So you’re in charge of planning a massive event. Congratulations!
Whether you’re planning it for your company, a school, a charity, a professional group or any number of other entities, you’ve been entrusted with an important job:
Plan an event that people will actually go to and enjoy, and do so ensuring that everything goes off without a hitch.
That’s quite the tall task if you’re planning on hosting 100 guests or more!
In fact, many event planners make the mistake of using the same process to plan events for huge groups as they do for small ones, when really, it’s completely different!
After reading this post, you’ll be walking away with all of the knowledge you need to plan the best event your large group has ever attended.
Get ready to plan the event of the year!
At the most basic level, large events differ because of the size of the guest list. Duh!
But that’s only the beginning. Let’s explore some of the key differences between planning small events and large events.
If you’re planning on inviting over 100 guests to an event, you should be ready to put in a proportional amount of effort when it comes to promoting the event.
While it’s easy to get 20 people from your office to go to the office holiday party, you will find that getting 100 customers to come to your customer appreciation party, or 100 business owners to come to your seminar, is quite a bit more challenging.
It requires more steps, more points of contact, and more strategic planning.
Will you be sending out paper invitations? Will these be followed by an email or a phone call? How will you confirm your guests?
In order to do all of these things, you will need to be a great planner and an even better executor.
Let’s say you run a real estate brokerage hosting a large corporate party in Minneapolis, and you want to invite every realtor from every branch in the state. That number could easily be in the hundreds!
Accommodating this many people, many of which may not even know each other, requires you to have help.
Before the event, you will need someone to design invites and reach out to each invitee personally.
At the event, you will need someone to create name tags and greet guests, giving them information on the event’s programming.
You will need to work with your event venue or catering company to provide and serve food.
Ultimately, you will have to delegate tasks to make your job easier.
More people means more chairs, more utensils, and more steps that need to be taken on event day to ensure that the event goes smoothly.
It’s helpful to choose an event venue that takes care of setup for you, but if this is not the case, you will need to give yourself extra time to prepare.
Small and large events also differ significantly in cost.
While it’s obvious that the overall cost of a large event will be higher than that of a small event, a large event with many attendees may be able to earn discounts on food or gear.
Many caterers will scale their per person cost to be less expensive the larger the guest list becomes.
When it comes to venues, a large event will need more space, which often means renting out a full facility. While this may cost more than renting a private room, it provides an exclusive experience that makes your event the center of attention of all event staff.
Now that we know the primary differences between large and small group events, it’s time to become an expert!
Here are 11 foolproof tips that will help you plan a large group event to remember!
Every event should start with a goal.
While that sounds pretty straight forward, it’s an often-ignored aspect of event planning.
In order to create clear goals and objectives for your event, you need to first ask yourself two crucial questions:
Question one refers to the reasons why this event is worth your while as a host. If you can’t clearly answer this question, then going through the effort of planning a large event may not be the best plan to pursue.
Having a great answer to question two is important, because large events only work out if your guest list shows up. Often, event planners make the assumption that guests will want to come for the food and for a night out.
While that may be the case, people have plenty of options these days to have fun and go out. Your event needs to be their most logical choice.
If you’re able to solidify a clear objective for your event, while making attendance a no-brainer for your guests, you’re off to a successful start.
When we wrote about tips for hosting the perfect holiday party, we stressed the importance of setting a date far in advance and consulting employees beforehand on their availability.
If you’re hosting a large event, it becomes even more important to set a date as far in advance as possible.
Above, we learned how much more work goes into large event planning.
This means it takes longer to research and select vendors and venues, and inviting and confirming guests is a process that requires time and attention—a simple evite often won’t do.
Because of this, you need a valuable asset to be on your side: Time.
It’s not uncommon for large events to be on the calendar 6 months to a year in advance.
That doesn’t mean you need to send out invites a year in advance, in fact, you shouldn’t!
It does mean that the sooner your event is on a potential guest’s radar, the more likely it is that you will have very few surprises when it’s time to tally up your final list of confirmed attendees.
While it’s tough to estimate an exact headcount in the initial phases of planning, you should have a specific range that you feel comfortable hitting.
This will help you get more accurate pricing from event venues, caterers, and any other vendors you may need to hire.
It also sets a clear goal for you to hit when planning out the invitation and follow-up process.
Planning out your budget goes hand in hand with just about every other crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to large event planning.
