Like climbing a mountain, planning an event may feel overwhelming, but with a clear plan it can actually be pretty simple, and you can break your journey up into small steps.
At lookthinkmake, we put on a large Festival for our client, Goodnight Ranch, each year called the Festival of Good. This event brings in over 500 participants with lots of different moving pieces.
At the beginning of the year, it can seem like Mt. Everest, but then I look at my spreadsheet, remember my map, and pretty soon I am enjoying each step of the climb.
Step 1. Find your Compass: Goal Setting
A goal is the most important part of your event! The goal is your compass and should guide every step and decision.
What is the purpose of your event? Is it for networking? Is it to gain awareness? Celebrate success? Honor an achievement?
There can be all sorts of reasons why you would want to host an event, but naming a specific goal and making that your compass for your climb will lead you to the peak.
The Festival of Good is hosted by Goodnight Ranch, a master-planned community in Southeast Austin. Our goal for the event is to give back to the Goodnight Ranch community and its residents, draw Austinites to the community, and in the end, sell homes (the compass).
You have your goal and compass to guide you. Now it’s time to set a budget.
Step 2. Pick your Path: The budget
All of your future decisions will be based on your budget. Your budget is kind of like picking the challenge level of your hike and it should be proportional to your goal. It sets the tone for what kind of preparation you need to do, what you need to pack, and everything that will get you to your peak.
The budget determines your guest list, your entertainment choices, your venue, pretty much everything.
It is absolutely paramount that you set your budget before you take one more step up the mountain. Do you need to fundraise to meet your budget goals? Do you need sponsorships? Who is paying for your event? Will guests purchase tables or tickets to attend?
The Festival of Good has lofty goals, but with an end-focus being home sales, it's an easy “yes” to seek sponsorships. Of course home builders would be interested in sponsoring an event that was all about selling their homes! It's a win-win.
Some tips for budgeting:
- Set your budget: Lock in a number and get your team on board
- Record everything: Start a spreadsheet before you take another step and divvy out expenses into categories.
- Set up a system: How are you paying invoices? Who is keeping track? Who is the decision maker if something is out of budget?
Step 3. Pack your bag: The who, when, where
Who are you inviting to your event? Are their plus-ones? Is it family-friendly? Try and get a general idea of the number of people you’re looking to host at your event.
The When and The Where
Where are you going to host this event, and when? You have your goal top of mind and your number of attendees locked down, so now you need to find a venue. With your goal in mind, it’s time to begin the hunt.
Are you looking for something formal for a gala? Casual for a happy hour? When you’re looking for venues, keep your goal front and center, have your target guest number, and have a general idea of dates so that you can secure your favorite venue.
The Festival of Good is free and open to the public, so it needs to be in an outdoor area that could host hundreds of people. But let’s always go back to our goal, the why – to sell houses. So with that in mind, we choose to host our event in a green space in the center of Goodnight Ranch with homes surrounding the event location.
Because we live in Austin, Texas, our when and where had to be best friends. We could not host an outdoor festival in 100 degree heat, so that impacted our where and when, and we landed on the (sometimes cool) month of November.
Alright. So we’ve set our goal and our budget, locked in the venue, date and guest list. Now It’s time for the fun stuff, the ascent.
Step 4. Start climbing: Let your compass guide you
So we know our goal, we have our budget, we know our guest list and venue and we have a date. Now it’s time for the good stuff. The hike to the top.
Events are just that, a climb, the gritty details require you to just keep putting one foot in front of the other until you make it to the end.
Here are some things to keep top of mind for every event, big or small:
- Food and drinks: What will you be serving at your event? Will you bring in food trucks, a catering service, will you just offer a cash bar?
- Entertainment: What will be happening at your event? Will you have a DJ or a live band? Games? You don’t want people just staring at each other!
- Seating: People likely don’t want to stand the entire time. Will your venue already have adequate seating for your guests? Should you hire a rental company for seating? What about those with special needs?
- Parking: Where will your guests park? Is there a lot? Do you need a valet or parking attendants?
- Restrooms/Sanitation: Are there enough restrooms available for your guests? Do you need to bring in more? How will people wash their hands? Do you have enough trash receptacles?
- Staff: Who will be working your event? Will you have volunteers or will you need to hire event staff?
- Safety: If your event is outdoors, you may want to contact the city to see about road closure, barricades, and other safety measures you could take to ensure a fun time for your guests. Are you closing down roads and need support from local law enforcement?
- Promotions: How are you getting the word out about your event? Will you promote it on social media? Is it an exclusive VIP only direct-mailer? Should you get PR involved? Do you want to make or create any branded collateral to give to the attendees? We can write a whole article on this alone!
Festival of Good usually brings in around 500 attendees, and we love to entertain our guests with live music, face painting, petting zoos and more!
Though tons of vendors and many guests can seem overwhelming, one step at a time up the mountain of details and suddenly you look down at all you’ve accomplished and can breath in the fresh air.
So don’t feel overwhelmed, you are doing it. You set your goal, you made your budget and stuck to it, you packed your bag and just kept climbing until you reached your peak, the big day!
Step 5. Arrive: take it all in
You made it. The event is over and your staff are cleaning up. You watched as your attendees smiled and made memories. You broke sweat up the hill.
Now sit down, take a deep breath, and celebrate all that you did to make it to this large moment, reaching your goal.
So, think of an event like climbing a mountain, with a lot of thought and planning you can actually enjoy the climb. You first need to know your goal (in this analogy, you’re looking to reach the top of a mountain), then by following each tiny step with precision and patience, you can make your way up that mountain.
You may run into a fallen tree or perhaps an ant hill along the way, but with a lot of preparation and the right supplies, you will keep your goal in sight and make it to your destination with a smile.
If you do still have questions about event planning, or just don’t have the team or time to climb the mountain alone, feel free to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help. The journey is always a little more fun with a friend!