Strategic Event Planning Before Anything Else | CEME


Strategic Event Planning: Before Anything
Else Motivational speaker, author and radio announcer
Earl Nightingale once said: “All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage
to press on to your destination.” What follows are the groups of strategic steps–in
order of development and implementation–that make up your plan. If you use the outline
in this presentation for your event plans, and implement each phase in order, your event
blueprint should be quite solid. As you develop the plan, create a master timeline
checklist, week-by-week, and plug in each element of the plan that needs to be executed
and when. Modify the timeline every time you modify the plan so that no detail slips through
the cracks and you can easily monitor what has and has not been completed on an ongoing
basis. Remember that you must have a written plan
as the very first step in your risk management process. Why? Because if something happens
that prevents you from continuing to manage the event, your client will need to fill your
shoes with another event manager who can pick up where you left off and follow the plan
to fruition. Phase 1: The Big Picture—In this phase,
you’ll put the major players in place and determine the vision and goals for the event.
* Vision: The first step of plan development is to define the vision of the event in writing.
The event vision includes, but is not limited to event type, event style and identifying
the attendees. While you are developing the vision, also create a wish list of elements
with which you and your client hope to augment the fundamental requirements.
* Goal(s): There should be an overarching goal for the event; for example, an annual
general meeting may have the overall goal of bringing together management staff and
volunteer of a non-profit for goal setting for the next fiscal year. This same event
may have a dozen or so defined sub-goals such as establishing the next year’s budget,
establishing a number of new committees, hosting the annual board of directors meeting, etc.
These goals should all be specified in writing in the plan as they are a checklist of must-dos
in the planning process. * Scope of event: The scope is both the size
in participants, speakers, staff, etc. as well as the number of days required to fulfill
the event goals, and the size and features of the facility or facilities required.
* Environment: Environmental considerations are twofold and need to be determined early.
First, determine what the weather will be like at the time of year and how that guides
your purpose-based destination selection; climate affects everything from whether part
or all of the event can occur outdoors, to travel problems for attendees. Second, develop
your “green” event plan. Many countries and states are beginning to require events
to implement environmentally friendly practices; going green for events is also the right thing
to do. Your green policy will influence your destination and venue choice and needs to
be determined early in the planning stage. * Management: Although you do not need to
flesh out all your staffing needs at this point, you should determine your management
level players and get them in place. These team members may include a financial manager,
legal professional, executive assistant, etc. The key players need to be scheduled for all
meetings throughout the event evolution. * Consultants: If your event will take place
overseas, you may need to retain a customs broker. If the event isn’t going to take
place locally, it’s wise to contract the services of a destination management consultant.
You may also need a graphic designer, public relations firm, etc. Try to identify these
needs up front and begin negotiations with the appropriate providers.
* Committees: If you are going to use committees of staff and or volunteers to take ownership
of certain elements of the event, it is important to create and staff them at the beginning
as they should be part of every planning and implementation meeting.
* Budget overview: Although you may not have an itemized budget at the onset, this is the
time to create the budget overview which should include total operating reserve, estimated
overall costs, and any shortage or overage. Outline the detailed budget at this time so
you can plug in actual numbers as they are confirmed.
Phase 2: Location and Timeframe—Now you are ready to find the place to fulfill the
event vision and goals, and plan some of the major expense details of the event.
* Destination: From the previous phase, you will have developed a list of venue and destination
requirements. During this part of the plan, you need to identify a primary and backup
location; not the venue itself but the town or community where the venue will be located.
The plan should itemize all the pros and cons of both destinations, number of viable facilities,
transportation issues for attendees, and so on.
* Venue: Once you’ve identified and approved a primary and backup destination, identify
a venue or venues at each that can accommodate every single requirement defined in phase
one. During this process, you’ll develop the checklist of requirements to put into
the Request for Proposal (RFP) to the sites you’ve selected. As you work with the venues,
you will come to a point where you have chosen which one or ones you want at the finalized
destination choice. * Date(s): Determining event date(s) is extremely
important. First, determine how long the event will be and find out what date blocks are
available at your venue(s). Then determine which date block (with a backup block) best
suits your needs based on a number of considerations including but not limited to: conflicting
events, holidays and climate and weather. * Transportation: The transportation plan
should be in place early. In this section outline travel plans for attendees as well
as transfers at the destination. * Location and transportation financials:
You are now ready to plug some fairly accurate estimates of these big phase 2 expenses into
your budget. The balance you have remaining drives the decisions you make in phase 3.
