How to Plan an Event: The Basics

Not sure how to plan an event, or even where to start? Maybe you were recently assigned an event to plan by your manager or you’re just starting out in the field, either way, there are a few basics for how to plan an event. The most important thing to remember is that no two events are the same – just like snowflakes. They’re all unique and have their own purpose. From event type to event size there, there is an endless number of factors that change one event from the next.

What Type of Event Are You Planning?

Let’s start simple. Are you planning an internal or external event? An internal event is one within your organization put on for employees. This event could be an appreciation event, a holiday party, training, teambuilding exercise, and more. An external event is one outside of the organization that looks to register attendees. From there, identify if it’s a social event, a networking event, a conference, etc.

Cvent CONNECT venue

Define Event Purpose

All events have a purpose. If you haven’t identified yours before you begin planning, then you’re starting off on the wrong foot. Why are you throwing this event? Is it to generate revenue? To launch a product? To educate? Your purpose drives how you plan, market, and execute your event.

Create a Budget

No one likes to talk about money. But setting a budget is crucial–and all stakeholders need to be on the same page. Determine or nail down the budget as soon as possible as you begin planning. The venue, food, and entertainment are high-price items.  There’s a lot to budget for (probably more than you might think) and starting with a clear budget will make it easier as you plan. Check out Meeting and Event Budgeting Made Easier for a few tips. Some things cost more than you might think. For example, coffee. Check out Budgeting: How to Estimate Coffee Consumption.

Determine Event Size and Duration

How many attendees will attend your event? How many do you want to attend? How long will it last? As you decide, think about cost and the purpose of your event. More people mean a larger venue and more food, but it could also mean a greater return on investment. Generally, the length of the event is determined by the type of event your throwing. A conference typically lasts a few days, but if this is the first year of the event, you might want to do a two-day event vs. a three-day event to make sure the interest is there.

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Choose Your Venue Early

Your venue is everything. Typically, the venue is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make, and it’s a key driver for attendee registration for external events. Location is everything. You can’t set your event dates until you’ve secured a venue and they tend to book up quickly. Even for a smaller, social event like a wedding, venues book up at least a year in advance. When looking for a venue, choose one that matches the event feel. For a large, multi-day event, a hotel or conference center might be the best bet, but for a smaller, one-day event a funkier, less traditional space might work. Check out this post to find out more: Taking the Mystery Out of Venue Sourcing.

The Theme is About Event Branding

The theme goes hand in hand with event purpose. A great theme will attract attendees and connect with the event purpose. Not all themes are created equal. Once decided, the theme will impact decorations, food, entertainment, and more. Remember, it doesn’t just refer to cheesy prom themes, like “A Night Under the Stars.” The theme is the impactful message threaded throughout the entire event, or the branding. Out of ideas? Check out 10 Terrific Themes for Corporate Events.

Event Promotion Should Be Strategic

From a full-scale social media takeover to paid ads, event promotion takes many forms. It all depends on your budget, but the purpose of event marketing is to drive attendees to your event. Without attendees, the event wouldn’t exist. Our Event Marketing Plan Template gives an outline of where to begin. The most important thing to remember about event promotion is to start early. Create a plan when you begin planning an event and automate it as much as possible. That way, as your event gets closer and you get more in the weeds, you won’t have to remember to post to Facebook or buy ad space. Need Some Event Marketing Tips? Here are the Essentials

Event planning basics

Everything Else – And There’s A Lot

One blog post can’t cover every aspect of planning event. There’s food, decorations, transportation, hotel, staffing, and on and on the list goes. The topics outlined above give you a great place to start, but they’re early in the planning process. When planning, you have to stay organized. Create a list of tasks and assign due dates. Gain a clear understanding of your resources. That’s not just about budget. It’s about the size of your team, the amount of time you have, and what technology is available.


Madison Layman

Written by Madison Layman

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents. Since then, my word count has hit the millions and won't stop growing anytime soon. When I'm not writing or reading, you can find me binge-watching tv shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.