Your budget will help you define factors like:
Which leads us to perhaps the most important tip of all:
Just as it’s important to set a date early, it’s also very important to make sure you have a trusted team by your side from day one to execute all tasks.
This team should be knowledgeable when it comes to the overall objectives of the event, and its value add to potential attendees.
The team should also have clear roles, and each role should come with its own set of goals. Here are some examples, although you may choose to assign different roles based on the skills of your team.
The head event planner should have a hand in all of these roles, offering help or guidance wherever necessary—but it’s important to delegate, because large events are difficult to pull off without help!
When deciding how to allocate a budget for a large group event, you should always start by researching venues.
Sure, there are many other elements that are important to consider, such as cost of invitations, caterers, entertainment and more—but your event can’t happen without a venue, and can only be successful if that venue fits your needs.
Most importantly, the amenities, capacity and cost of your venue can help you form a better understanding of how you should allocate the rest of your budget.
In some cases, venues can reduce the burden of vendor searches, and eliminate the costs of hiring additional vendors like caterers or entertainment.
For example, at Big Thrill Factory, we often rent out our whole Minnetonka or Oakdale facility for large group events and corporate parties.
Event hosts had plenty of reasons to choose us, and many have to do with the fact that we represent the ideal one-stop-shop for a great large scale event.
Overall, it’s a smart move to seek out large group event venues that can help you decrease the amount of vendors necessary to make your event a success.
This will help you host a great event while staying under budget.
In tip #1, we talked about the importance of having a clear objective for your event, as well as a value add.
Branding your event is the best way to bring that objective and value add to life using creativity.
Objective: Improve company morale and cooperation between departments
Value Add: Great food, great drinks and fun attractions
“A night of fun and adventure at Big Thrill Factory” becomes a compelling theme that gets attendees in the right mindset before walking into the event.
This theme shouldn’t begin to become clear when guests enter the room, it should be present in every stage of the event preparation, from the invitations to the choices of food, drink and entertainment.
Choosing an event venue with A/V equipment is absolutely critical.
There’s nothing like showing up at an event you’ve been planning for months, only to find that you won’t be able to put on your presentation because of outdated technology.
Most large events have programming that requires up-to-date A/V equipment. Make sure you don’t forget to ask this of potential venues during the selection process.
You don’t have to be an Excel whiz to use spreadsheets for event planning.
In fact, creating a simple, shareable spreadsheet will help you and everyone on your event planning team stay organized and in-the-know as you plan your event.
Use Google sheets to create spreadsheets that can be shared and edited online by everyone on your event planning team with a gmail-based account.
You can invite anyone you want to view or edit the spreadsheet, so you can make sure it’s always up to date.
Large events require more effort and manpower to set up than small ones. They also tend to have more moving pieces during the actual event that require adequate planning.
Because of this, you will want to be sure you’re extra prepared come event day. This means having a step-by-step checklist of what needs to get done, accompanied by a timeline of when it needs to happen.
The setup checklist should be pretty straight forward, and will often be taken care of by vendors or the event venue staff. Even still, it’s important to create a setup checklist to ensure that all of the right pieces are in place.
During the event, have a list of tasks that you need to make sure you get done as an event planner. This will be different from the overall programming of the event.
Here’s an example:
Creating a “day of” checklist, will save you from being stressed on event day because you will know exactly what to do at all times.
It’s never too early to start planning planning ahead for future events. In fact, the best time to do it is at the next large event you host.
If you want to ensure your next event is well-attended, get plenty of evidence of success during this one.
That means hiring or assigning a photographer and videographer, and being active in asking for feedback after the event.
Posting great photos of your event will create buzz and emphasize that the event was a valuable experience. This will help you secure more attendees next time you host, while reminding past attendees of how much fun they had.
By collecting feedback after your event, you are actively showing your guests that you care about their experience. In addition, you will be gaining valuable insights into what people liked and disliked about your event.
After the event, you can even set up custom surveys to send to attendees using programs like Survey Monkey or Google Forms.
Wherever you decide to host your next large event, you now have all the tools you need to be successful.
It all starts with knowing what you want your event to achieve, and then making the event desirable to the people on your invite list.
The bottom line is that even with excellent preparation and execution, large events can take a lot of work to pull off.
Because of this, choosing an event venue with dedicated event planners will eliminate the burden of planning, allowing you to focus on your life and core business rather than becoming an impromptu large event planner.