How to Plan an Event When You’re Not an Event Planner

April 21, 2020  |  by:

Were you asked to plan an event but don’t know the first thing about event planning? Don’t worry; these basics will get you through it!

Event planners are creative, detail-oriented, flexible, organized, and prepared for anything – but what if you’re none of those characteristics? If you were tasked with planning an event but lack the words “event planner” in your job description, have no fear! Keep these event planning basics in mind and you’re bound to host a successful event.

How to Plan an Event When You're Not an Event Planner
Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels

Attendee registration 101

Take it from the experts, keeping an organized attendee list is crucial and that begins with an easy signup system. You can automate the signup process by funneling signups through event planning software. If that’s not available, use a survey from Google Forms or TypeForm to gather attendee and signup information. Voila – your survey results become the base of your attendee list that you can manually manage from there.

Communication is key when planning an event

From event conception through execution, consistent and clear communication is your best friend. It’s vital to be direct with attendees and anticipate their questions to avoid a cluttered inbox later.

Set up automated emails that send from predetermined triggers like actions or dates. For example, send a “thank you for registering” email as soon as an attendee signs up. Then, schedule a FAQ email one week before the event to help answer common questions like dress code, start times, parking instructions, etc.

Just don’t forget about communication with other stakeholders like sponsors, vendors, or venue staff. One smart way to keep everyone in the loop is through a shared event timeline – like the one from ThymeBase’s event planning software

Want more? Read our blog: How to rock email communication with clients & vendors

Working with third-party vendors

Depending on the type of event you’re planning, you may have to work with outside parties. In your initial planning stages, go through this checklist and decide 1) if your event needs it and 2) what your budget would be for it.

  • Food & Beverage
  • Venue & Lodging
  • Transportation
  • Entertainment
  • Photographer

Working with multiple people can be challenging. It’s important to choose vendors who respect your budget and if possible, have worked at the venue before. Here’s a blog on how to select vendors, and another post that explains what venues need from you.

Hiring a photographer

Many first-time event planners struggle with the dilemma: Is it worth hiring a photographer? A professional photographer can be expensive, but they can also make any event look good. 

Ask yourself this: do you plan to use these event photos for future marketing? If so, hiring a photographer is a good idea. A photographer has an expert perspective about events that can add the creative flair your event and future campaigns need.

If your budget doesn’t permit a professional photographer, then task someone as the onsite faux-tographer. There is nothing worse than planning a wonderful event and realizing no one took photos after it’s over! When in doubt, photograph everything.

More event basics for non-planners

Here are a few more important tips to remember when planning your event.

  • Begin your planning process earlier than you think you need to. You’ll appreciate the extra time, trust us.
  • Keep every document in the cloud! This lets you access any lists, contracts, or other documents from any device and share it with others for collaboration.
  • Share on your invite whether or not you plan to serve food. This way, you’ll avoid hungry (and later grumpy) attendees!
  • Even if your event does not plan to serve drinks (alcohol or soft drinks), keep in mind that attendees will always need water.
  • Never underestimate the power of a good playlist. Make a backup playlist that you can play during event breaks, cocktail hours, or any downtime!

Planning an event is stressful – even for professional planners! If you keep these basics top of mind and maintain strong communication with attendees, you’re bound to pull off a great event.

Related article: How To Save Money When Planning A Wedding

Amanda Larson, CED, is a Certified Event Designer, marketer, and content creator. With a degree in journalism and special events management, Amanda has worked in marketing and events for both international startups and Fortune500 companies. She specializes in digital branding, copywriting, and graphic design freelancing for clients globally.

ThymeBase Community