If you’ve read my latest Event Planning post, you know that creating a project plan is the first step in organizing any type of event. After that is complete, you can move onto what I call The Big Picture Details: date, venue, and time. Your project plan will help inspire you in all three of these categories, so don’t neglect that first step!
DATE, Pt. 1
Because my team tends to care more about where the event is, as opposed to when it is, we typically begin by identifying three to four dates on which we would be willing to host our event. When choosing, we take into account the dates of other large events that appeal to our target market (see project plan!), how long we need to plan our event, and peoples’ habits (for example, we won’t host a large event the day before final exams begin). Occasionally, we are able to choose an entire month out of the year, making the process even more flexible. This can be completed simultaneously with the next step, preliminary venue search.
VENUE, Pt. 1
Venue search is the most exciting aspect of The Big Picture for most people. In this step, members from my Event Planning team first take note of every amenity our venue will need, according to the activities outlined in the project plan. Here is a real-life example below:
5K Fun Run
Needs: Running route/open road, home base area for check in, parking, food permitted, restrooms nearby, within our budget
Venue options: On-campus route that begins in a large parking lot, off-campus route that occurs in local park, off-campus route that begins on main road, Misc. on-campus routes
From your research, you should create a list of your top three venues and tour them, if you are not already familiar with the area. It could also help to meet with the manager of each location in order to make sure your vision for the event fits the venue’s standards.
DATE, Pt. 2
Next, you should approach each of your top three venues with the list of possible dates that you created in step one. Have the manager identify which of the dates are available at his or her venue. Eliminate any venues that don’t have openings on any of your date options. If none of the venues have openings, you should go back to step one or step two, depending on whether the date or the venue is more important to you.
VENUE, Pt. 2
Now that you know which of your top three venues have openings on your date, you are ready to make your final decision, keeping in mind the needs you identified in step two. If you are looking at two venues that both meet your needs and both have availability on your date, you should compare costs. My team typically chooses the least expensive option in this situation (sometimes, it is in your organization’s best interest to choose the cheaper venue even when it doesn’t meet all of your predetermined needs). My recommendation is to snag the venue as soon as you’re sure it’s the one you want, because most locations book up very quickly.
In the 5K Fun Run example above, we chose the on-campus route that begins in a parking lot, because it met all of our basic needs and was by far the cheapest option.
This last step can be taken simultaneously with the one above. Alternatively, if the time of your event is more important to you than the venue, this step can be moved up at your discretion. For my team, we often choose our venue and then accept whichever time slot is available on our preferred date. Occasionally, we know from the beginning we need a certain time of day (morning, afternoon, evening) from our project plan, and can use that information in our selection process. For example, my team prefers morning 5Ks so that our participants aren’t running in the intense afternoon heat.
Once you’ve committed to a date, venue, and time for your event, you’re all set to begin working on what I consider to be the fun parts of event planning: marketing, decorating, etcetera. Stay tuned for posts on all of those subjects!