Prove ROI, impress stakeholders, delight sponsors—the stakes are high for event planners. You’ve got a lot to prove and a fixed timeline to do it.

Event planning can be intense, especially for large-scale performance-driven events. With so many details to manage, it’s challenging to stay organized and on track.

In this article, we will give you the event planning “big picture” and help you envision the event management process from a higher vantage point. We split up this high-level framework into five stages to give you a starting-off point to execute your detailed plan.

Event Management Process: The Five Stages of Event Planning

Whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid, every event goes through five stages of planning. We’re calling this the “event management process. The five stages are:

Event Management Process: The Five Stages of Event Planning

This article will provide an overview of these five main stages and link to more resources where you can dive deeper into more instruction.

1. Set ROI-Driven Event Goals and Objectives

The event’s over, and you deem it a success.

But was it really a success? How do you know? Are you able to quantify your success? What does event success mean to you? What does it mean to your clients?

Answering these questions is essential to determining whether or not your event was successful and how you can improve for the next one.

ROI-driven events start with setting the right goals and objectives. Goals form the foundation of your event strategy and guide your planning. Goals and objectives also help you define your key metrics and benchmarks to measure performance.

Defining event goals starts with a discovery process. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are you (or your client) hosting this event?
  • What does event success look like?
  • What do you hope to get out of the event?
  • What do you hope your attendees/sponsors get out of the event?

Your goals should also be specific and measurable. Setting an event goal of generating leads is too vague. Quantify your goal and add a time limit. A more specific goal would be: Generate 250 new signups by the end of the third quarter of 2021.

We went into much more detail on this subject in our recent article: How to Set Virtual Event Objectives (Plus 41 Event Metrics to Track).

2. Create a Solid Event Budget

Creating an event budget is critical. Not only will it help you avoid overspending, but it will give you a clearer picture of what you need to prove ROI. While the budget stage does not require deep planning, you’ll need to map out an initial plan or checklist that lists all of your event components. It’s also one of the first tasks of the event management process because it’s how you allocate the necessary resources for your event components.

Do your best to estimate costs for each line item and review historical pricing to get as close to an accurate estimate as possible. Also, get multiple estimates from vendors to narrow down your potential costs.

Start with the high-priced items such as the venue, catering, technology, production, staff, and technology. Those will eat up the majority of your budget. Tracking your actual expenses and how they compare to your initial budget will also keep you on track as you execute your plan.

Check out our article on event management planning if you need a checklist of planning essentials to map out your budget components.

Plus, get five event budget hacks to help you maximize spending and invest your event dollars wisely.

3. Design and Plan a Memorable Event


In this section, we’ll provide an overview of the major event planning components that you should think about when planning  ROI-driven events.

Choosing an Event Platform / App

Your event management platform becomes your event planning hub — the control center for all of your event details, activities, and components. For virtual and hybrid events, it can also act as your virtual stage and networking platform, where attendees can interact, engage in sessions, network, and build a strong community.

For in-person events, providing attendees with a mobile event app can help to guide their experience, allowing them to curate their own schedules and seamlessly network with other attendees and sponsors.

Socio’s mobile event app

Socio’s mobile event app

But what type of platform should you choose? The size of your event will help you determine the event management tools or software. For large-scale immersive events, partner with an end-to-end event management platform like Socio, that provides everything you need to run successful events under one roof.

If you’re running a smaller webinar-based event, look into a tool like Cisco’s Webex, which provides superior webinar capabilities, plus engagement activities to engage your attendees fully.

Speaking of Cisco and Webex, did you know that Socio is now part of Cisco? We joined forces to create the world’s first completely end-to-end hybrid event and meeting technology suite. Learn more about how we are joining forces to transform the event industry.  

For more information on event software, check out some of the top event management tools in the space.

Implement Seamless Event Registration

Complexity and chaos are common during event registration. From getting registrants to fill out your forms to capturing and keeping track of registrant data from initial registration to check-in, event registration can get complicated rather quickly.

