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Planning an event can be a stressful experience if it’s not something you’re used to doing. Even something as seemingly simple as hosting a dinner party for friends can become a nightmare if not approached efficiently. However, using basic project management steps can remove some of the strain and turn a panicky approach into a smooth and systematic process.
Define your goal
The first step to planning any event is to realise that it’s about more than just throwing a great party. Of course you will want your guests to have a good time, but there’s always a particular motivation for hosting an event, and you need to know what it is to ensure that goal is met. The goal of your event will dictate the atmosphere required, which will affect your venue choice, catering, whether there should be music or perhaps a projector for a slideshow. It will even affect whom you invite.
You could be hosting an event with a very obvious goal in mind – a reception to celebrate a wedding, or a cocktail party to launch a new product. Even so, you need to be able to articulate your intentions, so as to be able focus your energy in the right direction.
Identify your resources and constraints
Your next step is to work out exactly what is required and what you already have. Take an inventory of any equipment or materials you still need, and decide what you can hire and what you need to buy. One of the most important things you need to do is work out a detailed budget. Without it, you might find yourself spending much more than you intended.
Time is another factor to consider. Work out your timeline carefully. When do you want your event to take place? How much time does that leave you for preparation? How much time will you need to set up on the day of the event?
Don’t forget to count people in your list of resources. Do you have a friend who is a caterer? Perhaps you know someone who can help you with the décor of your venue.
Develop a plan
Once you know what you're working with, you can work out exactly what needs to happen, how and when. If you have others working with you, gather your team and discuss who will do what, the timescale they will have to work in, and what each person will need to perform their tasks. Put all of this down in writing and try to break up the tasks as much as possible to make them manageable. For a business-related event, you also need to plan your publicity and marketing.
An important part of this step is planning for the unplanned. You should expect that things will go wrong at some point in the process and you should have backups in place wherever possible. For example, if your event is outdoors, what will you do in the case of bad weather? What if your caterer gets the flu the day before or your DJ just doesn’t turn up?
Implement and monitor
Once you know exactly what needs to be done, you can start working through your list. Book your venue and vendors as soon as possible. If the event is a corporate one, meet with any stakeholders regularly to keep them informed of your progress.
If you are managing a team of people, you need to monitor their progress as well as performing your own tasks. Keep the lines of communication open so that they feel comfortable approaching you if they hit a snag. If there need to be any changes in the plan, discuss these with the whole team.
Keep your to-do list up to date. Mark off the tasks that are done and if any task has to be postponed, be sure to clearly indicate the new deadline, so as to avoid finding yourself rushed at the last minute.
In project management, closing your project is just as important as any other stage. Even a private dinner party may require some post-event action. If you hired tablecloths or crockery, you need to return these in time and in good condition. Make sure all payments have been finalised and all contracts concluded.
If you have planned a corporate event for your boss, you’ll want to report back on your successes and any lessons learned that could assist your department with planning future events. Do this as soon as possible after the event to ensure that the details are still fresh in your memory.
This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license.