7 Steps to Planning a Successful Work Function or Event

Friday, August 22, 2014 - 11:45

Guest post by Daniel Etter

When it comes time to plan your next big work function, group meeting or corporate event, you want to make sure everything comes off perfectly.

In the day to day of working for clients and pitching to new prospects, we sometimes forget the benefits of running successful internal work events and their positive impacts on workplace morale and productivity. Be it an employee awards night or team building day, making sure your event goes off with a bang will do wonders for workplace motivation, harmony and inclusivity. You’ll be encouraging staff to develop stronger bonds which really do carry over to teamwork activities in their day jobs.

Experienced event planners know that there are seven key steps to keep in mind as you work towards your event. By considering each of these seven steps you’ll be able to plan ahead, monitor your progress and prepare for an event that goes off without a hitch!

1. Determine your budget

The most important part of planning a function or event is to know  your budget beforehand. Don’t just estimate a budget number; actually break down your proposed budget into categories and determine exactly how much your company or group can spend on facilities, catering, printouts, and even “small” items like lanyards and nametags.

Don’t forget to add a contingency line; your event is probably going to cost more than you expect, and building contingency into your budget ensures you don’t accidentally overspend.

2. Know your audience

As you begin your event planning, ask yourself “what does your audience need to get out of this event?” If you are running a training seminar, make sure that the audience leaves the seminar with the tools they need to incorporate what they have learned during the training. If you are running a networking event, make sure you include plenty of time for audience members to interact with one another.

Taking the time to research your audience is paramount. You can build a substantial list of potential attendees by doing some homework first. Here’s a great post on finding your audience through LinkedIn – the biggest B2B online social networking tool on the planet.

Note: Don’t forget that your corporate client is also one of your audiences. If you are promoting a particular corporate mission or agenda, make sure that it is present in your event planning.

3. Obtain a presenter

Some event planners also present during the event, but many hire presenters do to the actual teaching and talking. Sometimes there is someone in your office or within your corporate relationship who is perfect for the presenting job, otherwise you might need to turn to third-party sources to hire your presenter. Look for someone who is engaging and who can speak expertly on the assigned topic in an entertaining manner.

4. Select and confirm your venue

In some cases, you will be able to use your office’s conference facilities for your meeting. However, if you are planning a larger event that will not fit into your existing conference space, you will need to select and confirm another venue. Many venues are booked months in advance, so secure your venue as soon as possible.

Make sure to consider factors such as location, parking, and offered amenities before making your final decision.

5. Secure your suppliers

Events do not happen on their own – you need caterers, audio/visual equipment companies, printers, banner designers, and a host of other staff and suppliers to get the job done. Take some time to talk with your corporate client about what the company wants the event to include. Do you need coffee available when guests arrive? Will lunch be served? Will each guest receive a complimentary pen, mug, notebook, or other corporate swag? The more items you include in your event, the more suppliers you will need to secure.

In some cases, the venue you choose will have its own preferred suppliers. This is most often the case with caterers; a specific venue will often have a pre-existing relationship with a catering company, and will require you to use that company if you want to work with that venue. If this is not the case, you will need to research and choose suppliers on your own.

6. Plan the schedule

Once you have your speaker, venue, and suppliers secured, you need to think seriously about the event schedule. This is one of the key parts of function planning, and many inexperienced event planners put it off until the last minute.

First, draft out the overall arc of the day

  • When attendees will arrive
  • When the session will start
  • When breaks will occur
  • When meals or refreshments will be served
  • When the event will end

Then, work with your corporate client and your selected speaker to plan the smaller details of the day. For example: how long will the first session run before there is a breakout activity? Ideally, you should change focus every 20 minutes – from lecture to breakout, or from lecture to Q&A – and plan a full rest break every 90 minutes, since this is generally the length at which people can focus their attention before needing to recharge.

Consider an energising activity towards the end of the session to beat the afternoon slump. Make sure to build in some buffer time so you don’t run into overtime.

Don’t forget to send your schedule to the attendees well in advance of the event!

7. Confirm all details before the event

You’d be surprised at how many miscommunications can happen before a major event. When planning a work function, always re-confirm numbers and details with your clients, venue and suppliers a few days before the event occurs. That way, you can make sure that there aren’t any surprises. This also includes confirming registration processes and details; many new event planners forget about this important part of the event, which often sets the tone for the entire day.

By learning how to use these seven secrets to plan your event, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an accomplished event planner. The next time your office asks you to plan a meeting or work function, follow these seven steps – you’ll be astonished at how well your event runs as a result.


Daniel Etter is the Senior Business Development Coordinator at VenuesWest, function room hire experts in Perth, Western Australia. You can find Daniel on LinkedIn and Google+.