AHH! You were just tasked on planning an event, why you said yes-you have no idea, but now it’s all on you! THE PRESSURE IS MOUNTING!!! Ok, now take a deep breath…and relax. You’ve got this! Be honest with yourself, you can do this because you’re not alone. You have a company or multiple companies that will do the hard work for you. Do you know what that means? They do the hard work and you take the credit! Boo ya!
Now let’s get down to business. This article is the guide you need to start planning your event, a checklist if you will. A checklist with a load of information from a guy with over 16 years of event planning experience. My name is Ryan Strayhorn, founder and president of ACP Entertainment. I’m going to give you a semi-deep dive into the event planning process giving your tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years with the more than 7,000 events our company has produced. Now this list is definitely catered towards outdoor events, but indoor events can take note of these points too. Ready? Let’s go.
- Budget: What’s your budget? Before you even start to plan, get a budget. Don’t have one? Make one. This is crucial! Without a budget, you’re throwing darts in the dark after spinning a circle 10 times.
- End Goal: What is it you’re trying to accomplish and who are you catering to? Are you planning a company picnic, festival, school event? What’s the main demographic-adults, teens, kids? Obviously this determines where you go, what time the event is, what food you serve and what activities you bring in for the event.
- Location: Where is the event going to be? Will it be outside at a park? In your parking lot? Or possibly inside? When choosing a venue, there’s many things to keep in mind. We won’t go into detail here because it deserves it’s own blog article…which we have! Check that out by clicking here.
- Venue: Depending on the venue, you may need a tent because some sort of shelter is a must. Not just because of rain, even though that’s a great shelter for rain, but also sun. There’s nothing worse than having an outdoor event in the middle of Summer when it’s 85 degrees out and there’s no shade. Not to mention, you want some tables and chairs for the food you’ll serve so a tent is a must if you don’t have a shelter. Regarding tent sizes, you don’t need to have enough seating in the tent for everyone that signed up to come to your event. Let’s say your event is 4 hours long and you have 100 people coming. Seating for between 40-60 people (depending on how many people each size of tent holds) is just fine. If you plan on having everyone in the tent for some sort of ceremony though (which is totally not recommended, people generally don’t care), then yes you’ll need enough seating for all of those people. Some great tent vendors in West Michigan that we often use are B-n-T Tents, Kentwood Rental and Baker Tent Rentals.
- Catering: Determine what food and beverages you will serve. This is a loaded question and quite possibly one of the most fun things to do but don’t get caught up in it. Instead, trust what the experts recommend and don’t micromanage. Remember, these vendors you choose are professionals and they have a good idea of what may best fit your event. If you’re in West Michigan, some caterers to check out would be Distinctive Catering, Gilmore Collection, Maddalena’s Catering, Catered Creations and many many more. One big note, food trucks are NOT catering service. We love food trucks and aren’t hatin’ on them, but they aren’t made to cater large scale events. If you have 20-30 people at your event, yea a food truck or two may work. However, if you’re planning any event larger than that, use a catering company that is very familiar with serving a lot of people in a small amount of time. The last thing you want is angry attendees because it took 25 minutes in line waiting for food. Where food trucks would be ok at larger events is in the dessert category. We love Kona Ice and always recommend them as a desert option!
- Activities: This is the fun part because it’s all the fun stuff! It’s also our specialty, obviously. So you have your date and time, a budget, your venue and food. What else are people going to do but come, eat and leave? Time to plan the activities! Your attendee demographics plays a pretty big role here as well in determining what kind of activities you should bring into your event. There are entirely too many activities to talk about here, but some ideas are as follows; Games, Inflatables, Carnival Rides, Band, DJ, Casino Tables, Arcade Games, Juggler, Magician, Dunk Tank, Side Show Acts and Yard Games. You should also adding at least one take-away item activity in which your guests will actually leave with something, besides food in their bellies. Some takeaway ideas are Caricature Artists, Face Painters, Balloon Artists, Gem Mining, Wax Hands, Photo Booths and Fun Food items. Your activities is another area in which you should rely on the professionals for, like us! We recommend that our customers give us the information above (date/time, budget, location, demographics) and let us propose some options for your event. Use our experience and knowledge to your advantage in planning the best activities possible for your event and within your budget. Having ideas to bring to the table is great too and if we don’t have it, we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction or find it for you.
