Whether it’s a conference, exhibition, meeting or gala dinner, hosting an event is one of the most effective ways to bring together industry experts, thought leaders, and your team to knowledge share, network, and learn from each other. From establishing an accurate budget to promoting your event, planning a successful conference requires expertise and experience, attention to detail, and a bespoke event management plan.
This event planning checklist was prepared using recommendations from ICC Belfast’s expert event management team and offers you a step-by-step guide to planning a successful event.
What Is An Event Plan?
An event plan is a comprehensive guide that outlines all the details and logistics necessary for organising and executing a successful conference event. The plan is typically based on setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals and objectives, defining target audience, scheduling, logistical requirements, marketing activities and budget. It serves as a collaboration roadmap for clients, event organisers, team members and other stakeholders involved in delivering the conference.
ICC Belfast’s event management process incorporates the principles of Kanban methodology, promoting agile work practices which create visual workflows, help establish achievable goals, and provide clear delivery dates and task ownership. Since events are multifaceted and dynamic, staying on top of tasks allows for greater flexibility to adapt as needed. With each event we organise, we learn and refine our approach based on the experiences we gain.
How To Create An Event Plan
Creating an event plan is the cornerstone of hosting a successful gathering, whether it's a conference, seminar, Christmas party, or any other special occasion. This process involves bringing together the following tasks to ensure that every aspect of the event aligns with its objectives and runs smoothly:
Define your event goals & objectives
Assemble your event team
Create an event budget
Set a date & choose your event venue
Plan the event programme
Organise event production
Market & promote your event
Host your event with a hosting schedule
Measure the success of your event
Carry out post-event activities
Step 1: Define event goals andobjectives
When planning an event, it is essential to define goals and objectives. While goals and objectives are often used interchangeably, they have distinct differences. Event goals are broad statements that describe what you want to achieve from the event, often providing direction and purpose. Event objectives, on the other hand, are specific and measurable actions that contribute towards achieving the overall goal. Objectives break down the goal into smaller tasks that can be tracked and evaluated.
Goals and objectives are outlined during event planning because they provide a clear direction for the delivery team and ways to measure success, which helps in the evaluation of the event. Use the following steps to define your event goals and objectives:
Define the purpose of the event - Why are you holding the event and what are the outcomes you hope to achieve.
Set the overall goal - Create a broad statement that describes what you want to achieve from the event.
Identify objectives - Break down the overall goal into specific, measurable objectives that contribute towards achieving the goal.
Assign metrics - Define the metrics that will be used to measure the success of each objective.
Evaluate - Continuously evaluate progress towards meeting the objectives and adjust them if necessary.
When elite sports tracking provider STATSports approached ICC Belfast to partner on the launch their all new Sonra 3.0 suite of products, the goal was clear: make delegates feel something extraordinary. In order to achieve this the event management team took the ‘Top 10 High Impact Motivators’ identified and discussed in the Harvard Business Review and weaved them into the hybrid product launch.
The Sonra 3.0 launch was a ground-breaking success. Sports enthusiasts from more than 90 countries watched the live broadcast, and the must-have software became the talk of the press within minutes of the launch. STATSports' investment in technical production brought a higher level of professionalism to the event, ensuring seamless communication of their key messages to the intended audience. Within the first 72 hours, the highlights of the broadcast were viewed over 45,000 times on the company's social channels, generating numerous sales leads for the business.
Organising an event can be a daunting task, which is why building an efficient team in the early stages is critical to ensure success. By establishing a solid team dynamic early on, you are more likely to work together effectively throughout the planning process. A well-structured team allows for clear communication, delegation of tasks, and defined roles and responsibilities. This helps to prevent misunderstandings, reduce stress levels, and improve the overall quality of the event.
After you confirm ICC Belfast as your chosen venue, a team of experienced event delivery professionals will be assembled to work on your event. This team includes a dedicated Event Manager, Production Manager, and Hospitality Manager, each possessing their own specialised knowledge and skills. They will be available to address any questions or concerns in the lead up to and on the day of your event.
