The event planning checklist: A step-by-step guide for beginners.

Congratulations! You’re about to plan your first event. We remember the early days in the industry. The surprises, the last-minute saves, and all of the people we’ve gotten to meet along the way. All of this is ahead of you, but first, you’ve gotta plan that first A+ event. 

As exciting as it is to step into the ring, it can also be an intimidating task. From venues to staffing and all the details in between, it can almost feel like you’re about to burst from thinking about it all. But, that’s where we come in! 

We’ve got a list of event tips to make your first event run perfectly. By the end of this article, you’ll feel ready to tackle the biggest, most high-class events in the biz!

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Define your goals. 

It’s a lot easier to stay on the road when you can see where you’re going. Start your event planning by outlining your purpose for the occasion. It could be to educate your attendees on recent trends, to introduce new technologies, or to foster relationships. 

Next, set specific goals that will signal whether or not your fulfilled your purpose. This could be how much engagement you’re looking to create or an increase in registration numbers. No matter the goals, make sure to use the SMART system. 

SMART Goals Are: 

  1. Specific 
  2. Measurable 
  3. Attainable 
  4. Realistic 
  5. Time-based 

This is one of the most popular approaches to goal setting. It keeps you focused on the things you can control and prevents you from going too broad with your thinking. We’d all love to change the world, but you’d need a big measuring stick to track that one! 

Once you’ve defined your purpose and have created a list of goals that align with your purpose, you’ve got your roadmap! Use that to make decisions about advertisement, venue design, speaker selection, and even catering.

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Build your budget. 

If the Monopoly Man taught us anything, it’s the importance of a budget. The next step in planning a stand-out event is to organize your budget in one, easy-to-access place. You can create a custom spreadsheet or use budgeting software

Here are a few key elements for a good budget sheet: 

  1. Item name (i.e “staff pay”) 
  2. Item description 
  3. Projected expense (based on quotes) 
  4. Actual price 
  5. Paid? (mark whether you’ve paid or not) 

These columns are designed to account for any adjustments in your budget after you’ve discovered the actual price of your venue, catering, or other expenses. You don’t have to stick to these few columns, though. Create a budget that is unique to you! 

We recommend choosing your venue first, as this will have a huge impact on the rest of your budget. Some venues come with staff included, so that’s another item checked off! It’ll also show you what you need to fill in, whether that’s seating, sound equipment, or catering. 

Pro tip: Never assume something is included in the base price. Always get a detailed layout of everything that is and isn’t included. We love surprises, but not that kind! 

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Choose your venue.

After all that organizing, you can FINALLY start making some plans! And we’re starting with the biggest. Your venue. This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, not only because of its effect on your budget, but because this will be your event’s home. 

We can’t say this loud enough: start early! We recommend finding a venue no less than 7-8 months in advance of your event. This gives you time to put all the pieces together and to give advance notice to any desired speakers. 

Put on your thinking cap, it’s time to look at the layout. How much space do you need based on your projected attendance numbers? Don’t forget, you’ll need extra space to accommodate the flow of traffic. Look at your top venues and map out potential ways to use the space. Your perfect match is the one that will help you reach your event planning goals.

Consider whether the venue has parking or if there is some nearby. Also, how close is it to airports and hotels? If you have a lot of attendees coming in from out of town, it’s nice to host the event close to where they’ll be arriving. There’s no need to make their journey even longer! 

Pro tip: Getting a contract with the venue will go a long way to preventing the unexpected loss of your venue. Talk about a planner’s worst nightmare! However, it’s also a good idea to negotiate some flexible terms, in case any unexpected things occur to cancel or postpone your event. 

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The little details.

Do we need to say it? The devil’s in the details! It’s important to take care of staff, catering, and other bold-print tasks. However, don’t forget to show some love to the little things like decor, lighting, and sound. 

Simplify your decorating by establishing a general theme. This will narrow your decor choices while creating a stronger impression on guests. Decor is also a great way to highlight your brand by using a set color scheme, banners, table settings, an Insta-worthy centerpiece, flowers, or other stand-out elements. 

Lighting isn’t just about making sure your attendees can see, although that is important. It’s about creating a specific ambiance. It can also be used to guide your guests through the event. Clearly define different spaces using colored lighting, or highlight important elements with a well-placed spotlight. 

There’s nothing worse than bad acoustics, so make sure your venue, and the equipment you’re using, is up to the high standard your attendees will expect. You can use helpful apps to check for reverbs. Make sure the sound of passing planes doesn’t interrupt an important speaker by checking the sound isolation at your venue. 

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Have a back-up plan. 

It’s a hard truth we planners have to accept. No matter how much we plan, prep, and organize, unexpected things are going to happen. One of the most important event tips we could share is this: have a back-up plan. 

Prevent last minute panic by putting together a back-up plan. This should cover all major areas of your event planning, from the venue to the speakers. Anything that has the power to disrupt your day should have a backup in place.

The last thing you want is to be running around your event looking for the right person to solve a problem. That is not a good look. Organize all of the important names and numbers in one easy-to-access place. If issues come up, you’ll know who to call. 

Pro tip: Create an emergency column in your budget for extra financial padding. It can be pricey to cover last minute cancellations, so you’ll be grateful for the extra money. It doesn’t always have to be a big emergency, either. Sometimes you just need some extra burger buns! 

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Make the most of your first event.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! You’ve worked hard, you’ve solved all the little problems, now it’s time to bask in the glory of your event planning. Stay in the moment, you only get one first event! Following these event tips will make sure it’s a success. 

There’s nothing quite like your first event. We all wish we could go back to that day, when everything was in front of us! You’re about to embark on a thrilling journey full of surprises, both good and less-than-good, where you’ll meet some remarkable people. This is what it’s all about. The people you meet, who share the journey with you! 

Now, it’s time to get planning. Your deadlines are approaching!



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