Phase 3: Event Details—In this phase of the plan development, you determine and put
into place all of the critical elements of the event.
* Agenda: Before moving forward, create a schedule for the entire event; it should include
all your must-haves as well as your wish list items. Schedule speakers, sessions, entertainments,
food and beverage services, meet and greets, etc. Then apply a cost estimate to each item
and add the estimates to you budget. You’ll finalize costs when you negotiate contracts.
Just creating estimates may indicate whether you can have all your wish list items.
* Staffing: At this stage you need to identify your staffing needs and select and budget
your staff. While working on staffing, also assign responsibilities and an accountability
policy to staff members and volunteers. * Speakers/Presenters/Entertainment: When
you created the agenda, you will have penciled in your presenters and entertainers; at this
point, you need to confirm with them that they will be available and add their rates
to the budget. * Sponsors: Develop a list of potential sponsors
for the event. These may be cash or in-kind sponsors that will help your offset your costs
or event infuse cash into a wish-list element your budget doesn’t otherwise support. As
them what they might be willing to donate, and what they need as fulfillment in return.
* Facility setup blueprint: This is the time when you look at the entire layout of your
facility and work with its operations staff to plan room set-ups, break downs and changes
per your agenda. Assign attendee numbers to each agenda item; also pencil in a/v needs
per agenda item. * Accommodations: Negotiate accommodation
perks with your site manager at this time; if the site is a hotel, for example, it will
likely comp you rooms or reduce room rates if the hotel is supplying food and beverage
services. Determine how many rooms and other accommodations your event will require and
have them set aside for your attendees and VIPs.
* Food and beverage: Design each food and beverage session in the plan, and put in the
details: menu, service style, number of attendees, location, etc. Add each service to the budget.
* Decorating: Based on your event vision, choose your fabrics, lighting, plants and
flowers and other décor items and factor them into the budget. Also identify verbally
confirm your vendors and suppliers. * Audio/visual: Check with each presenter
and entertainer to confirm their a/v requirements and work with your supplier and venue staff
to design room sets that will maximize a/v while minimizing redundancy and the costs
associated with surplus equipment. Also add a/v estimates to the budget.
* Rentals: If you require tents, furniture, décor items, food and beverage service items,
etc. and need to rent them, now id the time to list them and book them. Again, add each
associated cost to the budget. * Traffic flow plan: Your agenda and room
setup plan should be in pretty good shape by now, so evaluate the traffic flow based
on the venue layout and the agenda. Make any adjustments to the room setups or agenda as
necessary to prevent bottlenecks or hallway noise while events are in session.
* Transportation: Every detail of transportation—to and from the event and transfers at the event—need
to be well planned out and budgeted. If you are grenning your meeting, plan to provide
bicycles or extra time for walking between sites.
* Registration area plan: Lay out your registration area for maximum flow and efficiency and minimal
confusion. Consider issues like protection from weather at the entrance, informational
signage, what the venue allows and can supply, etc.
* On-site office design: You’ll need a management office, preferably very near the registration
area. Work with the venue operations staff to set this up. Considerations might include
a secure room with a safe if you are handling any cash, data security system, network setup,
etc. * Security: Determine how you will secure
all your attendees’ information and what physical security you may need for VIPs. Identify
suppliers and add rates to the budget. * Technology requirements: You may want to
make the internet available to attendees, have interactive kiosks, or incorporate specialty
digital displays. Now ids the time to list all the items required, who supplies them,
what they cost, and when they need to be installed. * Photographers/videographers: If you want
to record more than the audio of the event, you’ll need to book photographers and/or
videographers well in advance. Venue management may have recommendations for service providers
who have worked the venue previously with good results. Factor them into your budget’s
expenses. * Gifts and giveaways: If you plan to give
out attendee gifts, have tributes or recognition ceremonies, and want to gift your suppliers
after the event, determine what’s appropriate, secure suppliers and add items to the budget.
* Event details financials: At this point, your budget should be well developed and quite
accurate. Double-check each item to make sure the numbers recorded are correct and evaluate
whether you need to acquire additional resources or eliminate expenses to balance the budget.
Phase 4: Paperwork—This section of the plan outlines all of the papers you must have for
the event from contracts to permits and beyond. * Budget: At this point the budget needs to
be locked in. As you place orders, sign contracts , etc. Make sure the costs are close to your
estimates, and add the actual confirmed costs into your financials.
