How to Plan Special Events – Part 1: Ten Questions to Ask

You’re busy running your business, so when it comes to planning special events, like charity golf tournaments, holiday parties, or award ceremonies, you’d really like a checklist to keep you on the right track.

Your wish is our command! Here are 10 questions to ask yourself as you plan your special event. (A special thanks to event planner Jennessa Durrani from Celebrate for her insights.)

1. What’s your budget? You can’t start anywhere until you have your threshold for how much you can spend. Once you have that, you can back into the event and determine the totals for each category (e.g. food, entertainment, etc). Be sure to include everything, from location and catering, down to the smallest detail, such as promotional products for your goodie bags.

2. Where will you be holding the event? Ah, location, location, location! Similar to wedding planning, the location for a special event is something you need to determine right after you settle on a budget. You can determine everything else after that, including the date. Keep in mind that larger and/or popular venues, such as hotels, are often booked months (and sometimes years) in advance.

3. What’s your vision for the décor? The location you choose will influence the answers to some of these questions, such as does the space need decorations, centerpieces, special lighting, etc. You should also ask the manager of the venue what restrictions, if any, the location has when it comes to decorating for the event.

4. What will you feed guests? Does your venue include food or do you need to hire a caterer? That’s the big question. If the venue provides food, you’ll work with someone there to come up with a menu that fits your budget. If you need to hire a caterer, we recommend talking to three to four caterers and getting quotes.

5. What’s the theme? It’s important to establish a theme or concept for the event. In addition to making the event more fun and cohesive for your guests, it will also inform the decisions you need to make each step along the way. For example, a Hawaiian luau theme will drive the decisions you make concerning colors and decorations, food, promotional products, etc.

6. What’s the schedule? Create a production outline for your event. When will your event start, what will your guests be doing when they arrive, what will happen during the middle of the event, how will your event close? It’s important to determine the flow of the event (and to make sure you don’t have too much – or too little – planned for the time period).

7. Will you need entertainment? The answer is probably yes. So, what are you going to do at this event? Will you need a DJ, comedian, keynote speaker? Even a networking-only event will need some sort of MC to start and close the event.

8. How about graphics? What’s the look and feel of the event? Does it have a title/name? A special logo? Develop a graphic that you can use throughout the event (including invitations, advertising, and promotional products).

9. How will you promote the event? Just as you’ll be creating a schedule for the event itself, you should also create a promotional schedule. Create a calendar for press releases, advertising deadlines, newsletters, social media (i.e. when you’ll promote the event through tweets, Facebook updates, etc), when the invitations will ship, etc.

10. Who will handle on-site logistics? Who will be the main point person on the day of the event? How many other people will you need in addition to this person (for things like registration)?

BONUS QUESTION: What sort of party favors will you offer guests? Remember, promotional products always add a nice touch to special events and provide an additional way to get the word out about your business, charity, or cause you’re promoting.

Here are two promotional items that make perfect event favors:
Custom umbrellas. Umbrellas are useful and a great way to display your business logo and name.

custom umbrellasCustom Frisbees. These are especially perfect for spring and summertime events.

custom frisbeeHave you planned a special event recently? Do you have any other important questions you think people should ask? Share in the comments.

Update: Part 2, the 10 pitfalls to avoid when planning events has been posted.

Allison Rice

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3 Responses to How to Plan Special Events – Part 1: Ten Questions to Ask

  1. Pingback: How to Plan Special Events – Part 2: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid

  2. Linda says:

    Great article/information but wish you had included a “Printer Friendly” tab so I could print this off to share with my staff and board members easier.

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