Planning and delivering large events will always be an immensely rewarding process. However, it’s also an immensely stressful one; there is a reason event management is ranked as one of the five most stressful jobs.
A large event can also appear especially daunting if you’re not a seasoned event planner. From attendees to budgets, everything is vastly increased. Planning in advance becomes even more vital for the success of a large-scale event.
For first-timers, we’ve broken down our ten-step plan to planning a large event. Overlooking the basics can cost you valuable time and budget, which could potentially disrupt your entire event.
Step 1 – Pinpoint what you want to achieve with your large event:
Before you begin any serious planning, you need to know what you want to achieve with your event. There is a myriad of reasons why you might be interested in holding a particular event and pinpointing your aims determines the majority of the planning process.
Are you looking to launch a new product or system? Or maximise donations for a charitable cause? Is the event to boost company morale or raise your brand awareness? Having focused, deliberate answers to these questions will aid your ability to plan your event.
Different events have incredibly varied goals and need different focuses both pre, post and during the event. Moreover, it may be the case that your event has more than one goal; for example, to launch a new product and raise brand awareness. Ensuring that you are aware of your end goal throughout the entire event lifecycle means a far more successful end event.
Step 2 – Set your budget & your timeline:
Ask any event planner: your budget is the single most important piece of an event planning process. Without a budget, nothing is possible.
Creating and sticking to a budget is key for any event, but with the scope of a large event, it becomes all the more vital. As margins for vendor bookings and spend per attendee become tighter, it is very important for large-scale event planners to have a good idea of their budgets.
Whilst it might sound slightly impractical to set budgets before knowing any of your costs, this is the best way to benchmark supplier proposals. You’ll need to have a rough idea of what you can spend before you start working with partners.
Remember to factor in any revenue sources you might have. Will you be charging for attendance or have sponsors to offset costs? These revenues will ultimately dictate your budget, so ensuring to project them first will give you a far better idea of costs.
During the first stages of the planning is when you should decide on your timelines as well. When is the event date and how long do you have to get everything in place? With larger events the more time the better, but most event planners recommend having at least three months’ lead time when you begin planning.
Step 3 – Choose your venue:
Your venue selection is a key factor in the success of your event. Depending on the size and scope of your event, you might need to first begin by narrowing down a certain city before you begin venue shortlists.
When choosing a venue, you’ll need to ask yourself certain questions so you can select the space that is right for your needs. How many attendees expect, transportation links, catering options, AV capabilities, and security concerns are all areas you’ll need to consider.
For instance, our sister venue 8 Northumberland Avenue is the perfect option for those wanting a traditional venue that can keep up with the 21stcentury’s tech demands. However, there are plenty of fantastic venues around the world to suit the needs of any event.
Step 4 – Pick your partners and vendors:
After you’ve selected your venue, it’s time to focus on your other suppliers and vendors. This will depend on your chosen venue, as it may be the case that your venue has an internal caterer or offers in-house AV.
Don’t forget, as well as food, sights, and sounds, there are a lot of other suppliers you’ll need to consider. Security, transport, and staffing are also all suppliers that you’ll need to investigate and budget for. Plus, any offerings that are on ‘trend’ for events, such as wellness offerings might also need investigating.
Another thing to remember when dealing with external suppliers: always deal with detailed contracts. On top of making sure to choose suppliers that you trust, with good reputations, you should always have a backup. Ensuring all contracts are detailed, with clauses for last-minute cancellations, is the best way to avoid unexpected payments down the line.
Step 5 – Tap into the Tech you’ll need:
As the technology around events gets more streamlined and sophisticated, the options of software become far more varied. When picking which tech you’ll need to consider your ticketing platform and any signage you’ll need at the event.
You might also want to consider whether you’ll need the technicality to live-stream the event or whether you’ll want to employ an event app. Your email and social media marketing platforms might also need to be considered.
As event marketing platforms become more advanced, it’s worth looking out for platforms that are able to cover more than one of your event needs. For instance, some ticketing platforms also have the capability to manage email marketing and guest registration.
Step 6 – Find your audience: who do you want to attend and why will they want to come?
After you’ve decided on who your target market is, you’ll need to examine your sell. Why will these people want to come to your event? Look at your event offering and pinpoint what sets you apart from the rest of your industry.
When planning for un-ticketed events, such as large-scale conferences, consider what activities you’ll offer to engage and motivate delegates. In the B2B sector, conferences are becoming more exciting and varied as attendees demand more from the events they attend.
Step 7 – Flesh out your marketing campaign:
Once you know what your aims are for your event and who you want to attract, now you need to build your marketing campaign. Develop a singular message for your event and building a campaign around this message.
If you do not have a single, main message you risk damaging your campaign with confused messaging. This is especially prevalent if you are projecting your message across multiple different channels or through a large team.
Make sure your marketing efforts are engaged across as many channels as your team has at their disposal. Email marketing, content marketing, and social media will always be the main focus, but also ensure to look at avenues like ad buying. However, be aware of what marketing budget you have and what is possible within your budget.
A large event does not necessarily require huge marketing spend. There are many clever ways in which to get the word out about your event without a huge digital or ad campaign. Again, this becomes far easier if you have focused messaging throughout your marketing collateral.
Step 8 – Organise the day’s operational plan:
As the event draws closer, you’ll need to start considering how the day itself will operate. You’ll need to formalise a detailed plan of times for set-up, guest arrival and breaking down the event. Obviously, these are greatly affected by your event timescales and whether it is a single or multiple day event.
From these timings, you’ll be able to predict and organise your event staffing. Again, how you’ve booked your venue and suppliers might affect this. Some venues will have their own staff as part of the price, but others you may have to supplement with agency staff.
A large-scale event cannot be run by a one-man-band. You’ll need a team onsite to help with event set-up, operations, registration and more. Luckily, events is a freelanced saturated trade, so you should be able to build a varied list of contacts for you to utilise.
Step 9 – Get your contingencies in place:
All the way through your planning process, you should be mindful of your contingency plan. Most event planners recommend a budget contingency of around 5-15% to account for any last-minute costs.
Alongside your budget contingency, you should also have plans in place for adverse weather, supplier cancellations and emergency procedures, to name a few. Preparing in advance for last-minute changes means that if anything happens on the day, you’ll be ready. Always prepare for the worst-case scenarios so you’re prepared for any change.
Step 10 – The final countdown:
For most large-scale events, the amounts you are spending means that you are looking for an excellent ROI. If you are willing to take more of a risky approach, you could consider guerrilla marketing efforts. Experiential pop-ups or interesting ways of incorporating your content.
These more interactive experiences might be more costly, but they have been proven in the past to deliver excellent ROI. For a last-minute marketing push, they could be an excellent avenue for large-scale events to consider.
In the final few weeks and days before the event, the pressure will ramp up. Acute organisation and seamless attention to detail will be needed to create an event with a lasting impression. If you’ve kept with your original plan as we’ve laid out above, then you should see the fruits of your labour revealed.
Planning a large scale event? Speak to a member of our talented team for all the advice you’ll need.