Tips for hosting a big event

If you are planning any big event such as a conference, a wedding, an awards ceremony, a product launch, a cocktail party or whatever else it may be, you may be wondering where to begin. It can be stressful to put together an event for so many people, so preparation is key – the good old ‘to do’ list will ensure that you cover every aspect of the event: pre-, post- and in between.

First up, you need to establish what the purpose of the event is – a birthday celebration is pretty obvious, but if you are putting together a company cocktail party, it’s good to know if there will be training, or a presentation – is it to boost morale or acknowledge achievements and will clients be in attendance?  Knowing the goalpost enables you to create a detailed agenda as to the flow and timing of events; for example, arrival, registration, serving of canapés, speeches, presentations, entertainment, etc.  Throwing in a Plan B is a good idea in case of the unexpected; for instance, an indoor option for the garden party that gets rained out!

Good thing to know right off, before you go crazy with all sorts of ideas, is to establish what your budget is (or lack thereof).  You can keep track of all costs and only take on suppliers in keeping with your bottom line – with perhaps a few pennies over to hire in that amazing flame-thrower or ice sculpture.  Dominic Ndlovu, General Manager at BON Hotel Midrand, which caters to the conference, events and corporate markets, says, “In determining a venue it is a good idea to consider location and capacity, and whether there is accommodation facilities – ideal for guests who have far to travel or those that have flown in for the occasion (or had one too many).”  Typically, hotels will have an all-inclusive rate, which helps if you have to work within a budget. 

Once you have set a date – one that is well in advance, around school holidays, or any major sporting events (you don’t want to have to tear the guys from sales away from the game) – you can begin booking suppliers. The venue, rentals and other services need to be scheduled as soon as possible in order to avoid risking their availability. Other items to keep in mind might include catering, furniture, linen, DJ, security, photographer, entertainment, lighting, decor, etc. 

Got everyone on the guest list?  If the event is way in advance, you can consider sending out a ‘save-the-date’, followed by a formal invitation – be sure to include an rsvp date and request for dietary requirements.   The design should be in keeping with the theme / feel / purpose of the event and depending on your audience invitations, it can be sent electronically or through traditional mail, or maybe even both.  Send reminders and build up your event as much as you can (without bothering the guest of honour, who has rsvp’d twice) – keep track of who has and hasn’t confirmed attendance.  

The big day has arrived – be sure to brief each and every department and/or staff member as to their role and your expectations so that everything runs smoothly.  Check everything – check your checklist, sound and visuals, delivery times, champagne on ice, entertainment plugged in, the weather report!

When it has all gone off without a hitch (or none that anyone would notice), and you’ve thrown your heels across the room – take a breather – but don’t forget the all-important post-event to do’s – thank you letters to staff, guests, suppliers and the venue, adds Ndlovo. “We appreciate the feedback – it gives us an idea of how and where to improve on service and facilities, and boost staff that get a mention.”  You can post photographs on social media platforms, or send out a press release, and lastly update the budget and reports and file that folder for next time. 

Then you can relax and enjoy the kudos for another job well done in creating a cool event that has everyone talking. 

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