* Contracts: In this phase, you need to perform the final contract negotiations, get them
signed, and make sure the suppliers and your team have signed copies on file.
* Agreements: It is also time to have all your presenters and performers sign final
agreements indicating their schedules and final costs. Also include any special requirement
they may have regarding accommodations, refreshments, dressing areas, etc. in these agreements.
* Permits: Make sure you have any permits required in place. For example, you may need
permits to hold a function in a public place or Coast Guard permits for on-the water events.
* Insurance: You need to ensure the event, have cancellation insurance, cover the venue
and all players, etc. If you are unsure about what types of insurance you need, consult
with the venue, the municipality and an insurance provider who specializes in events.
* Risk management plan: Try to anticipate anything that could go wrong—from a transportation
strike, to a venue fire or hurricane—and have a plan in place for handling the situation.
You do not want to try and respond to act-of-God or other calamities without a plan, and some
insurance providers require a written risk management plan for event insurance.
* Marketing plan: A critical part of your overall plan is the marketing plan which outlines
how you will obtain attendees. The marketing plan includes everything from invitations
to ticket sales, and advertising to press coverage.
* Shipping and receiving plan: This section of the plan defines who will be shipping what
to the venue, how it needs to be received, and where it needs to be transported to and
when. Make sure this is well thought out and all the pieces are in place. An author arriving
at a book signing without any books is an event breaker.
* Checklists: At this point, you should have all your checklists created including the
master timeline checklist, speaker info checklist, food and beverage checklist and so on.
Phase 5: Awareness and Marketing—All of these elements are part of the marketing plan
introduced in phase 4; each needs its own sub-plan.
* Web site: When does it go live, who will design and manage it, is it secure, will it
have online registration and ticket sale capabilities? All of these questions need to be answered
in the marketing plan and then implemented. The web site is a budget line item.
* Invitations: This section addresses how you will reach your intended guest list members
and incite them to attend. These might be printed invitations, phone calls, emails,
or even television ads. * Registration form: Take time to determine
what information you need from your attendees, how you will use that information, how you
will keep it secure, and how the attendees will access/receive the form.
* Marketing materials: These include everything from brochures to press kits, radio ads to
billboards. Determine what mediums will reach your target audience most effectively and
how to finance your materials. * Press and public relations: Develop a plan
for maximizing press coverage. Figure out what elements of your event—for example
the fact that it’s a green, paperless meeting—to broaden the event’s appeal to the press.
Media coverage is excellent free advertising. * Advertising: Determine what if any advertising
you will benefit from. An event open to the public, like a sporting event, is well suited
to television and radio advertising. Conversely, there’s no point in buying that type of
advertising if your event is targeted towards a widely spread out special interest group.
* Ticket sales: Is there a fee for your event? How will you handle ticket sales and the revenues
generated from them. Will you pre-sell the tickets, have special VIP tickets or even
hold some type of ticket-based fundraiser? If the latter, is it legal at your destination?
* Signage: Before you design your signage, find out what rules the venue has about sign
displays. This section of the plan defines what types of signs you need, what their purposes
are, how many you need to order, what will hold them in place, etc.
Phase 6: Before You Go—a week or so out from the event date, review the plan, checklists,
and do final confirmations. Also add some backup materials to the plan.
* Arrival and pre-event plan: Figure out ahead of time what you need to do on-site when you
arrive and before the event opens. Outline these requirements in the plan and assign
appropriate staff to action items. * Confirm speakers/entertainment: Do a final
confirmation with all key players a week before the event. Have a list of backup presenters,
just in case. * Confirm contracts and point people for them:
Run through a checklist of all your suppliers; make sure they are still in business and that
you have all the contact information for your point person. Create a short list of emergency
backup suppliers. * Make backup copies of all paperwork: Make
sure you have a backup file of all the contracts, agreements, permits, etc. that will stay in
the on-site office. * Pack a mobile office: Duplicate all of the
paperwork and hand carry it with you; if your office supplies don’t arrive or are late,
you still have plan, permits, contracts, etc. in hand, and the show can go on.
Phase 7: Showtime—At this point, it’s really too late to plan anything, but you
won’t have to because your master plan is complete, comprehensive, and you’ve followed
it every step of the way. Why? Because, Strategic event planner, “Plan” is in your job title!
Implement it courageously!

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