10 Actionable Tips For Organising Your Event
Chapter Two: How To Organise An Event
In the previous chapter of our event management series, we've covered planning - the first stage of the event management cycle:
- Planning the event: From idea to action plan.
- Organising the event: From action plan to execution.
- Promoting the event: Spreading the word and selling tickets.
- Hosting the event: Making sure things run smoothly on the day.
- After the event: Thank yous and follow ups.
Today, we'll focus on the second stage of the cycle: organising the event. This is where you'll start to put your plan into action. Let's go!
Organising your event
"Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work." - Peter F. Drucker.
Harsh? Maybe. But it's true: Your plan is only as good as what you actually do with it. So get ready to put your plan into action.
In this chapter, we'll look at the practical side of how to organise an event, from making an action plan and booking the venue to hiring vendors, creating an event page, and making a contingency plan.
10 things you can do right now
Here are 10 concrete steps you should take at this stage of the event management cycle.
1. Turn your checklist into an action plan
Your planning checklist gives you a great overview, but it's still - well - just a checklist.
To help you execute, you should turn your top-level checklist into a detailed action plan with specific steps, deadlines, and people responsible.
It's not as overwhelming as it may sound. Take one checklist item at a time. For each item, answer the following:
- What task(s) must be completed for this to be marked "Done"?
- How long time will the task(s) take?
- What's the deadline to complete each task?
- Who is responsible for completing the task(s)?
Once you're answered this for every item on your checklist, put it all together into a spreadsheet. Place the tasks and the people responsible in columns and task duration and deadlines in rows. Here's what you'll end up with:
Congratulations, you've just made a Gantt chart! (Feel free to brag about it to your friends.)
A Gantt chart visualises your tasks and their interdependencies (to state the painfully obvious: You can't start decorating a venue until you have a venue to decorate). Project managers love these!
Don't want to build one from scratch? You don't have to! Luckily, there are plenty of free Gantt chart templates on Google Docs.
2. Get a project management tool
Your current Gantt chart works great as a static overview of the tasks.
Project management software, on the other hand, goes further to help you communicate with your team, coordinate the day-to-day activities, and track the latest status. While you don't have to use project management software, it'll make your life a lot easier.
It won't break your bank, either. In fact, many project management sites - like Trello - offer 100% free starter accounts. These are often more than sufficient for organising an event.
Not sure where to find the right project management tool? Here are 10 great options to get you started.
Whichever software you pick, it will likely ask you to specify the tasks you need to complete and the people driving these. Guess what? Thanks to our Gantt chart, you already have exactly that! So it's really just a matter of copy-pasting these.
Input the tasks into your chosen project management tool, assign owners, and - voila - you're all set. Keeping the tasks in a continuously updated, shared tool will suddenly make the process much more manageable and, hey - even fun.
Now let's look at some of the specific tasks.
3. Secure the venue
All right! Let's dust off that venue shortlist of yours and start making some calls. Your goal now is to settle on the final venue and sign the contract.
You've already researched and addressed many key questions - location, capacity, cost - when making your shortlist. Here are 10 nitty-gritty details to clarify when contacting each of the shortlisted venues:
- Has the venue ever hosted an event similar to yours?
- Is there an upfront deposit and what is the cancellation policy?
- What exactly is covered by the venue's liability insurance?
- Does the venue already have an entertainment licence (or will you need to apply for your own)?
- What kind of health and safety arrangements are in place?
- What exactly is included in the venue hire (furniture, equipment, WiFi, parking, etc.)?
- Are you allowed to bring in external vendors?
- If the venue offers catering, can you sample their menu in advance?
- How flexible is the physical setup? (Are you allowed to move furniture and equipment around?)
- Can you access the venue before the event? (You might want to do a dry run or start setting things up one day in advance.)
Asking these questions will not only help you decide whether the venue is suitable but also plan for things you'll need to do yourself. For instance, if the venue doesn't already have a full entertainment licence and you're planning to e.g. sell alcohol or arrange late-night music and dancing, you'll have to apply for a temporary events notice (TEN).
Got your answers? You're ready to select and book your venue of choice. Make sure you have all of the above details and other event-specific requirements explicitly outlined in the contract before you sign it.
4. Book the performers
These are the main stars of your event. It could be a celebrity speaker for your conference, an instructor for your fitness retreat, or the band for your music festival.
You probably already have a pretty good idea of who these people are, so it's now a matter of reaching out to them and making the necessary arrangements. It's always smart to try and secure the headliners first. Other performers are more likely to agree to participate if a famous name within their field is already on board.
When negotiating the contract, remember the following:
- Do your research: What kind of events did this performer attend in the past? How exactly does your event match their experience and preferences?
- Know your "must-haves": Do you want the speaker to just do a presentation or also to stay behind and participate in a workshop?
- Set your max price: It'll give you a starting point for contract negotiations and also serve as a "walk away" threshold if you can't reach an agreement.
As with the venue, make sure the contract outlines every important point.
5. Hire the vendors
This rather broad category includes anyone delivering a service or product for your event - from catering to decorations to photography and video capture during the event itself.
Remember: You've already made a budget for these vendor expenses, so you know what types of services you're looking for.
If you're in touch with other event planners, ask for their advice on the vendors. Many will have a vendor file outlining important details about each vendor, including pricing, permits held, insurances, and much more. It should help you narrow down the search.
Sites like AddToEvent let you receive qualified quotes from vendors based on your requirements.
When contacting the vendors, your list of questions to ask will be quite similar to the venue one: their experience with similar events, cancellation policy, necessary licenses, and so on. In the case of the vendors, though, don't be afraid to also ask for a few references from former clients.
