How To Plan An Event: Your 7-Step Guide | Only Successful Events

How To Plan An Event: Your 7-Step Guide

Life as an event planner is full of rewarding moments. There are few things that are more satisfying than seeing a successful and perfectly orchestrated event unfold before your eyes. But a stellar event will not unfold on its own. The process starts and ends with a talented event planner who knows how to build a masterful experience for attendees. The best planners in the industry seem to do this effortlessly.

a female banquet manager and male event producer standing in an empty venue with the tables set, discussing how to plan an event

The truth is that there are many moving parts in the event planning process. Even if you are fairly new to the industry, you have probably discovered this. The good news is that you can join the ranks of the world's most skilled event planners by following some simple steps. Below is your 7-step guide to planning a stellar event.

Step 1: Determine the purpose of your event

In simple terms, event planning requires you to answer a series of "who, what, when, where, and why" questions. And this process begins by asking yourself why you are hosting the event. Knowing what you hope to achieve through your event will help you set objectives and maintain your focus.

Here are some of the most common reasons to have an event:

  • To entertain attendees with music, a theatrical performance, or artwork
  • To raise awareness about a mission, a service, or a disease
  • To educate attendees about a product, organization, or service
  • To show appreciation for employees, volunteers, or supporters of an organization or cause
  • To celebrate a milestone such as an anniversary or a goal

Step 2: Define Your Target Audience

The next phase of the planning process is to figure out who you want to attend your event. This "ideal guest list" is known as your target audience. Knowing who you would like to be present at your event allows you to customize your marketing strategy to cater to their needs and desires.

Sometimes defining your target audience can be harder than it sounds, especially if you are new to the event planning industry. For example, consider the general question: "Who do you want to attend your event?"

Let's take a look at some responses you could expect from new versus experienced event planners:

  • Inexperienced: "Anyone and everyone I want to get my message out!"
  • Experienced: "American adults between the ages of 20 and 40 who own small businesses with annual revenue under $5 million."
  • Inexperienced: "Let's reach out to everyone in the Northeast, I do not want any empty seats!"
  • Experienced: "I would like to focus on people under 40 in New York and New Jersey who work in the construction industry."

It can definitely be tempting to cast a large net to try to fill as many seats as possible. But the problem with this strategy is that you could end up wasting your time and money, even if your seats are full. If your goal is to sell a construction planning software and none of your attendees work in construction, all of your planning efforts will be in vain. A full house is worthless if no one from your target audience is present.

Your 7-step guide on how to plan an event continues below this exclusive invitation to the FREE Event Producer's Masterclass...


​5 Things You MUST ​know For A Hugely ProfitablE eVent!

This free event is hosted by our founder April Iannazzone. Just one hour long, it helps you minimize the risks of hosting an event, optimize your revenue chances, and even secure sponsorships. Learn how you can eliminate your risks, leverage multiple revenue streams, and get butts in the seats before the event kicks off.

Step 3: Set Your Budget

Now that you have set your goals and know your target audience, it is time to establish your budget. Your budget will determine what you can afford to do to make your event a success. In particular, it will help you choose your vendors and location. It will also help you determine your ticket price if you plan to charge admission. While there are many smaller expenses to consider, here are the top five costs to consider:

  • Location/Venue: Some locations charge a flat fee. Others base charges on the size space you need or the amount of time you use the space.
  • Amenities: If you plan to serve refreshments, provide swag bags, or have giveaways, you will need to estimate the cost of these items.
  • Marketing Costs: Flyers, digital signage, and advertising all cost money. Also remember to include the cost of presentation materials.
  • Guest Speakers: While some speakers may offer their services free of charge, others require advance payment and travel reimbursement.
  • Staffing: If you need to hire temporary temporary staff to help make your event a success, be sure to note rates in advance.

When discovering how to plan an event the Only Successful Events™ Event Budget Template will come in handy! 


Now that you know the cost of holding your event, you need to set your ticket price. Overcharging or undercharging for an event could cause you to leave money on the table. Even worse, you could end up in the hole financially. Either way, a mistake with budgeting or ticket pricing could damage your reputation as an event planner.

Here are 3 tips to help you price your tickets correctly:

  • Research similar events: Take some time to research pricing on similar events that were recently held in your area. 
  • Try to forecast your ticket sales: Estimate the number of tickets you think you can comfortably sell for your event.
  • Calculate your break-even point: This is the amount of money you need to raise through ticket sales to pay your event costs.

A final factor to consider when setting your budget and ticket price is discounted pricing. Many event planners offer discounts to people who purchase tickets in bulk. Another technique is to offer special early bird pricing to people who buy tickets well in advance. 

Step 4: Secure a Venue

Your choice of location could make or break your event. Choosing where you will hold your event without considering the needs of your target audience is a recipe for failure.

