Master event planning – Download the guideline from our recent webinar

Table of Contents

  1. Setting up for success
  2. Executing the details
  3. Dealing with unforeseen problems

When it comes to event planning, the journey from concept to execution can feel like a labyrinth of logistical challenges and uncertainties. From the initial spark of an idea to the moment the doors open, the process can be riddled with worries about turnout, getting overwhelmed by the details, and things going wrong. Fear not! In this blog, our events experts Carley Quigley and Olivia Cummins give their hard-won advice on everything you need to know to plan and execute an event, along with a free scalable event planning guideline.

Setting up for success 

At Grey Dog, we approach every event as a project, adhering to five fundamental principles. 

1. Set clear objectives 

A successful event begins with a clear purpose. Why are you hosting this event? Why is it a good idea? Why should people attend? Next, consider your desired outcome. Keeping your objectives top of mind will guide your planning and keep everyone motivated and focused. 

2. Create a plan 

Once you’ve determined your event objectives, it’s time to create a plan to achieve them. Here are our top event planning tips: 

  1. Scale your timeline: begin by working backward from the event deliverable day to the event launch day. This helps in identifying key milestones to ensure that each task is completed on time. 
  1. Key milestones to consider: venue booking, speaker recruitment, marketing launch, ticket sales, content creation deadlines, and rehearsal dates. 
  1. Roles and responsibilities: these may include operations/venue liaison, production/content, design, marketing, client management, sponsor liaison, audience management, on-site activations, and on-the-day management. 

To help you apply these learnings to your own events, we’ve created a free event planning guideline. A simple GoogleSheets template, you can make your own copy and adjust to suit your needs.  


3. Allocate resource and stakeholders 

After setting your objectives and creating your plan, it’s crucial to effectively allocate resources and identify key stakeholders. This might involve identifying helpful team members or seeking assistance from partners and colleagues outside your team. Here is how we work together effectively: 

  1. ‘Respect your desk’: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team member to avoid confusion and ensure accountability. 
  1. Define deadlines: set clear deadlines for each milestone and task to keep the project on track. 
  1. Open, multi-way conversation: encourage open communication among team members to foster collaboration and address any issues or concerns promptly. 

4. Assess risks 

Whether an event is virtual or in-person, it is a live event and there will always be risks involved. In our experience, some of the most successful and noteworthy events are the ones that had the bravest event plans. While it is important to mitigate as many risks as possible, we believe it is also important to be willing to take risks.  

5. Monitor 

While events are creative endeavours, they often involve a significant amount of organisation and planning. Spreadsheets, templates, and timelines are commonly used to track delegate numbers, budgets, turnout rates, and progress towards objectives. And after the event, you’ll need to assess revenue, sponsor turnout, and engagement. Our advice? Plan, review and reassess! and then, plan again!

Executing the details 

Once the groundwork is laid and the plan is in place, it’s time to execute the details. This stage involves working closely with third-party suppliers, managing the budget, and ensuring everything comes together seamlessly on the event day. 

1. Working with third-party suppliers 

In event planning, it’s common to collaborate with various suppliers to bring the vision to life. Whether it’s the venue, AV team, photographers, filmmakers, or printers, building strong relationships with suppliers is crucial. Here are some key aspects to consider when working with third-party suppliers: 

  1. Roles and responsibilities: clearly define who is responsible for what, even if team members are wearing multiple hats. Establishing roles ensures accountability and effective communication among extended team members. 
  1. Respect their desks!: As with your own team, respect the responsibilities of each team member and understand that everyone’s role contributes to the success of the event. Encourage open communication and collaboration to ensure tasks are completed efficiently. Understand each other’s deadlines, requirements, and expectations to facilitate smooth collaboration. 
  1. Relationship building: build strong relationships with suppliers to foster trust and reliability. By working as an extended team, you can ensure that everyone is aligned with the event objectives and committed to delivering a successful outcome. 

2. Budget management 

Regularly reviewing the budget and tracking expenses ensures that you stay within budget constraints and avoid overspending. We advise the following for keeping on track: 

  1. Regular budget reviews: schedule regular budget reviews to track expenses and ensure that spending aligns with the allocated budget. 
  1. Adjustment and flexibility: be prepared to adjust the budget as needed based on changing circumstances or unforeseen expenses. Flexibility is key to managing budget constraints effectively. 
  1. Transparent communication: maintain transparent communication with stakeholders regarding budget updates and any adjustments made to the budget. This helps in building trust and ensuring accountability. 

3. Content Marketing

Typically, we start preparations about six months in advance. The initial phase is dedicated to market research and refining the event’s unique selling proposition (USP) and value proposition. This groundwork sets the foundation for creating an agenda and identifying compelling speakers, who are often industry leaders, to enhance the event experience.

Once the framework is established, careful attention is given to preparing speakers and outlining content delivery methods, whether through presentations or panel discussions. As the event date draws near, thorough preparation ensures smooth execution, including conducting preparation calls and providing resources for speakers.  

Make your content work hard for you! 

Events generate a lot of rich content. Maximise post-event content opportunities, such as video recordings and write-ups, to extend the event’s impact and reinforce its value proposition. Ultimately, leveraging event content for future marketing endeavours not only distinguishes your reputation but also generates enduring marketing assets, propelling success for months to come. 

Dealing with unforeseen problems 

What if no one shows up? 

It’s a little bit like planning a party you’re worried no one’s going to show up! This feeling is common, and we suggest using it to fuel your marketing campaigns. It’s also useful to know what to expect. For instance, if your goal is to have 250 registrants, you can predict that around 180 will actually show up. 

What if something goes wrong? 

We have been working in event planning for almost 20 years, and one thing we know for sure is that mishaps are inevitable. They should be planned for because they’re going to happen, and it’s how you deal with the aftermath and remaining composed that matters. Remember, events are a live show. The show must go on, no matter what the mishap is. So, at the point of a mishap, you need to make a clear decision. Are you going to create a situation where everyone feels frustrated? Or are you going to take a deep breath, stay calm, come up with the most effective solution, and work together to ensure the show goes on and everyone leaves with a smile on their face?  

Grey Dog’s top tips for risk mitigation: 

  1. Plan for risks: identify potential risks associated with the event, such as technical failures, weather disruptions, or logistical issues. Develop strategies to mitigate these risks and minimise their impact on the event. 
  1. Maintain flexibility: stay flexible and adaptable to respond effectively to unforeseen challenges. Being able to adjust plans on the fly and find alternative solutions is key to overcoming obstacles and keeping the event on track. 
  1. Stay calm: when things go wrong, keep a cool head and stay calm. Panicking will only escalate the situation and make it harder to find solutions. Take deep breaths, assess the situation calmly, and focus on finding the best way forward. 
  1. Find hidden opportunities: Sometimes, a setback can present an unexpected opportunity. Stay open-minded and look for creative solutions or alternative approaches that may lead to even better outcomes than originally planned. 

These tips and more were part of a webinar hosted by Grey Dog where Carley and Olivia gave a comprehensive focus on each stage of the event lifecycle along with their invaluable insights and practical strategies essential for success.  

You can view the informative slides and make a copy of our event planning guide to help you plan your next event with ease.


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