But event registration doesn’t have to be complex. When choosing event planning software, look for automated registration capabilities that facilitate seamless online registration and virtual and in-person check-in.

Seamless event registration should incorporate the following details:

  • Automated
  • Collects and tracks attendee data
  • Segments attendee data (advanced feature)
  • Secure payments
  • Dynamic ticketing
  • Ticketing tiers
  • Instant funding
  • On-site check-in/badge reading (if applicable)

Assembling Event Committees

Large events call for focused and well-managed teams that can execute the event plan. The size of your teams will depend on the size of your event. The types of teams will depend on the kind of event.

For example, all event types will require IT resources and tech assistance, but hybrid and in-person events will also need an on-site production team to set up and run production equipment, manage the stage, etc.

In addition to assigning roles, you’ll need to create schedules, manage tasks, write contracts, review proposals, create and manage milestones and deadlines, and define workflow and communication. Your team members can assist you with this as well.

To get you started, here are some likely committees you’ll want to consider, organized by category. Each committee may consist of one or more people depending on the size and scope of your event.

Assembling Event Committees

Tech and Production

Your technology and production requirements will depend on the size and type of your event. Below we outlined some event details to guide your tech/production planning.

Hybrid and in-person events:

  • AV equipment
  • Production stage
  • Projectors
  • Backup equipment
  • Test runs
  • Tech staff
  • WiFi
  • Mobile event app

For hybrid events, you’ll need in-house production and AV equipment for your in-person guests, and a virtual stage for virtual attendees.

Virtual events:

When considering your event technology, walk through your event’s activities and features and figure out the tools and staffing required to execute them.

  • Do you want to re-publish and share your event content at a later date? You’ll need video recording, editing, and hosting.
  • Do you want your virtual audience asking questions and chatting live? You’ll need a sophisticated tool that fosters real-time virtual attendee engagement.
  • Do you want in-person event attendees to network and curate their own content schedules seamlessly? Look into using a mobile event app.

Walk through your entire event plan and secure the proper technology tools and staffing each feature requires. For more information on event technology, this article goes into detail on 21 essential event management tools.

Provide Engaging and Fun Activities

What are the top reasons people attend events? They want to learn, interact, and most of all, network and establish professional relationships. Providing a seamless networking experience and coupling it with high-engaging and fun activities, will reward attendees with an immersive event experience that makes a lasting impression.

It’s easier to keep in-person event attendees engaged, however. A good mixture of a great emcee, engaging activities, food, open spaces, networking/collaboration, and fun entertainment (comedy, magic, acrobats) will be more than enough to engage in-person attendees.

It’s trickier to keep virtual attendees from getting distracted or losing interest. Imagine if your mother calls while your text messages blow up at the same time your friend posts three times on your Facebook wall—this is more than enough to steal your focus. Planning memorable virtual events require in-depth engagement features to prevent distraction. Below are some ideas:

  • Live chat, polls, Q&A
  • Gamification (friendly challenges, virtual scavenger hunts, leaderboard games)
  • Social walls (event-wide social wall where attendees communicate, share photos, etc.)
  • 1:1 and group networking
  • Video rooms (targeted to attendee interests)
  • Virtual classes and activities (cooking, meditation, etc.)

Get an in-depth look at the industry’s latest engagement tools that wow attendees (plus real-life examples). Register for our webinar: The Fun Starts Here: How to amaze, delight, and engage your event attendees!

Networking and Sponsors

One of your event goals might be generating revenue which means sponsor relationships are critical to achieving ROI.

How do you maximize sponsor buy-in for your event? The key to landing the right sponsors is to give them more than enough reasons to work with you (present them an offer they can’t refuse). But how?

You need data—and lots of it.

Verbally assuring sponsors that your event will provide value might not be enough to seal the deal. Actual data speaks volumes. If possible, provide data on past events that prove sponsor ROI and wow them with unique attendee-networking opportunities and ways to showcase their brands.

