How to Plan an Event: Best Practice Guide

Event planning has significantly evolved in the wake of the pandemic. Whether you're planning an online webinar, a large in-person corporate tradeshow, or an internal employee workshop, the rules around planning an event have changed.

Attendee needs and expectations differ substantially based on their location, age, and industry, as well as many other elements. For example, the needs of a Gen Z attendee in London will be completely different from a baby boomer in the US.

The importance of good event management becomes critical in a digital environment where delegates demand personalized and mobile-first experiences.

In this detailed guide, find out how to plan an event, event planning steps, and best practices to deliver delightful experiences for all attendees.

What is an event plan?

An event plan is a roadmap that outlines how an event will be executed. Every event plan has some common components that include:

  • Event: The start and end dates of the event, a list of planned activities and responsibilities, and the event format (in-person conference or workshop, seminar, webinar, or festival)
  • Budget: All costs associated with the event, including estimated expenses
  • Venue: All venue-related details, including location, logistics, décor, catering, and attendee accommodation information 
  • Marketing: Marketing initiatives to promote the event, such as social media campaigns, website offers, email sequences, and print advertisements
  • Attendees: A list of attendees, email communication to inform them about the event, payment details, badges/entry passes for offline events, entry points, and directions
  • Sponsors: A list of event sponsors, company and contribution details, associated contracts, marketing, and logistical information
  • Team: A list of team members, employees, contractors, part-time staff, and volunteers with their respective responsibilities for the event
  • Production: Event production details, including an audio and visual broadcast plan and photography and videography vendor contracts
  • Speakers: A detailed listing of all the speakers, bios, rehearsal timings, and contracts

Event management vs. event planning: what's the difference?

Event management and event planning may sound similar, but they have many differences. Let’s break them down:

Event planning

Every event starts with a plan, whether an online training session, executive workshop, sales webinar, offline charity gala, or destination wedding.

Planning for the event starts when it's just an idea and includes:

  • Interacting closely with the client to execute their vision for the event
  • Outlining the overall event theme
  • Finalizing the budget
  • Selecting the event location and accommodation for participants
  • Finding the right event partners, vendors, and suppliers
  • Organizing the event agenda, including laying out the speaker line-up, scheduling timings, and setting up contracts
  • Ensuring seamless coordination between the client, organizer, event planner, vendors, sponsor representatives, and other third-party agencies

Simply put, everything that goes into planning an event comes under the term 'event planning.'

Event management

Event management is a comprehensive function that includes creating, coordinating, and managing all the different components of an event.

It encompasses the planning, designing, and managing of all aspects of an event. It brings all event components together from the pre-launch phase to post-event follow-up activities. Event management responsibilities include:

  • Creating contingency plans if original plans go off track
  • Gathering the team and ensuring they are well trained and equipped with the resources they need to perform their jobs well
  • Ensuring that the event complies with relevant health and safety regulations and COVID-19 protocols for in-person events
  • Focusing the team efforts, tools, and resources to deliver exceptional event experiences

As the event planner concentrates on executing the client goals for the event, the event manager ensures everything around the event goes as planned.

What is the importance of event management?

According to an IBIS World report, the event management industry is valued at $3.2 billion in 2022. After shrinking by 9% in 2021, it is now growing by 4% per annum. 

The events industry has demonstrated remarkable resilience in pivoting to the new normal. In the uncertain post-pandemic business environment, events have gone hybrid. Online events are on the rise, with people gradually warming up to in-person events again. 95% of marketers believe in-person events are critical for business success, as per Bizzabo’s research.

60% of leaders still rely on events as one of their top marketing channels to achieve business goals. Conducting an online webinar or a large in-person conference allows companies to reach a wider audience, promote their offerings, and form new relationships. 

Here are the main reasons why event management is important: 

  • Boosts brand awareness and reputation: A well-managed event can bring in warm leads for the business, while a poorly managed one can have a mediocre return on investment.
  • Achieves business goals: A carefully planned and managed event can develop new partner relationships, increase market exposure, and widen the customer base.
  • Increases customer engagement: Companies that organize frequent events are likely to see increased audience engagement, leads, and conversions compared to competitors who do not hold events.
  • Retains existing customers: Event management is a great way to maintain the company's existing clientele. Even a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company profits by a significant margin of 25-95%.
How to Plan an Event: Best Practice Guide 2
Photo by Stem List on Unsplash

Event planning steps

Before you book the event venue or finalize the virtual speaker line-up, it is essential to outline the process and event planning steps to be followed.

