Planning Events is Simple! But is it Easy?

by Candice Lepage

Event planning is a funny thing.
From the highest level, it’s quite simple:

  1. Decide on the event to hold - a speaker series, a workshop, a gala

  2. Decide where, and when and how much to charge

  3. Tell people about it so they come

  4. Do the event


Really, it’s just a few steps. But so many traps in each step!

Step one is usually pretty easy. In fact, I think it happens pretty naturally. Deciding to hold an event is not usually done in a vacuum of wanting to put on a big thing and needing to find a reason. There’s usually a reason - an annual celebration, consistent questions about the same topic, or a lucky opportunity when someone calls you and says, “I’m going to be in town and would love to meet as many people as possible.”
But sometimes, deciding on the type of event can be challenging. A full day event? Bring in extra speakers or trainers? A fundraiser or a celebration - is the audience being thanked or asked for something?

And in many ways, all of these questions need some pretty good answers because the second step - where and when, and how much to charge - has a lot to do with what you are offering the audience, who the audience will be and how many of them there will be.

Event planning

But then, you find a great venue, and something about the space gets you thinking back to the first step - “I know we wanted to have just speakers, but look at these extra rooms, wouldn’t small groups be really great in this space?” So you need to be flexible with the event. Be ready to change your mind entirely.

Step three is one of the most challenging steps; tell people about it so they come. It’s where the most amount of work needs to happen. Most of the time. From the outside it seems that the people just show up, especially when it’s a first time event (beginner’s luck maybe?). Either there was a gap in the market and people were really looking forward to whatever you are hosting, or you have lucked out with a speaker or guest who has a huge draw, or is really good at marketing their own appearances. But generally, you’ve got to work hard to get people out.
I don’t know about other cities, but it seems like Guelph has something worthwhile, interesting and fun happening every night of the week. Not only that - email, while still being the best way to market directly to customers online, is easy to ignore.

Think about all those newsletters which get left in your inbox to read when you have some time - and then come Friday afternoon just get deleted without reading. I may be the champion of online communication and social media but I’m also the person who knows that in person, face to face, voice to ear is still the best way to make a connection with someone. You need to build an active online presence for your event - make sure people know it’s happening, make sure they can easily find all of the important information like where, when and how much, make sure they can share it with their friends.

But that deciding moment when someone chooses to make the purchase, will more than likely come after you ask them personally.
And step four! Oh step four! It seems like the easiest step right? You’ve done all this work ahead of time, now you just need to show up and let the event happen. Oh no, it’s never that simple.
I hope you’ve had someone working on step four this entire time. You need people, you need signs and directions, you need chairs and tables, you need nametags, but most of all you need patience, because something will always go differently than you expect and you must be able to calmly go with the flow and make it seem like that was the plan all along.
Step four is where all the little details you never thought about suddenly become the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER!!! Always help yourself out by having more people than you think you need show up early and be ready to help out doing whatever the entire time. This is when you find a team of doers. Nobody needs to come up with creative solutions, innovative ideas, everyone needs to get the job done. You need this moved over there? No problem. You need me to run to the store and buy two dozen cups of coffee and four veggie trays? No problem. You need me to hold my phone up and live stream everything through Facebook Live because the closed circuit system is not work? No problem.

Event planning. It’s simple, right?