The Event Planning Step by Step, Part 2: Putting It on Paper

All right! You’re done with the almost-entirely-mental part of the event planning process (as per last week’s post). Time to bring all of this abstraction back down to the level of concrete reality.

Step Six: Make It All Concrete
Thus far, most of what you’ve been doing is mental. Now, it’s time to make the vision you have as real as possible. The first step is to write down everything that you’ve envisioned, starting with a schedule of the event, hour by hour. This might flow easily, or you might realize that your vision is lacking some key elements. (The most commonly-missed are the everyday biological ones like food, bathroom breaks, a chance to get up and move around, and so on.) Once you’ve got the schedule down, show it to at least a few friends and ask them what you’re missing, particularly from the perspective of a participant/guest. This schedule will change, but it’s crucial to have it on paper so that you can perform the next few steps.

Step Seven: Check All The Rules
Before you proceed any further, you need to go carefully through all of the laws, regulations, ordinances, bylaws, policies, rules, ethics, and morals that converge around this event. While most events by nature don’t conflict with many of these, you’d be surprised how easy it is to fun afoul of a decade-old corporate bylaw, oft-ignored county ordinance, or unmentioned venue rule that can ruin your event if you don’t plan around it.

Step Eight: Record Your List of Necessities
Once you know that your vision is a go, imagine your way through each phase of the event several times: once as a guest, once as a serviceperson, once as a speaker or other central figure, and one more time as a guest. Write down every single little thing that your event will need to allow each person present to successfully perform their role. Don’t skip little details like napkins on the assumption that the venue will provide them, because you haven’t chosen your venue yet — you have no guarantee that your final selection will provide anything at all!

Step Nine: When and Where?
It’s finally time to choose the venue. For some people, this is the most challenging part — but if you’ve got your vision down pat, you’ll find that it’s surprisingly easy. Rather than trying to find a venue that captures your imagination as regards the event, you’ll find yourself asking how each given venue can express your vision — and you’ll find that most of them can! Once you’ve chosen your venue, check to see what (if anything) the venue itself will provide, and check those off of your list of necessities to obtain.

Step Ten: Choose Your Event’s Suppliers
This is the stage where you look over the rest of your necessities list and choose suppliers to ensure you have everything you need. Event furniture rental, lighting rentals, catering, expert speakers, and so on — everything that will be used by anyone that isn’t provided by the venue needs to be chosen. Research your options, take notes on which attributes of each option you like, and balance everything against your budget at every step.

Step Eleven: Checklists Galore!
As you decide each supplier, call them and ask them to provide you with a checklist of the time, space, and provisions they need to set up, tear down, and do any prep work they need to do before their part of the event occurs. Recreate your schedule with all of the relevant times recorded and a note of what provisions each vendor needs at each stage, and how you intend to get those provisions to that place at that time. Don’t forget that power consumption counts as a provision — check the venue to make sure you aren’t going to overload their electrical capacity!

That’s it! Your final schedule is the Master Document that you need to get your event off without a hitch. All you need to do now is execute — good luck!