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Event Planning 101 - Set the Date

Whether I am at a trade show, grand opening, or press conference, you’ll most likely find me in the middle of everything - holding a notebook full of contracts and layout sketches, directing people and equipment to their proper place, talking to no less than 3 people at a time.  Amidst the noise and activity, I am completely calm because I know everything will be ready before the event begins.

But it takes a great deal of preparation to get to this point.  And it all starts with picking the right date.  For any event, it is crucial that you pick a date that allows for plenty of time to plan, secure contractors, and promote the event.  So, how do you pick the right date?  There are a few key factors to consider before you choose a final event date.

What type of event is it?  A press conference or announcement event requires very different preparation than an open house, including how much time it takes to plan and execute each.  This is the first question to answer, as it will drive the determinations made on budget, expected attendance, etc.  For two of our healthcare clients, both opening new hospitals and wanting to have a special weekend to invite the community in for open house tours, we knew that at least 8 months of planning would be required for each event.  Thankfully, the events were more than a year apart, as knowing what else is happening on the proposed date of your event is important for identifying possible challenges with access, competition for attendance, etc.

  • What is your budget?  Everyone will want to know the answer to this question.  And you can’t realistically research venue or plan activities/performances without a range to work with.
  • How many people are expected/desired?  If the event is supposed to draw a large crowd, you need enough time to make arrangements for parking, security, and safety, as well as develop a solid communication plan to promote the event.
  • What activities do you want to include?  This includes everything from performers to refreshments/meals, dancing, etc.  Knowing these needs will help narrow down venue selection to those which can accomodate the planned activities.
  • What is your venue?  Is it indoors or outdoors?  When is it available? Can it accommodate the above mentioned considerations (i.e. budget, guests, activities)?  The final venue choice will determine if certain elements need to be altered, eliminated, etc.

Once you have answered these questions, the date should be narrowed down for you.  Congratulations, you’ve made it through step one! Now you can start thinking about all of the next steps - from researching and selecting vendors to assigning jobs and developing an event promotion strategy.  I’ll dig into some of these other event planning details in upcoming posts.