Generally speaking, there are four qualities that your event location should have:

  • Accessibility: If most attendees are local, choose a spot that is easy to access by car. Proximity to airports is important for non-local attendees.
  • Affordability: Do not be afraid to negotiate on your space. For instance, you may receive a discount if you pay in advance by a specific date.
  • Uniqueness: Today's consumers appreciate a novel experience. So do not be afraid to think outside the box when exploring venues.
  • Spaciousness: The last thing you want is a cramped space or a space that is far too large for your audience. 

As you compare options and negotiate with location managers, be sure to request a quote in writing. The quote you receive should clearly payment terms and all amenities included with your reservation. It should also include any extra charges that may apply if you fail to vacate the location according to the terms of your agreement. 

When you have narrowed your options to your top three or four choices, carve out some time in your schedule to visit each venue. Try to approach each site as if you are a member of your target audience.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you visit each location:

  • Did you have an easy time finding the location?
  • Was your commute fast and easy?
  • Were you able to secure free parking quickly?
  • Was the venue attractive inside and outside?
  • Was the representative you worked with polite and professional?
  • Did the representative seem eager to work with you and meet your needs?

Step 5: Develop a strategic marketing campaign

Now that you have determined who, what, when, where, and why your event will unfold, it is time to determine how you will promote it. Next to the location you choose, the marketing strategy you adopt will have the greatest impact on your turnout. 

Ideally, you will have plenty of time to develop and launch a superb marketing campaign. But even if you are tasked with putting together an event in a few weeks, you can still build a great campaign! Whether you plan to do the marketing on your own or outsource this task to an industry professional, there are some measures that will help you maximize results and fill seats fast.

Here are some tips to help you build an effective marketing campaign:

  • Start early! If you are planning an annual event, begin promoting next year's event during this year's event. 
  • Offer discounts and incentives: People who commit early deserve to be rewarded with discounted pricing or a freebie.
  • Use social media: Promoting your event on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is free and easy. Plus you can target your outreach.
  • Consider influential speakers: Social influencers are powerful. They can help attract attendees while bringing legitimacy to your event.
  • Use a variety of techniques: Email, radio advertising, billboards, and flyers can combine to help you reach your target audience.

Step 6: Select your key vendors

The vendors you choose can help attendees remember your event as fantastic or a flop. From the caterer you choose to the printing company that finishes your attendee materials, vendors are critical to your attendees' overall experience at your event. While the vendors you need will depend on the type of event you host, there are some vendors who play a key role in nearly every type of event:

  • Decorator: Depending on the size and nature of your event, you may need to hire someone to make your venue look attractive.
  • Caterer: If you plan to serve more than light refreshments, you will need to hire someone to prepare and serve food and beverages.
  • Printer: Many events involve publications, guides, or paper programs. If you plan to have these, you will need to find a dependable printer.
  • Entertainers: Events such as weddings, anniversary parties, and celebrations often feature music or other types of live entertainment.

Need help finding a vendor or event professional? Be sure to check out the OSE Vendor directory to find.  

You can also join the OSE "Insider's Only" Facebook Group. This group is exclusively for Event Planners, Event Producers, & Event Professionals.  I am sure you can get some great recommendations or great feedback for the experts inside the group. 

As in the case of venue evaluation, be sure to request a written quote from each vendor you consider. Failure to provide a written quote could be a red flag that the vendor is lacking in professionalism or follow through. 

Step 7: Begin building anticipation

Now that the lion's share of the planning process is well underway, it is time to generate enthusiasm about your event! Many people find this step to be the most rewarding part of the event planning process. You finally have the key pieces in place and can begin to share the exciting details about everything that is in store for prospective employees.

Here are a few tips to help you build anticipation in style:

  • Remember to focus on the needs and desires of prospective attendees. Describe how your event is the best way to meet these needs.
  • Promote any industry experts or speakers who will be on hand at your event. Their presence will help secure participation from prospects.
  • Remind attendees of any special discounts or incentives you are offering. Sometimes a giveaway or freebie is all it takes to entice a prospect.
  • Do not overlook the importance of word of mouth marketing. Friends, colleagues, and family members can be your biggest ambassadors!

When learning how to plan an event, what is the single best step you can take to plan a stellar event?

By following the 7 steps above, you will increase your chances of a successful event. However, with so many moving pieces and smaller steps to consider, the best way to plan a stellar event is to seek the expertise of an event marketer with a proven track record of success. You can kick off this process by attending a FREE masterclass hosted by award-winning event producer April Iannazzone.

During this free class, you will learn in detail how to plan an event and maximize your profitability before your event even starts.

Here is a snapshot of some of the skills you will acquire through the class:

  • The Top Three ways to maximize profits on your next event
  • Proven techniques to help you fill seats and avoid "empty room syndrome"
  • Strategies to help you secure major sponsorships from people eager to pay to take part in your event
  • Tactics to eliminate the risks of hosting events
  • A variety of revenue streams designed to boost profits for your events

Learning from an industry expert is the single best way to master the art of event planning. Put yourself on the fast track to becoming a stellar event planner by attending this free event. We look forward to helping you realize your dreams of becoming a top event planner!  

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