The Essential Planning Guide: Event Planning 101

Awesome! Your boss just assigned you with the task of organizing the company’s fall conference.

So now what?

Well, this is a great opportunity for you to show off your skills. There is only one problem: You’ve probably never planned an event like this before!

Not to worry. Plenty of others before you have found themselves in the same debacle, and you will succeed because you are determined!

Just like any event, the first step is to organize all of the information you have into tasks and then identify the most urgent matters and prioritize them.

But first, before you begin choosing a venue or start interviewing speakers, you need to know the basic parameters of your event. It is almost impossible to talk details and costs with a third-party until you have more of the specifics ironed out.

So, lets look at the key fundamentals you should consider before contacting vendors.

The Event Date

Everything revolves around the date of your event. Ideally, you want to have three potential dates in mind so that you can compare availability and prices across the board. Try to include different days of the week for maximum flexibility.

Time Frame

Even a single hour difference can have an impact on your event planning, so you really need to get specific about your time frames. For example, starting at 9am instead of 7am means you may not need to allocate a breakfast budget.

Registrant Numbers

This is one area that is often too broadly estimated. Get realistic with your attendance projections. Make sure you discuss well in advance - who you will invite and put your projections together on a spreadsheet.

Attendance and budget are directly correlated, so don’t just guess the number of people you “think” will attend.

Budget vs. Costs

OK, It might sound impractical to work on a budget before knowing venue and catering costs, but working this way provides a good benchmark for you to measure all of vendor proposals. Begin with your revenue sources.

  • How much should you charge for attendance?
  • Will you call on sponsors to help offset costs?
  • What will exhibitors pay to participate?

Revenues will ultimately dictate your budget, so it only makes sense to project them first.​​

Marketing Your Event

Once revenue sources are identified, the next step is to outline your marketing plan. What is the best way to reach and engage your revenue generators? Perhaps you have a list of potential attendees as an employer or membership association. This would be helpful, but what about sponsors and exhibitors?

If you are planning to attract more than 25 exhibitors then you must be able to reach them. Targeted marketing campaigns cost money, and that cuts into your revenues.

Adding Breakout Sessions

Maybe You only need one banquet room if you are just hosting a dinner, but a full scale conference will likely require additional breakout rooms and an exhibition space. Once again, you probably won’t be able to measure costs until you define how much space you need first.

For a large conference, the best approach is to put together a mock itinerary in your very first meeting. Share ideas and piecing them together on paper will help navigate you through the next planning phase.

Providing Transportation and Lodging

If you’re organizing a local conference this will probably eliminate any concerns about transportation. However, you still need to consider lodging for speakers, exhibitors, and special guests. Many hotels provide discounts on meeting space if you book enough room nights. The only way to leverage this is by knowing your lodging requirements well in advance. You’ll want to go back through your attendance data and project how many guests are from outside your area.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking this sounds like a lot of information to gather up front, and it is. However, keep in mind that this is the information that affects everything else in the planning process. For now, focus on the facts so that you can make the best decisions later.


Stephen Ing

Stephen Ing has over 19 years of on-property hospitality industry experience. He has achieved numerous sales recognition awards including the 2005 Sales Incentive Award; was a Starwood two-time Platinum Award winner and was named 2010 International Top producer for Hilton Worldwide.

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