiterate the key benefits. And add urgency with phrases such as ‘limited spaces reserve your spot today.’
Make it easy to register: Don’t make people jump through hoops to register. Add a sign-up form that makes the registration process simple, easy, and quick.
# 10 Identify suitable sponsors (if needed)
If you’re planning on hosting a big event, the associated costs might be a sticking point. It’s not cheap! For companies with deep pockets, this is not so much of a problem, but for smaller companies with limited financial resources finding the budget to fund an event can be an issue.
This is where sponsors can help.
Sponsors are companies or organisations that provide funding in exchange for visibility. This usually takes the form of having their brand appear on promotional and marketing materials and within the venue.
Depending on the funding level, it might also include a speaker slot or promotional booth (maybe both).
Getting sponsors on board is not so easy. It’s like applying for a job, and just like when you send CVs, you should expect rejections and no replies from your outreach to sponsors.
But, you can increase your odds of success by following the below tips.
- Create a sponsorship landing page on your event site
- Contact sponsors whose audience overlaps with yours
- Write a strong proposal that outlines the benefits for the sponsor
- Offer sponsorship funding tiers (each tier will offer more benefits)
- Learn as much as you can about each sponsor before reaching out
- Tailor your proposals to each sponsor (each one should be unique)
- Provide sponsors with the demographic make-up of your audience
# 10 Nail your event branding
Attendees should leave your event with your brand name on the tip of their tongue and remember it long after. However, hosting a great event is not enough to achieve this. To make your brand name stick in attendees’ minds, you have to nail your event branding.
Event is all about capturing your brand’s look, feel, and messaging across all the touch-points where people engage with your event. There are two parts to this: The first is branding your marketing and promotional materials and the second is venue branding.
Incorporate your brand elements in the following places:
- The event landing page
- Event promotional emails
- Venue signage and displays (inside and outside the venue)
- Around the stage area
- Food and beverage containers
- Swag bags and giveaways
- The event social media profiles
- Lanyards and wristbands
- Sponsor and vendor backdrops
- Light projections
- Event staff T-shirts
In addition to your organisation’s brand elements, the event itself might have its own brand look and feel, which should reflect in your branding efforts. For example, your event might have an overarching theme such as ‘Marketing Technology 2021’ or cater to a niche audience like web developers.
In such cases, your organisation’s brand and the event’s theme should work together to convey a cohesive story and experience. Often, this means putting a twist on your usual brand elements and messaging.
Over to you
Thanks for sticking with me to the end of the post. I hope that you now have a better idea of how to plan an event for your business. When it comes to delivering a great event, the devil is in the detail. It’s all about planning!
Now that you have some actionable steps, it’s time to take your event idea and turn it into a reality.