Veronique James is president of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s Arizona chapter and CEO of The James Agency, an integrated agency specializing in consumer advertising, public relations and digital marketing, based in Scottsdale, AZ. With summer party season in full swing, we asked Veronique what makes an event noteworthy and memorable. Here's what she shared.
Every event, party or celebration is unique, from casual dinner parties to black-tie fundraisers, and everything in between. While the size, occasion and audience may vary, well-planned, memorable events all have the same formula for success. Read on for a list of event planning tips to make your next fete a smashing success.
1. Clarify the Purpose
Define the event's clear, concrete objective(s) before planning ensues, and ensure all stakeholders agree. A defined purpose facilitates a cohesive overall event strategy and serves as a guide for critical decisions in the planning process.
2. Set a Line-Item Budget
Your budget will dictate the scope and aesthetic of your event. Identify every potential line item and give it a precise dollar value: food, beverage, rentals, venue, entertainment, staff, marketing, transportation and take-aways are a good start. If the budget won't budge, you have some tough decisions to make. You may need to scale back on the guest list, revisit your venue selection or compromise on food and beverage offerings, depending on which factors are most important. Remember that many vendors will negotiate and some may accept partial or full compensation in trade.
3. Define Your Target Audience
Who is your desired audience for this event? Inviting the right people will determine its success. Revisiting your pre-established event objectives will help determine the number of guests and specific invitees. The type of event will dictate your invitation method: is this an invitation-only black-tie affair or a product launch event open to the public to maximize attendance? Most importantly, identify VIPs and key stakeholders and get the event on their calendars well in advance.
4. Establish a Cohesive Theme
Now the fun begins. Brainstorm with key collaborators to establish a pervasive theme across all aspects of the event―invitations, decorations, menu items, beverages―to tie the entire event together and maximize the impact of your central theme. Consider high-end custom branded swag, which can include unique crowd-pleasers such as tech items, fitness accessories or even branded cookies or cupcakes.
5. Carefully Select the Date and Time
The when and where are critical, so select these details with great care. Check other local events calendars before committing to either a date or place to avoid unwanted competition for attendees. Your guest list and aesthetic will help determine the venue, which will ideally allow enough space for guests to mingle without feeling crowded, yet still foster an intimate feeling.
6. Curate Food and Beverage
The most carefully planned event in the most gorgeous venue will flop if the food and drinks are subpar or you run out mid-soiree. Select a reputable caterer or restaurant, and meet with them personally to taste the food you're selecting for the menu. Make sure your budget allows you to order enough for your maximum number of attendees, rounding up rather than down. Set your RSVP date for attendees so that you can honor the caterers' request for final head count, usually a week or two prior to the event.
7. Select Entertainment, Encourage Interaction
Live music is great, and live music interspersed with other performances across the venue will keeps guests engaged and entertained―and at the event for a longer time. Activations such as photo booths and step-and-repeat backdrops give guests a reason to interact with each other and your brand. Creating a hashtag for the event and posting it visibly throughout the venue will encourage guests to share photos and create buzz.
8. Prepare, Plan and be Flexible
Start from a broad perspective, identifying the event's overall concept, date and venue. Once these are confirmed, narrow in on details systematically. Starting from the time and date of the party, work backward to develop a detailed timeline that outlines daily and weekly tasks and the responsible party for each. Utilizing collaborative software or Google Docs may be helpful if your event is large in scale.
Behind-the-scenes work is essential to a successful event, and it's often more involved than you initially think it could be. Thoughtful, systematic planning will help to ensure your event's success. As the day approaches, distribute a detailed schedule to all speakers, staff and entertainment to ensure the event flows without a hitch. Have key collaborators attend a walk-through the week before to troubleshoot and establish event flow. Most importantly, always have a Plan B. If your keynote speaker cancels, who will fill in? If it rains at your outside event, where will guests take shelter? If there's an A/V glitch, who will solve the problem? Examine the details with a critical eye and from the perspective that anything could go wrong, and you will potentially thwart trouble before it brews.
There's no perfect party, but with thoughtful advance planning and an eye for detail, you can create a truly memorable event that resonates with your guests and meets your goals.