Step 3: Create an event budget
Creating an event budget is essential for ensuring that the event is financially feasible and successful. A well-planned and detailed budget will help to control costs, allocate resources, and identify potential areas of overspending. By setting a budget from the outset, event planners can make informed decisions about spending, so the event runs smoothly and meets its objectives within the available resources.
When creating an event budget, it is important to distinguish between fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs such as venue hire are expenses that do not change, regardless of the number of attendees or the scale of the event. Variable costs, such as catering and technical production vary depending on the size and scope of the event. By categorising costs in this way, event planners can better estimate the total expenditure of the event and allocate resources accordingly. The initial steps of creating an event budget involve identifying all potential expenses, estimating costs, and determining the sources of funding.
Below is a list of the main considerations an event planner should map out in their budgeting plan:
Step 4: Set a date and choose yourvenue
Choosing a date and venue is one of the most important steps in the event planning process. When choosing a date and venue, it's important to consider various factors, such as the availability of key stakeholders, the season and weather, local events and holidays, and the availability of the chosen venue. By taking these factors into account, event planners can ensure that they choose a date and venue that is both convenient and suitable for attendees.
The choice of date and venue closely correlates, and it's important to consider them together. In some cases, the availability of a desired venue may dictate the date of the event, while in other cases, the date of the event may dictate the available venues. Generally, it's best to start by choosing a date and then finding a venue that is available and suitable for that date.
Logistical factors to consider when setting a date and booking an event venue:
Audience - Prioritise the convenience of your attendees. For example, weekdays may be suitable for those in the B2B sector.
Planning time - There are many tasks involved in planning and promoting an event, so it's important to choose a date that allows enough time to accomplish everything.
Public holidays and seasonality - It is advisable to avoid scheduling events during public holidays or popular vacation times, as individuals tend to make travel arrangements well in advance.
Venue availability - If you have a specific venue in mind, you'll need to check their availability and factor it into your decision-making process.
Speaker availability - It's important to consider the availability of any keynote speakers you wish to book for your event when selecting a date. If their schedule conflicts with your chosen event date, they may not be able to participate.
Competitor events - When planning an event, it's important to keep an eye on any competing events and avoid scheduling your event on the same date. This can lead to a conflict of interest and competition for attendees.
Venue location and accessibility - When searching for an appropriate venue, it's essential to consider the distance from attendees' location. If attendees are travelling to a destination, a venue located near the airport or hotels would be advantageous.
Venue size - Knowing the room capacity of your venue is important to make sure estimated event size can comfortably fit into the spaces.
Venue facilities and staffing - Ensure that delegates are properly looked after by having an appropriate number of staff and security personnel available to meet the needs of your event.
Access public transport or parking - Opting for a venue that is conveniently located and has excellent transport links will be important to the success of the event.
Accommodation - If your event spans multiple days and draws attendees from far and wide, it's essential to provide them with accommodation options. Ideally, the event venue will have hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments close by.
Planning an event programme is a necessary step in the event planning process, as it involves creating a cohesive and engaging experience for attendees. The first step in creating an event programme is to develop an event master plan, timeline, and schedule. This will ensure all elements of the event are properly organised and coordinated, and that all deadlines are met.
When planning an event programme, it's important to identify non-negotiables and plan around them. This includes key activities that must be included in the programme, such as keynote speeches or networking sessions. These non-negotiables can help to structure the event programme and provide a framework for additional sessions. Additionally, consider the preferences of attendees, such as their schedules and interests, in order to create a programme that is both engaging and effective.
Step 6: Organise Event Production
Event planners must consider various factors when deciding on event production, such as the type of audience they are targeting, the scale of the event, and whether the event will be hybrid or in-person. For example, a virtual event may require a robust online platform for streaming sessions and networking. Investing in event production will transform your vision into reality by using cutting-edge sound, lighting, video, design, and production technologies. Event planners have the opportunity to create impressive stage production which can maximise branding opportunities as well as enhancing content delivery, ensuring the audience’s full attention.