Here are some ideas:

  • Lead Retrieval (Sponsors can capture, qualify and export their leads directly to their CRM)
  • Sponsor Video Rooms (Demos, networking, presentations)
  • Tiered packages (VIP upgrades)
  • In-app sponsor profiles
  • Networking opportunities with their target audience and packages
  • Sponsored content sessions
  • Sponsor booths and exhibits
  • Banners (in-person and virtual)

Marketing and Promotions

Once your event plan and branding come together, it’s time to start marketing your event. We recommend planning your marketing at least 3-6 months before the event, depending on the event type. In-person events require heavier planning. Give yourself enough time to generate buzz and course-correct should you notice low registration numbers.

Effective event marketing hails from a clearly defined marketing strategy that relies on market research data. While guesswork and hunches might find their way into promotional campaigns, the best strategies rely on sound data. Plus, well-rounded marketing strategies can narrowly predict event success because your tactics focus on a deep understanding of your target audience.

How do you know what tactics to use for your event marketing and promotional campaigns?

Here’s a diagram of the process:

event marketing steps
  1. Your market research (internal and external) identifies your target audience and their behaviors, interests, problems, etc., which make up your customer personas.
  2. Combine your event goals with your market research to create an event marketing strategy. Your strategy is the game plan of how you’ll reach your event goals and objectives and measure performance. For more information on creating event goals, objectives and metrics, check out our article on setting virtual event objectives.
  3. Your marketing strategy defines your marketing tactics, the tasks you’ll execute daily that help you fulfill your strategy.

Below are some example event marketing and promotion tactics:

event marketing tactics

4. Coordinate the Day of the Event

After months of planning, the day has nearly arrived. All of your hard work is finally coming together.

To ensure event-day success, create a minute-by-minute event walkthrough for your internal teams that specifies each activity and team responsibility. The walkthrough is a final checklist that covers logistical details, roles, assignments, and event scheduling.

Here is an example of an event-day checklist:

Coordinate the Day of the Event

Immediate changes might be necessary to keep attendees engaged and ensure seamless event experiences. Having access to real-time performance data during your event is essential to fixing potential issues. Work with an event platform that enables you to capture real-time data.

socio data dashboard
Socio’s comprehensive Data Dashboard captures data in real-time for top-level and granular metrics. 

5. Evaluate Your Event’s Performance and Power Future Events

The event is over. Congrats!

Was it a success? You may feel great about how it went, but you won’t truly know until you look at and evaluate the data.

Below are some factors you might want to dig into:

  • Your event goals
  • Forecasting goals
  • Other KPIs / metrics
  • Sponsor impressions
  • Attendee impressions
  • Event committee performance

Some of these will require you to export data from your event management platform or event software. You can also evaluate more qualitative data like attendee and sponsor feedback, and responses to post-event surveys.

Once you’ve gathered all of the necessary data and feedback, review, share, and discuss your findings in order to make your next event even better!

Effortlessly Plan Seamless and Rewarding Events With Socio

Effortlessly Plan Seamless and Rewarding Events With Socio

Socio is your partner in event planning. Founded by event pros, we know firsthand the challenges (and angst) you face when planning a large-scale event. You’re pulled in many different directions and required to meet (and exceed) event goals.

But we’ve got your back! Socio is an end-to-end event management platform that takes the difficulty and frustration out of event management and makes event planning seamless and rewarding.

From award-winning support and advanced analytics to high-powered engagement tools and state-of-the-art technology, it’s easy to understand why brands such as Google, Stanford University, and thousands more in 70+ countries use Socio to power their events.

Need training? Professional services? Assistance with planning? Socio has you covered there as well. The comprehensive event platform is a one-stop shop for all of your event management needs.

Want to see Socio in action and take it for a test drive? Request a personalized demo here and take a behind-the-scenes tour of Socio’s event platform. Discover how Socio can partner with you to simplify event management and create unforgettable event experiences

Olivia VanCuren
Olivia VanCuren

Content Marketing Specialist @ Socio. Words enthusiast. Passionate about events that foster meaningful connections.