20 Steps to Planning an Event Backwards

In this article i want to share a planning template we use to planning an event backwards. A lot of people are asking us what is the good way to do event planning, so i decided to share our approach in this article. We will talk about my method for creating a timeline we use for event management, venue research, invitation design/ production, food and drink menu & logistics .

This method is the result of 30 years experience in event planning & production. Event planning is complex, there are many moving parts that must come together perfectly to make something great happen.

Most people think we just put up some flyers and we’re done when planning an event, but it’s way more than that. As you will see below, organizing an event can be quite complicated and require a lot of work and attention to detail.

If you decide to use this template for planning an event follow these steps exactly as they appear here, understand that there is always room for improvement and adaptation to your particular situation, but it is certainly a good beginning point.

A great event will require months of planning , so you need to start as early as possible. Here are 20 steps that will help you achieve the best results :

1- Be clear on what you want to do.

Define exactly what the purpose of the event is and who the target audience is.

2- Finalize Date & Time

After you have decided on all aspects of your events Mission, Vision, Theme, now it’s time to select the date and time. Pick something that hasn’t been done before when planning an event . You can always try moving the date if necessary. Keep in mind things like availability of venues, speakers, promoters etc. Choose an odd date or time that will attract a specific crowd.

3- Define the Budget

The budget is important when you are planning an event, this will prevent you from going overboard with things and make you cut where you need to cut. Don’t go crazy here, plan for a realistic amount of attendees and guests, it’s okay to have a smaller event , there is nothing wrong with that ! We have an in depth article about how to set budgets to your event.

4- Registration & Marketing

Get people excited about attending the event by promoting it online through social media ( Facebook events , Instagram hashtags etc..) Post flyers in your neighbourhood your email list, send press releases to blogs newsletters that you are planning an event. On the day you can hand out fliers on campus or near public transport hubs. If possible try finding an ambassador to help spread the the word.

Information about the speakers (names, contact details) – if not known yet, write ‘speakers to be confirmed’ instead; include short paragraph about who they are, their relevance to the topic you are covering, why have you invited them.

5- Get a venue

When you are planning an event the location doesn’t necessarily need to be an expensive one. If possible try finding space that is free of charge or get creative with it by hosting your event outside (park/beach). Always get written permission before hosting your event outside, who knows it might turn out to be an awesome idea!

6- Create Schedule

Community events usually run from 9am until 1pm or 2pm. This can be adapted to different time frames depending on the event ( workshop, panel discussion etc..)

7- Themes & Activities

Brainstorm activities and themes when you are planning an event that will take place. We like to keep it interactive and fun for our audience, so it’s a good idea to have a few interesting things going on before and after the event. It also gives your guests an opportunity to network with each other & speakers.

8- Find Speakers / Emcee

If you already know some people that can speak on your subject, then go for it ! It doesn’t matter if they are known or not, as long as they are engaging and speak from their hearts (it shows in their speech when someone believes in what they are saying). If you don’t know any speakers yet , then try reaching out to people that work within the industry through social media (twitter/instagram etc.) and tell them you are planning an event. People usually respond well if you’re polite and friendly about asking them .

9- Create Speaker Profile

List the speakers names, contact details and short paragraph about who they are, their relevance to the topic you are covering, why have you invited them.

10- Promote Event

Reach out to as many people as possible through social media (facebook events, instagram hashtags etc.), when you are planning an event send press releases to relevant blogs and newsletters. Handout fliers on campus or near public transport hubs. You can also post flyers in your neighbourhood or around your office. The more people know about it , the better!

11- Invite attendees

You will need to create a list of people you would like to attend the event. Try notifying them through social media (facebook events, Instagram hashtags) or directly by email. Also try reaching out to local universities and student groups that are related to your industry/subject.

12- Create Graphics & Logos

If you’re doing this yourself, always make sure it looks professional with high quality graphics & logos (Printable flyers). Don’t forget about the look and feel of posters once printed out . Make sure they are eye catching enough with bright colors. its important to have high quailty visuals when you are planning an event.

13- Venue Set Up

Try to be there early to help set up the room, it will save you a lot of time and stress on the day to run the event management tasks. Make sure your A/V equipment is ready to go (monitor/screen/speakers) – If needed ask for help from anyone that can assist with planning the event . It’s always good to have a back-up plan just in case anything goes wrong at the last minute.

14- Food & Beverages

Provide food and drinks throughout the day – if you want to keep costs low , think about having tea, coffee & some light snacks on hand for everyone. Avoid selling any food or drink as it sometimes gives people a headache!

15- Event Start Time

A few days prior to your community event send out a reminder email/post on social media with the event time and all necessary information about how to get there.

16- Be Clear & Concise

Include all details, times, people that are speaking, location etc. in your email so they don’t have to look for it . If you need help writing a press release or organizing an event.

17- Event Cleanup

Once the event is over make sure everything is packed up and returned back to its original state (if possible) – we always give back whatever materials we use to the venue after each event.

18- Follow up

Try following up with everyone that attended your community outreach program within a week’s time, just sending them a short message thanking them for their time is enough.

19- Learn from what does not work

It’s okay if things don’t go as planned , you’re human! Take note of all the pros and cons that came out of your community event, this way you can improve on the next one through trial and error.

20- Keep Going!

Plan to repeat these outreach events frequently at least every other month . If you are planning an event once a year it will be hard to build up momentum amongst your community following. Consistency is key when trying to have any sort of impact within your industry.