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A Beginner’s Guide to Planning an Event: A 6-Month Timeline

Event planning — planning a party, a conference, a speaker event, a networking dinner, or a baby shower — sounds easy. But even the brightest of minds often end up screwing it up. Because it is tedious, administrative, and worse still, actually hard! “It’s supposed to be easy!” You say to yourself, “how could I possibly screw this up?

photo-1506485338023-6ce5f36692dfBefore we dive into the guide proper, let’s highlight two commons reasons why people fail at event planning:

  1. It is difficult to know what to prioritise. When planning events, certain planning must come before others. For example, you can’t order food before you compile your RSVPs, that means you need to calculate enough leeway time for your guests to reply to RSVPs and still have time to order the right amount of food. In other words, if you screw up the order of planning you do, you screw up everything.
  2. Unexpected circumstances can disrupt your plan, so you need to be prepared to be flexible and accommodate changes. You may have secured your food caterer. But the RSVPs started coming in and some of your guests are vegetarian! You are completely caught off guard, and there is way too little time to change your caterer… We want to teach you how to avoid these situations.

Here’s Delegate’s 6-month guide for event planning beginners:

1. First and Second Month

(the to-do list is in sequential order. Do the first bullet before you do the second.)

  • Set a date. Avoid holiday festivals, or dates when another major event is going to happen among your guests (e.g. another networking event at your firm, another common friend’s wedding. etc.).
  • Invite speakers, performers, or emcee for your event. Make sure they are free during that date you just set.
  • Formulate a budget. Take into account the cost of venue, speaker (if any), food, decor, etc.  
  • Determine a rough skeleton of the schedule, or programme sequence on the event day itself.
  • Determine your party/event’s theme. Useful to use an mood-board to visualise what your party would look like: what colour scheme, what kind of venue, what time of the day, etc.

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2. Third Month

  • Book your venue, and choose a backup venue. Always err on the side of booking a smaller venue rather than a bigger one. If the turn-out isn’t great, a smaller venue can do a lot to make it look cozy and crowded. Choose a backup venue of another size in case your RSVPs are too overwhelming. Also take into account rainy days! Always have an indoor option or backup if needed.
  • Start purchasing decor and acquiring equipments. Holding a party? Start getting your balloons, table cloth, silverware, etc. Holding a business event? Start getting your hands on mics, powerpoint slides from speakers, projector, or podium.  
  • Formulate your guest list. Compile their emails, or choose the avenue you are using to reach them (e.g. letter invitations? Facebook? Is an Eventbrite ticket needed?).

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3. Fourth Month

  • Set up a sign-up form or draft your invitations email/letter. Include a deadline for your guests to get back to you. Ideally by the end of the fifth month. Also include a question about dietary restriction if there is going to be food at your event, as well as one about dress code.
  • Start designing your brochure or poster for the event-day as well as publicity.
  • Start marketing your event if needed. Otherwise, start sending out your invitations.

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4. Fifth Month

  • Create a Facebook event page.
  • If you haven’t been getting enough RSVPs, start sending out invitations to another list of guests.
  • Send your poster or banner to print if needed.
  • Collect payment from guests if needed.
  • Start formulating a more detailed, final timeline for the event day itself. When is food coming in? When are guests flooding in? When should the balloons and decors be set up?

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5. Sixth Month — One month left leading up to event!

  • Order food! Whether you have decided to get dessert, refreshments, or full-course dinner, you can find and book them at Delegate.
  • Email or post on Facebook to remind your guests a week leading up to the event.
  • Find a photographer, or exploit your photographer friend, to take photos on the event day.
  • Send your speakers, emcee, and guests the detailed programme of the event day.
  • Make sure all the equipments needed on that day are ready.

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6. Event Day  

  • Select your background music playlist, play it.
  • Have a list of contacts at hand (i.e. mobile number of your caterers, your mcee, and your guests), in case any of them doesn’t show up.
  • Make sure you attend to all of your important guests or speakers, and greet them properly.

(Image Credit: Unsplash, Pinterest)

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