The event planning process is a long and winding road with surprises around every corner. If you want to host a successful event that attendees won’t soon forget, you’ll need to expect the unexpected. In other words, you need to plan each aspect of the event down to every last detail. 

Truly memorable events have the power to last a lifetime in the hearts and minds of attendees fortunate enough to have experienced them. But organizing the event? That’s a lot more complicated. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of event management, what it takes to be an event planner, and how you can navigate the complexities of the planning process from start to finish. We’ll also include tips and tricks you can use to simplify the journey and throw a special event that will amaze your attendees and sponsors alike.

What is event planning?

Image of businessman working at work table with glasses, computer, and paper planner

Event planning is the process of coordinating every facet of an event. This involves creating a comprehensive event plan, which is a document that defines all the logistics involved in hosting a successful event. An event plan typically covers:

  • Budget
  • Venue
  • Target audience
  • Event date and details
  • Event promotion
  • Sponsors, vendors, speakers, and special guests

Events can range in size and complexity but irrespective of whether you’re organizing a large event or a small corporate retreat, it always pays to be a few steps ahead. By mapping out your entire event, you can organize contingencies in case of an emergency and successfully overcome the challenges of the event planning process.

What’s the difference between event planning and event management?

The truth is that there are few differences between the two terms. Both an event manager and planner are focused on the same outcome: organizing the event as effectively as possible. Whereas an event planner may work closely with clients to conceptualize and coordinate the event, a manager may be more involved in overseeing the execution of the event plan.

Types of events

The COVID-19 pandemic initially forced in-person gatherings to move online in 2020. Ironically, this transition helped event organizers realize the potential that online formats have in the event planning industry. Propelled by these possibilities, the global events market is expected to surpass $2 trillion by 2028, according to Verified Market Research.

Today, there are three types of events that can be planned:

  1. In-person events: Traditional face-to-face gatherings, such as a trade show, conference, or corporate event.
  2. Virtual events: The entire event is hosted virtually using event management software. Attendees, speakers, and sponsors participate by tuning into a broadcast of the event.
  3. Hybrid events: In-person gatherings that include a virtual component are known as hybrid events. They aim to connect physical and virtual aspects into a cohesive experience.

Virtual event planning

Organizing a virtual event follows much the same planning process as a traditional event, but with a few important differences. Because they’re hosted entirely online, virtual event planners don’t need to worry about the venue, hotel accommodations, and other logistical considerations associated with in-person event planning. As a more accessible alternative to traditional event planning, 38% of event planners are using virtual events to reach a wider audience, according to EventMB.

However, virtual events aren’t without their challenges. When planning a virtual event, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • How will I keep virtual attendees engaged for the entire event?
  • What tools will help sponsors reach their target audience?
  • How will speakers participate in the virtual event?
  • How will attendees connect with their fellow participants?

For more details on how to plan a successful virtual event, check out our Virtual Event Planning Guide.

What does it take to be an event planning professional?

Breaking into the event planning industry isn’t easy. But the good news? Opportunities are on the rise.

In fact, event planning employment is projected to grow by 18% between 2021 and 2031. That’s over 16,000 openings each year for the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this growth is much greater than the average for all occupations.

Event planning skills

There are certain qualities and capabilities that event planners should possess if they want to succeed in the industry. These abilities include:

  • Time management: Time is of the essence when planning an event. Knowing how to manage your time wisely is an important part of keeping events on track. You need to know when to say no, when to automate your workflow, and how to free up your schedule to get critical tasks done before the big day.
  • Budgeting: Staying within budget is one of the top three measures of event success, according to Skift. But it’s also what 80% of event organizers consider their biggest challenge. Being able to plan a realistic budget while still delivering a special event is a unique and important skill when it comes to event planning.
  • Networking: Connections are at the heart of the event planning process. Being able to network and promote yourself is a big part of securing long-term relationships with big-name sponsors and vendors. It’s also how you entice special guests to appear at your event and wow your target audience.
  • Technology: As more events incorporate virtual aspects, it’s increasingly vital that planners know how to use event technology. Fortunately, 73% of event professionals have grown proficient at using tech since the start of the pandemic. At least half consider themselves savvy with virtual event technology.

Event planning certification

Overhead image of woman with dark hair at desk typing on laptop with a planner, books, a plant, and coffee around her

You don’t need to be a certified event planner to work in the event planning industry. However, like many professions, earning a certification has its upsides.

Continuing your education sends the signal that you’re invested in improving yourself. Better yet, it shows a prospective event planning business that you’re serious about working in the industry.

For instance, you can become a certified special events professional after three years of employment in the industry. This verifies that you not only have experience in planning events but also understand the essential elements of a successful event and can think critically about executing them. 