Once you've agreed upon the conditions and signed a contract, add a follow-up reminder to yourself so that you regularly touch base to hear how they're progressing and to confirm that everything is on track.
6. Create an event page
This is where people will learn everything about your event and - eventually - sign up or buy tickets. Make it count!
You don't need to be a coder or know anything about creating websites to do this. For one, you can simply use Facebook to make a decent event page with all the basics in place.
But there are also companies - like Billetto - that not only let you make an event page but can handle much of the administration for you. (We'll touch upon this in the next point.)
Whatever option you choose, your event page should address the following:
- Event basics: When and where will the event take place? What's the agenda? Who will be speaking or performing?
- Contact info: Ideally, you'll address all practical questions in the event description, but do give people a way to contact you if they need to clarify something.
- Call to action: If people need to register or buy tickets, there should be a clearly visible button or form for them to take that step.
- Shareability: It should be easy for people to share your page with others.
Note: You don't have to wait until your tickets go on sale or registration opens to make an event page. Having a catchy, informative event page before your event is officially live allows you to start spreading the word and generating initial interest. Remember to make liberal use of your hashtag in the process.
7. Figure out the administration
Now comes the "How exactly do I manage the day-to-day stuff?" part. There are lots of questions to answer.
When people start registering for your event, how will you keep track of the guest list and available capacity? If you're selling tickets, in what format will you deliver them to buyers and how will you facilitate payments? On the day of the event, how will you cross-check the guest list or scan tickets at the door?
You can always decide to go low-tech and ask people to simply pay cash at the door when they arrive. Alternatively, you might want to make it possible for them to buy tickets online with their credit card.
Event ticketing sites like Billetto are built specifically to handle a lot of this boring administration work. They let you:
- Create an event and offer different tickets (free, paid, vouchers, sign-up, etc.)
- Accept credit cards and other payment methods
- Keep track of registrations and ticket purchases
- Enable ticket scanning at the door via an app
- ...and more
On a side note: Our platform costs nothing out of pocket, so there's zero risk in giving it a try.
Whether you use a ticketing platform or do things on your own, you'll have to find a way to address the above concerns.
8. Put together a promotion strategy
Now that your event is taking shape and you have an official event page, you should start thinking about how you'll be marketing it.
Your promotion strategy will largely depend on your target audience. Refer back to your event persona from Chapter One: Where is this person most likely to discover events? Are they checking social media or reading newspapers? Are you likely to find them in specific places where you can hand out flyers?
We'll be doing a deep dive into promotion in the next chapter. For now, it's enough if you just briefly outline two things:
- The types of promotional activities you'll be doing: Discounts, blog posts, social media updates, posters, etc.
- At what stages these activities will take place: Pre-event page, event launch, ongoing promotion, last-minute push, etc.
If you're feeling fancy, you may well create something similar to a Gantt chart for your marketing tasks - with activities in the columns and timelines in rows.
Your plan should also account for how much you'll be spending on your marketing efforts, if anything. Keep in mind that even if you don't have a big budget, there are plenty of free ways to promote your event.
9. Schedule a dry run
If your venue allows it, agree on a date for a dry run - a sort of "dress rehearsal" for the actual event. Invite your key vendors and performers so that you can emulate the day of the event as closely as possible.
A dry run will let you identify bottlenecks and other logistical challenges. It'll also familiarise everyone with the venue and its layout, so that you avoid unpleasant surprises on the day. (It's much better if the catering company knows exactly where the staff entrance to the kitchen is, instead of frantically searching for it during the event itself.)
Make sure everyone has the day of the dry run in their calendars and has confirmed their participation. You'll probably also want to set a reminder to yourself to follow up with the participants shortly before the date.
10. Make a contingency plan
It has to be said: No matter how thorough you are and how well your event is organised, things can go wrong. That's life. While you can always decide to only deal with issues as they come up, it's best to have a backup plan.
Here's what to do: Take a sheet of paper and a pen (or open up a spreadsheet, if you like to keep things virtual). Now split your paper into two columns. In the first column, write down the worst-case scenario you can think of for every aspect of your event (e.g. my key speaker doesn't show up).
In the neighboring column, write down what you can do to solve it (e.g. play a pre-recorded talk by that speaker or have another one on standby).
Do this for all the big deal breakers - missing food and drinks, malfunctioning music equipment, and so on. If it helps, you can group the risks into five categories:
- Physical (e.g. accidental damage to furniture)
- Team (e.g. someone getting sick)
- Technical (e.g. malfunctioning AV equipment)
- Legal (e.g. missing paperwork)
- Political (e.g. protests or new regulation)
You'll soon find that most bad situations can be salvaged, especially if you prepare a plan B in advance. You'll be far less likely to panic if things do not go according to plan, and you'll know exactly what to do in each situation!
In the third chapter, we'll focus on perhaps the most exciting part of the process: Promotion.
- For an even more comprehensive list of questions to ask the event venue: 41 Critical Questions for Choosing an Event Venue
- For great tips on selecting and hiring vendors: Why Vendors Can Make or Break Your Event
- For tips on making an event page: 5 Steps to Create a Killer Event Page
- Tools to use for an event page: 5 Awesome (Free!) Tools to Spice Up Your Event Page
- A step-by-step guide to making a contingency plan: How to Write a Contingency Plan
Planning a new event? Billetto is an event ticketing platform that lets anyone set up a beautiful event page in a matter of minutes. Easily embed videos, add images, and style your page as you like. Every event page on Billetto is designed to look great on all devices - mobile, tablet, or computer.
With Billetto, you can sell paid tickets, register guests, accept donations, or offer merchandise and food vouchers. Interested? Get started below or learn more about Billetto features.