If you’re planning a party or successful event, you’ll have a lot to think about and do over the coming weeks. Being responsible for everything from the location to the party favors can be intimidating, but never fear. Here are some basic steps that will help you plan and host a successful event.
1. The Plan is the Party!
The most single important aspect of having a successful event is to plan successfully. Consider all the scenarios – best, bad, and really bad. Now build your event plans to address your best dreams and worst nightmares. First, what is your goal? Are you throwing a bash for a long, lost friend? Are you selling a service or product to your customers? Are you raising funds for a charity? Your purpose for having the event should be the framework for everything you do from here on out.
Plan not only what you want to happen, but what you will do if it doesn’t go that way. Give yourself lots of time to do your research, arrange for services, get the accessories, and encourage great attendance. Start with the big picture items like the location, the date and time, your theme, and your goals. Work your way down to the details including, but not limited to, table decorations, menu and specific dishes, space layout, coat storage. Plan flexibility into your schedule, and you’re more likely to have a successful event.
2. Get and Stay Organized
Once you’ve established your plan and schedule, stick to it. Of course, there will inevitably be problems and changes. But make it a point to keep personally organized. There’ll be a lot you can’t control, but you can control your own time, your health, and your attitude. When you start wandering away from your plan, things will become chaotic, harder to manage. Don’t let the ankle-biters distract you. Be flexible, but keep your overall goals and schedule at the front of your mind. Keep your planning materials, contracts, and correspondence organized in folders. Use a day-planner to keep track of your appointments and commitments. And always, always plan “me time” to maintain your energy and interest in this project. Staying organized as a critical part of planning and executing a successful event.
3. Make the Venue a Driving Decision
Once you have your plan laid out, your first big decision will be where to locate the event. How many people do you expect to invite? What type of entertainment are you planning? (A keynote speaker will use a lot less space than a 10-piece chamber orchestra.) Are you serving a sit-down dinner, a buffet, snacks? How much space will you need for seating? Do you want to be in a facility where other services are available? How far are you willing to make people travel to get there? Do you want an elaborate, expensive setting? Or will a casual, relaxed environment be best? When you know what type of place you want to use, identify at least three candidate locations and visit each one of them personally. Talk to the facility managers. Ask lots of questions. Find out what they’ll provide as part of the contract and what you’ll need to provide on your own. Ask for detailed formal bids from the candidates, and be sure to let them know they are competing. That will bring in lower bids. The investment of time and effort in selecting and securing the perfect facility will pay off big time on the night (or day) of your wildly successful event.
4. Develop a Detailed Schedule for Event Activities and a Program
You probably already know the theme of the event if you’ve established your goals and you’ve selected an appropriate location. Now you need to plan activities that are consistent with your theme. The larger the event, the more carefully each activity must be planned. For big events, will you have speakers and presentations? Ceremonies? What types of activities are you planning? As a first step, sit down and make a list of every activity you want to happen. Then order them in a logical way that flows. Plan for some unstructured social mixing time at the beginning and end of your successful event. Decide how long you want to allow for meals, speakers, announcements, and entertainment. Allow extra time for your guests to leave for a smoke or a bathroom break. Keep your guests busy, but not so busy that they feel stressed or overloaded. Build in time for fun and relaxation as well.
5. Now Turn to the Details
The first major part of your detail planning is food and drink. Food arrangements range from the very complex sit-down multi-course meal to the pot-luck munch-n-go party. You’ll need to decide whether you and your helpers can provide the food or whether it would be easier and more appropriate to hire a caterer. If you do decide on a caterer, go through the same process as you did when securing a location. Select candidates, interview them, and get formal bids. Decide what menu you can afford and want to serve you want the caterer to prepare. When you’ve made a decision on the caterer, sign a contract with your agreements outlined very specifically. Have costs broken out into line items so that, if you have to, you can make changes to adjust to your budget.