Written by Meaghan Baxter
I’ve been writing blog posts for Trixstar about all facets of event planning for nearly three years now. During that time, I’ve learned a great deal about how to plan a successful event that creates a lasting impact on attendees. I also volunteer with a local not-for-profit, and I was assigned the task of co-chairing its inaugural black-tie fundraiser this past spring. It was a daunting idea at first, not to mention a chance to put the event-planning knowledge I’ve gained from Trixstar to the test. I’ve compiled my top five tips for starting an event from scratch to help you out.
1. Map out a plan
Planning a new event is exciting because there are so many options available, but it also means there’s no framework to reference from previous years. My co-chair and I were given a theme for the fundraiser—a James Bond-inspired casino event—as well as a budget, but details like a venue, vendors, decor and entertainment were up to us. We had about 10 months to plan, so we used a spreadsheet to map out what needed to be taken care of by designated dates. This helped keep us on track throughout the planning process and avoid forgetting any important details along the way. We also used a similar spreadsheet for our budget so we could keep track of payment deadlines and what had been spent.
2. Designate tasks early
With only my co-chair and I planning the event, it was easy to divide up tasks like contacting caterers or venue managers—but it was also a lot of work for two people. Regardless how large or small your team is, make sure you maintain open communication throughout the process and that everyone is clear on which tasks they’re responsible for. In our case, it helped to divide things up based on the contacts each of us had in different industries and go from there. You’ll find that this is true with any event team, and you can always reevaluate duties as you go. Just make sure to decide who’s doing what early on in the planning process in order to give yourselves time to find alternate options if your first idea doesn’t pan out.
3. Create an identity
This was a brand-new event for the organization, which meant it was unknown one to everyone in the community. When you’re starting an event from scratch, consider creating an aesthetic identity for it that reflects its theme. We had a logo designed that we used on all of our marketing materials and chose a colour scheme that remained consistent in all of our printed products—like sponsorship proposals—as well as our decor. The logo can be customized depending on who the presenting sponsor is next year, but the rest of the design will remain the same so that it can become a recognizable symbol for the event’s marketing.
4. Read everything
We all have a tendency to skim through terms and agreements in contracts, but you can’t do that when planning an event. You need to understand what’s included in your rental agreement with a venue in order to budget for extra costs and to understand any legalities involved (capacity, purchasing a liquor license, obtaining the correct insurance, etc).
Speaking of reading, make sure you do your research when it comes to vendors. Compare costs and what’s included, and ensure everyone’s on the same page in terms of what’s expected for the event. Read their contracts carefully and discuss any questions you may have.
5. Use your network
Planning an event from scratch can be slightly overwhelming. There’s so many details and timelines to consider, but your personal network can make this all much easier. Create a list of vendors and see if you know anyone who might be able to help you out—or who could recommend someone who can. For example, I know the band and videographer we hired while my co-chair has connections in catering and florals. Don’t be afraid to turn to social media, either; a quick Facebook post can yield some very positive results.
I hope this helps you the next time you’re faced with planning an event from scratch. If you’re looking for more great advice, check out two of Trixstar’s eBooks: Creating Your Event From Concept To Completion and 5 Questions To Ask Before Producing Your Event. Happy planning!