For some admins, the mere thought of event planning is enough to make them dive under their desks and quiver in fear. For others, being asked to plan an event is like hitting the lottery…on your birthday…while sitting on a tropical beach.
Love it or hate it, you’ll probably need to tackle event planning occasionally, even if it’s not in your job description. Do it poorly and you’ll be known as the blundering admin who didn’t know how to plan a party. Do it well, and you’ll be an admin hero!
Wondering how to plan an event everyone will remember for years to come? The key is to book the best vendors and suppliers in the business because they know how to plan an event. But who are these people and where do you find them?
How to Plan an Event? First Identify Vendors and Suppliers
The nature of your event will determine which vendors and suppliers you need. Is it an intimate team dinner in a downtown restaurant or a catered company picnic at the park? Will you be renting transportation to deliver your guests to their location, or is everyone responsible for their own ride? Do you need signs, banners, invitations, or handouts?
Make a list of everything you need for your event. Here’s one to get you started:
- Venues – Hotels, event centers, corporate meeting rooms, restaurants, or spaces that typically host company events, such as wineries, theme parks, ballrooms, and so on
- Travel partners – Airlines, car companies, and ground transportation
- Food and beverage suppliers – Caterers, restaurants, distilleries, and breweries
- Event services and rental companies – Chairs, tablecloths, napkins, and decorations
- Technical production – DJs, lighting, music, sound technicians, and audio-visual support
- Media production – Photographers and videographers
- Collateral material – Signs, banners, handouts, and other promotional items
Early on in your planning, create a checklist that you can refer to as you go. No one wants to be the person who forgets to book the DJ or who orders tons of food but no drinks!
Find All-Star Vendors and Suppliers
Once you know what you need, it’s time to go out and make those calls.
Ask colleagues, friends, or family for their best tips on how to plan a great party or event. Did you absolutely love the lemon sage chicken your cousin served at her wedding last summer? Get the caterer’s name. Does the accounting team still rave about the fantastic spa at the hotel they stayed in for their annual retreat two years ago? Check it out for yourself.
Word of mouth is the best way to find the vendors and suppliers you need to make your event the talk of the town, but what if no one has a recommendation for one aspect of your event? In this case, you need to do the legwork yourself. (Don’t worry—this is the fun part!)
Start attending events in your community. Check out the chamber-of-commerce banquet. Accept the invitation to your neighbor’s sister’s wedding. Go to the gala at the museum. Event planning gives you an excuse to don your fanciest clothes and step out on the town. It also exposes you to vendors and suppliers you might not otherwise meet.
If all else fails, reach for the (virtual) yellow pages and do an online search for how to plan a party. But tread carefully. A Cornell University study found that we’re frequently duped by phony reviews. Don’t book a vendor or supplier off glowing (likely inflated) reviews. Instead, take the time to meet and speak with them, sample their wares (or services), and make your own decision.
You Have Your All-Star Vendor Team—Now What?
You’ve assembled the best of the best vendors. Now what do you do with them?
Since your budget plays a big role in event planning, you need to talk money first. How much do they charge for their services, and what does that include? If two extra people show up, how much extra is the caterer going to want? If two dozen RSVPs don’t show up, do you recoup any of your costs?
Next, discuss special accommodations. Does your caterer have gluten-free options for guests with food sensitivities? Is the photographer willing to take a panorama? If the meeting runs over, will the hotel shuttle be available for getting your guests to the evening social event or the airport?
Finally, make sure everything is agreed on and contracts are in place before your event occurs. Don’t rely on the DJ’s word that he’ll stay an hour extra for the same hourly rate you agreed on; get it in writing. Only sign on the dotted line when you’re sure all the details are in order.
How to Plan the Post-Event Followup
Phew! It’s over, and it all went perfectly. Your attendees had a great time, your vendors and suppliers have checks in their pockets, and you have a fantastic event to feature in your professional portfolio!
But your job isn’t over yet.
Follow up with the companies who made your event a success. Send them a thank-you note. Give them a glowing review on their website or social media pages. Ask for a few business cards to hand out to your colleagues and friends. Showing your appreciation and strengthening your relationship with your vendors and suppliers can only work in your favor.
The next time you’re asked to plan an event, you’ll have plenty of trusted people to call on—and you might even be able to negotiate a discount, too!
Now that you’ve learned how to compile your all-star team of vendors, learn the ten steps of how to plan an event!