Planning a small soiree, an extravagant affair, or a simple dinner party takes time and effort if you want all to go smoothly. Hosting a get together like a happy hour or networking event is a way to test your organization, social, and planning skills while connecting with people and learning more about them. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to party and sip champagne? Some wannabe hosts shy away from party planning in fear that the process will make them want to pull out their hair, but creating an elegant event can be executed calmly if you focus on completing one task at a time.
Before you start picking out silver wear and calling caterers, you must first ask yourself, “What is the goal of the event?” Is it to gain more customers, or to tighten connections with them? Is it to show your employees that you appreciate their hard work? Answer the 5 W’s to start you off. Who is this event for, and what is the benefit for you and your attendees? Or do you just want to plan a fun night for friends to catch up? Picking a specific goal will allow the other aspects of planning to fall into place much easier than they would without a definitive reason for the event.
Ready, Set, Plan
The first step is to create a budget. How much are you willing to spend on this event? If you are new to event planning, break down the event into three categories: food and beverage, decor, and location. Food and beverage will most likely be the bulk of your budget, so giving yourself approximate estimates for each category will help you keep you on track. Little knick knacks can add up fast and you don’t want to be lacking in an area due to poor budgeting.
Create A Guest List.
It is difficult to start ordering when you are unsure of how many attendees there will be. See how many guests you want there to be, keeping in mind your budget and possible locations. Is it an in-house event, that might force the guest list to be shortened? Or are numbers not an issue so you can encourage guests to bring a friend? We suggest creating “definite” and “maybe” guest lists. If space is limited, first invite only the people you definitely want to come. If people start declining their invites, send out the maybe invitations for the people who may not have made the first cut. Guesstimate how many people you actually intend to show up, so nothing goes to waste.
Select A Date. When is the best time for your event? Think about the guests you are planning on inviting. Are most work-a-holics who are unavailable during the week? If you know little to nothing about guests’ personal lives, then opt for a weekend.
Scout Locations. Choose a venue based on the type of event you plan on throwing. If is a business event, will the office itself work, or do other options need to be explored? What are each venue’s limitations, staffing, audio equipment? When in doubt, go for more room than not, nothing dampens the mood of a party more than feeling stuffed and overcrowded in an apartment that was made to fit half the amount of people.
Pick A Theme. Having a theme can pull your entire event together. It seems like creating a theme would lead to more planning, but having a theme can help tie your entire event together from invitations to food and drink ideas. With the holidays being just around the corner, a simple “fall/winter” or “holidays” theme will suffice. People love the holidays and there are tons of decor and unique food and drink ideas available.
Create a Timeline. Once you have the general guidelines laid out, setting a timeline is crucial in maintaining organization and your own sanity. Event planning can get hectic and it is important as the planner to stay calm and enjoy the process. After all, you’re planning a party not a funeral. Set out dates to send out invitations, to order food by, and to place order for decor and other goods like gift bags or specialty favors.
Send Invitations. Invitations should be the first thing crossed off your timeline. Don’t sell yourself or your event short and give guests too short of notice to plan and attend. Send invitations out no later than four weeks prior to the event date. Try using different methods to send out invitations. You know your audience, what will they respond to? After two weeks go by and responses are sparse, send a friendly follow up email encouraging people to RSVP. If you are new to planning, consider tagging along to friend’s dinner parties and other events in your area for ideas and tips. There might be an event in your town that can establish some traction for your event and inspire you interesting food displays and fun drinks you didn’t know about.
As always, be the ultimate hostess. Make sure during the event, drinks are filled, guests are comfortable, and smiles are wide. Let the room be filled with conversation and laughs and impress your guests with how awesome their otherwise typical Friday night turned out to be.