How to plan an event: your 13-step essential guide to event organisation

Top tips to ensure every event goes off with a bang

Updated on 05 September 2022 • Written By Pete Dreyer

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How to plan an event: your 13-step essential guide to event organisation

Whether you’ve planned hundreds of events or are just starting out in the industry, it never hurts to have a read of articles like this one to ensure you don’t overlook something that could tarnish your event. Trying to set up a big event can be a daunting task, and there are lots of common pitfalls that can catch out even the most experienced event professionals. Some might seem obvious, but when you’ve so much to think about, it’s surprising how easily things can slip through the net.


Of course, help is at hand if you need it. There are plenty of first-rate event organisers who know what works, and who will save you time by handling the correspondence between the venue and suppliers. They'll buy in bulk and have relationships with industry experts, meaning they can get you better deals too, so you might even break even on the cost of hiring help in the end.

If you’re set on organising the event yourself though, it’s definitely worth having a read through our tips below. Generally speaking, event organisation goes through five major stages: planning, organising, promoting, executing, then analysis. As you can see, the majority of the time and energy that goes into a good event is actually in the planning and organisation! If an event all runs smoothly on the day, it’s largely because it was carefully planned, with sufficient contingencies and backups in place. Then, you can use all your learnings, as well as budgeting and data from previous events to inform your next ones, and thus, the cycle means you improve as a planner with each event.

Today we’re digging into what steps you should take if you’re planning an event. We’ve ordered things in a way that will make most sense for the majority of people, but naturally, different events have wildly different priorities, so feel free to rejig the list to suit your needs.


This early stage is where you start to get your ideas on paper, before you commit to anything concrete. Use this as a chance to think about what you want to achieve with your event, and consider the best ways to go about it, as well as come up with rough budgets, timelines and schedules.

1. Set goals/objectives

The goals might not be immediately obvious, but every event has them - even if you’re just organising a gathering of friends, the goal is to bring people together, facilitate conversation, and ensure that everyone has a good time. So, why are you holding this event - are you trying to raise money, or awareness about a subject? Perhaps you’re publicising a product or a person. Start at the end and consider what your event is really about, and what you need to get out of it. From there you can start to think about what you need to do to achieve that.

Objectives, meanwhile, are a little more specific and tied to certain outcomes. For example, if you’re launching a product, your objectives might include gaining a certain amount of press coverage, recording a certain number of guests or even sales figures. Talk to colleagues and other teams if they’re involved in the overall goals, and work out a set of achievable objectives by which you can measure the success of your event.

2. Budget

The next stage will vary depending on your situation, but for most people, setting a budget is the next step that will define the rest of your decisions going forward. If you are in the fortunate position that budget is not really an issue, you can probably leave this stage until later and focus on other important parts of your event (event type, location, size and date, for example).

Setting a budget is easy; sticking to it is the tricky bit. Inexperienced planners can come a cropper by not keeping on top of the small expenses, which can soon add up to create a scary surprise when the bill gets totted up. Make an exhaustive list of everything you need and start totting up what the total cost will be; gather quotes wherever you can, and fill in the holes with educated guesses. If you have planned a similar event in the past, you can use those figures as a baseline.

This is also a good time to consider whether you’ll need a sponsor for your event - if so, it’s worth getting that process started early! Remember to set aside a portion of your budget for contingency/unforeseen costs - 10% is usually a good starting point.

3. What type of event?

Events come in many different shapes and sizes - here are a few common examples: conferences; workshops; trade shows; private dinners; networking events; product launches. Think about your event goals and the content you want to include, and let that inform what sort of event will best suit your needs. It’s worth drafting an event schedule that includes all the panel discussions, Q&As, keynote speeches, dinners, classes and the like that you want to host, then make a list of the pros and cons of each type of event to help you narrow down your options.

Consider also, how many people you’re planning on inviting and how much content you want to include. If you’re planning something big, you might want to consider running an event over multiple days, or even a hybrid event that allows attendees to join virtually or in-person. Find out more about planning a hybrid event here.

4. Set the date

Simple, but nonetheless important. The date and time of your event will have a drastic effect on who can make it, and what your costs might be - certain venues will be extremely busy in certain seasons, for example. Also, your goals might be very time dependent - if that’s the case, setting a date might be more of a priority for you.

5. Location

Once you have a rough feel for what your event looks like and how much budget you have to work with, start looking at venues. Naturally, if you have your heart set on a certain type of venue, that might be higher priority on this list and inform your date, type of event or budget.

Otherwise, consider what geographic area is best for your venue - does it need to be accessible for lots of in-person attendees arriving from far and wide? It’s important to know how many people you’re expecting at this point, and what their expectations will be. If you’re planning a hybrid event, you’ll need solid tech set-up and fast WiFi for streaming. If it’s a large charity dinner or awards ceremony, does the venue have in-house catering? In general, consider whether the venue has the infrastructure, facilities and access you need to pull off your event. Beware picking a ‘hot’ venue and shoehorning your event in. Think about what type of event you want to put on and pick the venue to match that.

If you're struggling to find your ideal match, why not give our completely free concierge service a go? You tell us what you're planning plus when and where you'd like your event, and we come up with a shortlist of available options for you to sift through. 

6. Guest list

Time to start drawing up a guest list. By this point, we expect you’ve already given some thought to who your target audience is and roughly how many people you want to attend in person. Dig a little deeper into exactly who those people will be and what your big selling points are to entice them to come. If you’re selling tickets, how much will tickets cost in order to recoup your spending?