Set realistic goals

Identify the purpose of the event. There should be a solid 'why' that led you to organize it, such as:

  • Driving new sign-ups for your SaaS product
  • Supporting a new offline product launch
  • Creating brand awareness of the same product for a new audience

To achieve these aims, event management teams need goals that align closely with business performance. Clear goals and supporting objectives help frame the event's scope and get leadership buy-in. Keep the goals specific, actionable, measurable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). Here are a few examples:

  • Getting 100 leads within three weeks of the event
  • Increasing attendee registrations by 30% from last year's event
  • Generating $1500 in revenue in the month after the event

Organize your event management tools

Research by Eventbrite found that 83% of event managers use event management tools.

If you are a data-driven marketer, here's another statistic supporting the benefits of event management software: Bizzabo's 2022 study states that 89% of businesses use event technology to save around 200 hours annually.

Use software to organize attendee registrations, streamline vendor payments, and create delightful event experiences. Event management tools can help in:

  • Creating a seamless registration, ticketing, and check-in experience
  • Storing event-related documentation in a central database for easy collaboration
  • Streamlining attendee experience with seats or badges for offline events and providing accurate, working links for online ones

Gather your team

A well-trained and knowledgeable team is key to event success. Outline all responsibilities and assign them to team members based on their strengths and competencies. 

Most people in event management teams wear multiple hats. Around 45% of event teams have 2-5 members, while only 12% have 10 members or more. Most event planning teams contain these common roles:

  • Event marketer: In charge of event promotion, advertising, and marketing initiatives
  • Program administrator: Responsible for creating engaging content that appeals to attendees
  • Accountant: Keeps the event finances and expenses in order and aligned with the budget
  • Event manager: In charge of communicating with internal teams, external vendors, speaker representatives, and all third parties
  • Volunteers or hired staff: Responsible for on-ground execution of multiple event roles

Plan budgets well in advance

Creating the event budget is the most critical of all event planning steps.

Getting the budget in place helps the team operate more efficiently and complete tasks with the prescribed resources. A well-financed team can avoid running out of money for critical marketing initiatives or payment of speaker fees.

Eventbrite's standard industry budget allocations can be a good indicator when planning and allocating the budget for an event.

Organize your event marketing strategy

Event marketing is a completely new ballgame in a digitized and social media-driven world.

To attract event attendees, it is important to cut through the noise to execute a winning event marketing strategy. Before finalizing any marketing or promotion tactic, understand your ideal audience by brainstorming these points:

  • Clarify the audience demography – age, gender, location, place of residence
  • Outline the problem being solved for attendees
  • List the social media platforms frequently used by the audience
  • Understand the importance of the event platform of engagement (online or offline)
  • Personalize attendee interactions across event life cycles using the latest tech  
  • Formalize a marketing strategy that reinforces the brand through multiple touchpoints — email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and organic social media campaigns on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and more.

Keep safety a priority

It’s critical to deliver safe events for your attendees as the world gradually moves back to in-person events. Follow the latest COVID-19 regulations and local guidelines and use online check-ins to maintain social distancing during events.

This is an integral event planning step that needs to be followed as the world isn’t free of COVID-19.

Ensure positive attendee experiences

Attendee engagement is essential before, during, and after the event. Forget five-star experiences — it’s time to give your event attendees a 10-star experience. Curate the event around your attendees’ personalities, preferences, and habits.

For example, Statista research says that an average person spends around five hours daily on their phone. Gain your attendees’ attention by sending push notifications, interactive quizzes, feedback surveys, and more to their smartphones. 

Digital swag, gamification, and social media feedback are also ways to boost the event's engagement.

Analyze event ROI

Measure event success by mapping it against the established goals and objectives.

For example, a goal for brand awareness can be to reach an audience of 10,000 in New York. In this case, you'll need to benchmark and gather all social media mentions, likes, comments, and follower counts across the brand channels during the event. Offline publicity will also be considered and evaluated to see if the targets have been met.

Remember to collect and review qualitative feedback, such as attendee comments, speaker suggestions, and sponsor feedback. 

Assess individual marketing initiative ROI. Find out which marketing tactic brought in more attendees — for example, a press release in the print media, an Instagram Live, or an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on TikTok.

How to plan an event with Wrike's event planning template

There's a lot to plan and coordinate in every event. That's why using Wrike's event planning template can be a game-changer. It allows you to be more productive and spend less time on administrative tasks.

Event management teams can use the template to:

  • Keep track of deliverables with Gantt charts and multiple work views
  • Create a comprehensive folder to share files and collaborate with all event stakeholders
  • Save hours with pre-populated files, folders, and dashboards
  • Organize team tasks and sub-tasks and assign them to the right team members

Get a free Wrike trial to visualize event progress, organize work, and execute your next event successfully.

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