Whenever I’ve begun planning for an event, I make myself a bucket of tea and I sit down to really contemplate the event that’s coming up, writing down a list of every question that comes to mind. There should be at least a full page of questions to sort through (if not 2 or 3 pages worth), with notes expanding upon each one.

The first step needed is to determine the nature of the event, as the subsequent questions will be determined by that answer. Is this a wedding? A corporate event? A children’s party? For the sake of argument, let’s go with a community sporting event. Let’s say… a rowboat race across a lake, with a celebratory picnic afterward. At the mere thought of that idea, a plethora of questions should be springing to mind, with sub-questions linked to them, such as:

What date should we choose for it?

• If it’s an early summer day that won’t get too hot, should it be one in which there are no other competing events or national holidays going on?
• In case of poor weather, do we have a suitable “raincheck” date to fall back on?

What location/venue will the picnic be held at?

• If this is going to be an open-air picnic event, are there toilet facilities nearby that can be used, or will portables be needed?
• Is there a venue in the area that could be used in case of inclement weather?

You get the idea.

*Note: Regardless of how seamless your event planning may be, there will be one crap aspect of it that you’ll overlook because you’re too involved in it. Many eyes = fewer errors, so give your proposal to a friend/colleague to sort through before you take any action. You might think it would be great to have a wine tasting as part of the picnic, for example, and look into the permits available for that… but guess what? Drinking + boating = bad idea. Think everything through before committing to it.

Come up with a slogan or theme

You want to draw people to this event, so you’ll have to do something to capture their attention. If it’s a charity event, partner with the charity that will be benefitting from proceeds to create an identity that people will recognise, and want to get involved with. If it’s a stand-alone event, think about ways to get folks excited about it, pique their curiosities, and want to join in.

What is unique about this event?

If you were an attendee instead of the organiser, what would make you want to attend?

Just for the hell of it, let’s have a bit of fun with this one and make the race/picnic an Edwardian-themed event wherein all participants must be in costume. Ensure that all posters and promo materials utilise fonts and imagery from that era; have part of the picnic catered in-theme; award unique, era-relevant prizes for best costume. Doesn’t that sound a lot more fun than just “Hey, there’s a rowboat race. Come and row in it”?

Once you have the foundations of your event sorted out, you can determine the rest of it.

• Remember your SMART objectives, and make extensive notes and action plans for each one.

• Determine the attainability and realistic goals for the event, and then create a work-back schedule to keep you on track.

• Communicate regularly with all other people involved in the event to catch slip-ups well in advance.

Focusing on the little decorative touches and “fun” aspects of the event is great to do, but you need that strong, clear foundation to build upon. Much like building a house, if the foundation isn’t solid and the contractors aren’t all on the same page, all the pretty walls will fall down.

Lana

After spending over a decade coordinating and managing events ranging from weddings to celebrity charity functions, Lana Winter-Hébert has stepped away from active event work to pursue a new direction in her career. With the event companies and home décor specialists she writes for, she has the opportunity to flex her creative muscles to conceptualise memorable celebrations, and to share inside tips with those new to the industry.

Currently, Lana divides her time between writing for various clients and doing collaborative projects with Winter-Hébert: the design studio she runs with her husband. Best described as "endearingly eccentric", she spends
most of her spare time wrestling with knitting projects, and cohabitates with two hand-raised sparrows who live in her writing-desk.

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