In 2021, ICC Belfast collaborated with renowned international keynote speaker David Meade to present a captivating digital event series called "The Virtual Delegate." This six-part series broadcast live on LinkedIn and YouTube, offering valuable insights into optimising virtual, hybrid, and in-person events to effectively engage both internal teams and clients.
Marketing and promotion are essential elements of event planning, as they help create awareness, generate interest, and attract attendees. Event planners need to consider various marketing strategies, such as social media, email marketing, targeted advertising, and content marketing, to create a cohesive branding message.
Marketing and promotion should be integrated into the event planning process from the beginning, starting with the creation of a marketing plan. This includes identifying target audiences, defining key messaging, developing promotional materials, and setting a budget for marketing activities. The most effective marketing and promotion strategies are those that are targeted, focused, and timed to coincide with key milestones in the planning process, such as the launch of tickets, the release of the event programme, and the final countdown to the event.
Step 8: Host your event with a hosting schedule
Planning the hosting schedule is fundamental to ensuring the smooth execution of your event. As an event organiser, it is important to differentiate between the schedule that delegates see and the granular timeline that event staff follow. This hosting schedule should detail everything from the arrival time of exhibitors to the start and end time of presentations, and every other aspect that goes into making an event successful.
To create a hosting schedule, event organisers can start by breaking down the day into time blocks and identifying the different activities that will take place during each block. They should also consider the specific needs of the event, such as technical requirements or catering arrangements. It is important to communicate this schedule clearly with the team and ensure that all staff members understand their roles and responsibilities.
On the day of the event, event organisers must be prepared for various hosting considerations. This may include managing guest arrivals, dealing with last-minute changes or emergencies, coordinating with exhibitors, sponsors and staff, and ensuring that the event stays on schedule. By planning ahead and having a detailed hosting schedule in place, event organisers can minimise potential issues and deliver a seamless experience for delegates.
Step 9: Measure the success of your event
Measuring the success of an event is a vital step in the event planning process. It allows event organisers to determine the effectiveness of the event and evaluate its outcomes. The measurement of success can be used to inform future events and improve upon areas that may need additional attention. Additionally, stakeholder satisfaction should be measured, allowing event planners to understand how well the event met their needs and expectations. Event planners should also consider what types of data they will collect during and after the event, and how they will analyse and interpret that data. This will help ensure that the event is designed with success measurement in mind, and that valuable insights can be gleaned from the data collected. Measuring the success of an event can be accomplished through a variety of methods, including surveys, attendance numbers, and revenue generated.
If you could replicate your venue plus staff across every city in the UK that would be excellent. Although we fully expected everything to be brilliant…it was next level. Dorothy Inverarity
Post-event activities are a key part of the events planning process. They involve taking steps after the event to wrap up, debrief, and follow up with attendees and stakeholders. It's important to plan these activities in advance so that they can be executed effectively. Some benefits of post-event activities include providing closure to the event, thanking all stakeholders, sharing event highlights with delegates to incentivise early booking for future events, creating shareable content, and receiving feedback that can inform future events.
Following every event held at ICC Belfast, a post-event survey and debrief call are conducted with the event organisers. We believe that engaging in a thorough debriefing process yields numerous advantages, such as obtaining valuable feedback, refining operational procedures, elevating the attendee experience, and fostering stronger relationships with PCOs, sponsors and exhibitors.
Event Planning Checklist
Simplify the process of organising your upcoming conference by utilising the ICC Belfast comprehensive event planning checklist. To obtain your own copy, proceed with the download.
With our extensive proficiency in organising large-scale events, the ICC Belfast team are distinguished industry leaders in event management and execution. Our unrivalled expertise permeates every facet of our commitment to success, ranging from fastidious event coordination to seamless on-site management. As a world-class venue, ICC Belfast offers state-of-the-art facilities that position us as the choice venue for hosting your next conference.
Delve deeper into our extraordinary venue, adaptable event spaces, sophisticated technical capabilities, and a devoted team of professionals and embark on your journey to Belfast.