Want to learn more about event planning certification? Check out our blog for more details.

Planning a successful event step by step

As previously mentioned, the event plan includes an exhaustive list of important details you need to coordinate over the course of the planning process. Think of it as the map you use to navigate the long road ahead. But before charting a course and embarking on your journey, it’s important to have all your ducks in a row. 

To help you create an effective event plan, let’s overview the most essential steps in the planning process:

1. Setting event goals

Establishing an event goal is one of the most important decisions you make as an event planner. Goals come in all shapes and sizes: revenue, brand awareness, ticket sales, fundraising, attendance, lead generation, etc.

What’s important is that your aim reflects your event’s purpose. All events should have a reason why they’re being organized in the first place.

Why are you hosting this event? What do you hope to achieve? How will you measure its success? Finding the answers to these questions can help you define your goals and objectives.

2. Choosing your event format

How will attendees experience your event? Is it in-person, virtual, or hybrid?

This is a critical decision because it greatly affects the rest of the planning process. If you plan a virtual event, you’ll have no need for convention centers, catering, or travel. But if it’s in-person or hybrid, there are many more factors to consider. 

3. Assembling a team 

A group of people stand in front of a plant wall at an event

A successful event requires a team of professionals working in concert to turn the vision into reality. Each team member will have their own role and responsibilities. For example, a venue coordinator is responsible for all things related to your event space: booking, insurance, stage, setup, etc.

Other roles include:

  • Event manager
  • Marketing coordinator
  • Volunteer manager
  • Entertainment chair
  • Speaker chair
  • Sponsor manager

4. Budgeting for the event

Creating a budget allows your event team to generate realistic ideas within set parameters. The budget should factor into every decision you make, which is why it’s such an important aspect of event planning.

When deciding on your budget, consider all the critical expenses you need to account for. This process will be much simpler if you’ve already decided on your event format. Some important line items include:

  • Venue
  • Catering
  • Entertainment
  • Staff compensation
  • Event promotion
  • Audiovisual production costs
  • Event technology
  • Speaker fees, travel, and hotel accommodations

5. Choosing event technology

Today’s events depend on having resourceful and comprehensive technology, especially if they’re virtual or hybrid. Event management software is the holy grail of event tech.

Why? Because it’s the single source of truth your team uses to coordinate every aspect of your event leading up to and during the production. And if you’re incorporating a virtual element, software doubles as an event space.

6. Deciding on an event date

A man working at a laptop that shows a calendar on the screen with a date circled

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing your event date. Obviously, you want to give yourself enough time to coordinate logistics before the event kicks off. It’s also important to schedule the event at a time you know your target audience is most likely to be able to attend. Be aware of major holidays or school breaks when potential attendees are probably at home with their families.

7. Engaging partners, vendors, and sponsors

Sponsors and vendors can help cut the costs of your event by contributing funds or other resources. Establishing big-name partnerships is a great way to attach credibility to your event and generate excitement.

8. Booking a venue

Large empty auditorium or theater with padded seating

If your event is hybrid or in-person, identify a venue that works best for your event date and attendees. Scope out a location that makes sense for your target audience and has the capacity to meet your attendance needs and technology requirements.

9. Planning event content

How will you keep attendees engaged during the event? That’s where content plays a big role. Discuss with your team what type of content your audience will enjoy. This might include live music, breakout sessions, networking activities, and gamification.

Interested in learning more about planning event content? Check out part four of our Event Camp Summer Series on creating and reusing event content.

10. Scheduling speakers, guests, and exhibitors

Reach out to special guests relevant to your event topic and theme. Think about who your audience would most likely engage with or buy a ticket to see. 

11. Marketing the event

Event promotion is what drives event attendance and helps you meet your goals. Create a separate event marketing plan that details your strategy from top to bottom so that you can execute it most effectively.

Take your event to the next level with an event management platform

Image of Webex Events event management platform

Modern event planning is all about leveraging technology to your advantage. Not only does it streamline the process, it also simplifies the many complexities of providing an engaging experience.

With a comprehensive event management platform like Webex Events, you can expect to gain:

  • Automated registration: Build a branded registration experience and capture the data that matters most to your event.
  • Engagement tools: Live Q&A, gamification, and more fun tools stun all types of attendees while keeping them entertained from beginning to end.
  • Sponsorship opportunities: Drive value for your partners with sponsor profiles, virtual booths, banner ads, and more.
  • Networking: Modernize networking with seamless breakout rooms, video conferences, and more ways to connect with your attendees.
  • Simplified ROI: Measure ROI and gather performance data in real time to demonstrate success during and after an event.

Want to learn more about event management software? Schedule a demo today and see how Webex Events can help you plan unbelievable event experiences.