- Power: Now on to the necessary, but boring stuff. First up is power; where is the electricity coming from to power everything for your event? It’s very possible that your venue has some of the power available, but sometimes that falls short to your actual needs. We have an entire blog article written about power if you’d like to get into more detail, read that article here. An average venue will have 110v power, if any, but it will be on a building most likely and potentially limited in quantity. If you have rides and inflatables out in a field, you’ll need a generator. In fact, you may need a generator for other activities and entertainment as well. There are different types of generators you can use but we typically recommend using larger diesel powered generators because they are ultra quiet. This compared to the small portable generators that are extremely loud. Click Here to watch a comparison video of the two different types of generators.
- Trash and Restrooms: People generate trash and need to use the restroom, your event is no exception. Make sure you’re providing plenty of trash cans and restrooms for your event. The amount of trash cans and portable restrooms depends on a few factors. To mention a few, will there be alcohol served? Will there be food served? How long is the event? How many people will be in attendance? These questions will be asked when talking with the trash/restroom company so make sure you’re ready with those answers. The best company in the West Michigan area, and the only company we refer our customers to, is Plummers Disposal. Plummers provides the best and cleanest portable restrooms, restroom trailers, trash cans, dumpsters and hand washing stations in West Michigan.
- Music: Have you ever been to an event where there’s no music? Just the sound of people talking, generators running, cars passing by on the street? Blah! Get some groove going! The music doesn’t need to be blaring, it doesn’t even have to be a band or a DJ, but music is pretty important to the atmosphere of events. You can absolutely bring in a DJ to spin some tunes or a band to play live music, but those options are fairly expensive. Unless the music is a focal point to your event, then you may want to consider just having a small sound system with music playing off an iPod or something similar. PLEASE don’t use your phone, it’s so embarrassing and awkward when your phone rings or you get text message, email or any other sort of notification. The notification plays over the loud speaker and everyone can hear it. Feel free to ask us about sound system rentals, if we can’t help then we can point you in the right direction depending on your needs. Please note, your everyday Bluetooth speaker is not big or loud enough. It may sound loud enough inside, but outdoors for a large group, it’s no good outside of a 20 foot radius.
- Clean Up: This is definitely the worst part, but it’s not so terrible if you have a plan going into it. Making sure your event is cleaned up afterwards is crucial. If you’re at a venue where they do it all for you, great! But you don’t have that luxury everywhere. Put together a cleanup crew to help you tear down and clean up the event when done. Make sure you have a line item in your budget to cover clean up costs, even if it’s just little thank you gifts for your volunteers that stayed to help.
- Spread the Word!: Or in other words, marketing. Get the word out to your guests about the event! How to do this is completely dependent on your situation. Posters, emails, web pages and Facebook event listings are all potentially good options to promote your event, again depending on your situation. Another thing to consider is if you want your guests to RSVP. In most cases for private events, RSVP’s are pretty crucial to know how much food and seating you’ll need. You’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’ll need depending on the type of event and how many people are in the company/school or organization. But a RSVP definitely helps you plan a little better. Don’t get fully tied up in that RSVP number, we find that usually only 70%-80% of the people that RSVP actually show up. Don’t take it personal when it happens, just be ready for it.
There’s no way to list out in this article every little detail that you need to plan your event because every event is different. However I hope that this is a good start to planning your event. If you’re planning a senior all nighter specifically, take a look at this blog article which gives a deep dive into the planning process of those post grad parties.
Of course, if you have any questions or would like help planning your event, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at anytime. Happy planning!
Article by Ryan Strayhorn, Founder & President of ACP Entertainment