Outstanding events don’t just happen. From budget planning to finding the perfect venue and creating the right atmosphere, there’s a lot to take into consideration. Function planning can be a pretty tedious job – but it’s also one that’s fun, exciting and positively challenging too.
Whether it’s a professional trade dinner or a networking event, the task of booking the ideal function can be a hair-pulling stress – especially if it’s not your usual job. But, with the right tools, knowledge and creativity anyone can make it happen. So next time your boss puts you on the spot with the job, here’s what you need to know!
1. Creating Your Master Plan with a Comprehensive Brief
Your first step should be creating a strategic event brief that outlines your objectives. This document will help you to define your target audience and give you a structured approach to ensure you stay focused on achieving specific business goals.
Before you can begin to plan a successful function, you’ll need to be clear on what you’re doing in the first place and the objective of the event. This will ensure every decision you make afterwards supports your primary goal. Your brief should include information such as the event date, attendees, transport, time line, insurance, budget, invitations and general set-up. It’s ideal to keep contact information of any suppliers for the function and staff members helping out in the brief too.
Tip: Be as comprehensive as possible! When creating your brief consider the 3 essential points of function planning – organisation (it’s better to have more information than not enough), time management (prioritise the most important items first) and flexibility (have a backup plan and be flexible with guests).
Action Plan: Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely).
Once you’ve got a clear outline of the goals of the function, you’ll need to develop an expense budget. Consider everything from venue costs, to promotional materials, catering, outsourcing and staff time. Once you have a solid idea on how much spending has been approved for the big day, you’ll want to secure any bookings. Not only will you need to book the actual venue, but you’ll need to book in any entertainment and catering too.
Tip: Once your boss has approved or given you the budget, make sure you ask how much of this is set aside for the actual booking of the venue. Consider any transport costs too if the venue is far away.
Action Plan: If the function is bigger and budget is tight, consider crowdfunding opportunities to help raise money for the event or save dollars through sponsor donations. You’ll want to get onto this fairly early if you need funding assistance though.
3. Booking the Perfect Venue and Implementing Branding
Finding the right location and venue for the function is a skill in itself; consider how the venue and location will reflect on the organisation, accessibility and practicality. Research into different venues and location and consider finding an environment that sparks a sense of uniqueness. Whilst the office meeting room may be sufficient, a different environment can add immediate interest and excitement to the event.
Keep in mind when making your bookings, what other industry events are around the date. Check the calendar and make sure there’s no conflicting events that may prevent guests attending your function instead. Some flexibility and negotiation may be necessary. Once all your bookings are done, include relevant dates and times into your brief and notify everyone involved.
The next step will be branding your event to ensure the function is relevant to your business and main goals. Part of your branding may include promotional materials and signage at the function, business logo and key messages. Be sure too, to identify any sponsors or key partnerships where relevant.
Tip: When deciding on the perfect venue, create a list of a few possibilities in case something is booked out, too expensive or doesn’t work out. It can be helpful to make some essential points your venue or location needs to have to narrow down searches too. For example; consider what equipment the function needs to run smoothly and how your chosen venue can cater for this.
Action Plan: No venue will look the same on the website so before you book anything in, it pays to actually drive over and check it out. This way, you’ll gain a good feel for the place and ensure its service is exactly what you’re after. Check with other staff and utilise contacts for venue recommendations too.
4. Entertainment and Refreshments
All great events have some form of entertainment and refreshments. Depending on the size and purpose of your function, you’ll need to organise exactly what will be fitting with the main goal of the function and expense budget. Entertainment may simply be speakers and some short presentations, in which case you’ll need to ensure you have the right set up and equipment hire for these.
If you’re looking for something a little more entertaining, make sure the talent you’re considering is reliable and consistent with your key goals and business. Check out any references and demo videos to access the quality of the entertainment too.
Consider the catering for the function too. Regardless of how simple or extravagant the catering is, make sure there’s plenty of water available and you take into consideration any dietary requirements of attendees if relevant. If there’s alcohol involved with the event, be sure relevant liquor licenses are obtained and transport has been arranged to and from the function.
Tip: A general rule of thumb for catering is to allow a minimum of 15-minute refreshment breaks for up to 100 people. There should be one bartender for every 75-100 people and be sure to allow enough time for guest to network and socialise whilst eating/drinking too.
Action Plan: Incorporate any catering and entertainment contact numbers into your brief. Make sure all key staff have access to relevant numbers on the day and follow up with both entertainment and catering a week prior to the event.
5. Getting the Right People to Attend
Marketing of your event is one of the most important planning parts. Getting people to actually attend can be hard, so you’ll want to define a good reason for people to show up! Perhaps the function is a compulsory event for staff, in which case you’ll have a guaranteed amount of numbers but what about everyone else?
Lay out in writing, exactly why your target market should attend – don’t assume the benefits. Reach out to media if necessary and publicise the details of the function to the support base of any speakers who’ll be there on the day.
Tip: Early bird incentives and online registration are both great ways to secure as many attendees as possible. It’ll help to forecast event numbers and encourage people to act now instead of waiting.
Action Plan: Take advantage of social media. Networking channels like Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can help to promote the function and drive people to tell others too.
Planning for a successful function doesn’t have to be stressful. Armed with a little creativity and the main goals of the event, you’ll be able to pick the perfect venue to complement the big day, the right branding to boost your business and a decent crowd to create an ideal atmosphere on the day.
About the Author:
Jayde Ferguson writes for VenuesWest – Western Australia’s premier venue provider.