Now you have a solid idea of what your event looks like, it's time to start putting things in stone. Give yourself a good few months to book suppliers, speakers and contractors, build a dependable events team and nail everything down to that all-important date. 

7. Build an events team

If you’re running a relatively small or simple event, you may be able to disregard this step, but if you’ve got something big in the works, having a dependable events team working around you will save your bacon many times over. Often with more complex events, there is just too much going on for one person to stay on top of, and you’ll need to delegate certain tasks to people in order to make sure everything goes to plan.

Designating roles early will help people get to grips with what they have to do during the event. For smaller teams, it’s alright to give people multiple roles but be aware of the capacity required for each and try not to overload people with responsibilities. You might want to consider having an event manager to make top level decisions, as well as having people in charge of marketing and promotion, design and branding, scheduling, registration and sponsorship if you’re chasing a sponsor. For larger events, it’s also useful to have on-site coordinators who can deal with incidents on the day.

8. Suppliers, speakers and entertainment

If you’re planning on inviting speakers or special guests to your event, start compiling a list of your ideal speakers. Think about a value proposition for them before you approach them with an invite - what will they be getting out of your event? Will they be paid? Are they getting exposure to a lot of new people? Do they have something to promote? Start contacting your ideal speakers based on the size and format of your event. The same goes for any other entertainment - prioritise your ideal entertainment and think about what you can offer them to appear.

This is a good time to start talking to suppliers as well and nailing down dates, especially as good suppliers will be booked up in advance. Good suppliers can make or break your event, so do your homework on whether they’re a good fit for what you’re planning, and start locking down dates. Naturally, the earlier you can do this the more likely you are to get all your ideal candidates locked into your proposed date.

9. Promoting and selling tickets

You want to get on the promotion of your event early and start drumming up interest. Don’t fret if you don’t have your schedule finalised just yet - as long as you have a basic framework for your event as well as some selling points to advertise (guest speakers for example, or entertainment) you can start promoting. Teaser campaigns and early-bird offers are both effective ways of gathering some momentum when it comes to selling tickets.

These days, much of your promotion will be done via social media. We have a handy guide on how to promote your event on social media that you can check out, but think about running giveaways, social media takeovers, and encourage your guest speakers to help promote the event through their own social media accounts (you may even be able to agree something with them as part of their contract). Creating a unique hashtag for your event will also help you keep track of all the engagement over time. As with any marketing, understanding your demographics and who your guests are is key to choosing the right strategy here.

Consider sending your guests paperless invites - aside from promoting your sustainability credentials, many paperless invites also support RSVPs and other features. Find out more with our handy guide to the best paperless invites

10. Health and safety

This is a quick one but important - have a health and safety plan in place for your event. Draw up a risk assessment for the event and the venue - identify potential hazards/emergency situations and set out contingency plans in case they were to happen. This includes everything, from fire and first aid hazards to weather, trip hazards, security and crowd management. Focus on the biggest dangers and work down. 

There's a lot to think about there, and it can be a little overwhelming. Collaborate with your team as well as your suppliers and contractors, as they'll likely have experience with risk assessments and can advise on their own situations. The government health and safety website is a useful source of information, and you can consult health and safety professionals too. 

11. Finalise your schedule + contingency plans

This is where you take that draft schedule you put together earlier and start finalising your event schedule. Drill down into how long you think each item will take, and work around the fixed time constraints, such as specific bookings for special guests or how long you have the venue for in total. Think about other time constraints too, such as how long it might take to get everyone into and out of the venue, how long you need to set up a stage, or a live stream, or a class. You’ll want to think about leaving contingency time for bathroom breaks, and for people to get food and drink as well.

Even the best laid plans can fall apart at the last minute, and that’s where you want to have contingency plans in place for unforeseen emergencies. What if there’s a major transport problem on the day, or your guest speaker doesn’t show up? We have a specific guide to contingency planning, which you can read here.

12. Finalise venue details

The bulk of your event should be in place at this point, but often, there will be lots of final details that need sorting. This is where you can connect with your contractors and event suppliers to put the finishing touches on everything, as well as reviewing any health and safety and security needs, signage, and triple checking that all your tech works as planned. It can be helpful to do walkthroughs of the event, both in general and as though you were a guest, to see if there’s anything you’ve overlooked.

13. Send reminders

Chances are, many of those who have agreed to attend your event have busy lives, and you need to send out reminders to make sure you’re at the forefront of people’s thoughts come event day. A few days before the event (or perhaps a week if it’s bigger in scale), send out reminders to everyone attending - guests, special guests, suppliers, speakers, entertainment and such - and touch base on any final details that might be relevant (i.e. weather reports, travel plans, and finalised schedules for the event).

Social media is your friend here too - keep the event buzz ramping up right until the last moment to make sure that as many people are aware when and where they need to be.

That, as they say, is that. If you’ve prepared sufficiently, the event itself will feel like a breeze, with almost every eventuality planned for. Don’t forget though - the event cycle doesn’t end when your event ends. Post-event strategy is just as important to keep people engaged in what you’re doing; reach out to attendees afterwards to thank them for coming and try to get as much data as you can concerning what they thought about the event. Then it’s time to start analysing your attendance numbers and reviewing your objectives, before the planning cycle starts again!

Searching for a venue for your next event? Check out our round-up of cool party venues.

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