Planning an event can be tricky, no matter the size. Hosts and guests alike have expectations for the gathering, and you're tasked with meeting them. Preparation is vital, whether it's a small affair like a child's birthday party or a large conference. 

An organized plan will help relieve stress and make sure the event goes off without a hitch. Check out the tips below for ideas on how to make your next event run smoothly.

1. Know Your 'Why'

The first step in planning any successful event is to know the event's purpose. Understanding why you're planning the event is key to starting the process. Maybe you're throwing a party to celebrate your son's first birthday. Perhaps you're on the employee activities committee, and this is an event to build engagement with your colleagues.

Whatever the occasion, sitting down and meeting with the other people involved is helpful in brainstorming. Make sure to have a detailed meeting agenda and assign one of your team members with taking meeting minutes so everyone leaves the meeting feeling aligned on decisions and next steps. 

2. Create a Plan  

Once you know why you want to plan an event, it's time to make a plan. Depending on the scope of the event, you may need additional meetings. Be sure to document action items in meeting notes since they are crucial building blocks for a successful event. 

Develop your plan in an organized manner. Some people might find creating a shared document to be helpful. Others might save the plan in a Microsoft Teams or Slack channel, so everyone has access to it. These platforms also allow multiple people to edit the document. 

3. Set Realistic Timelines

Realistic timelines are crucial to holding a successful event. Nothing throws an event off the rails quite like improper planning and last-minute rushing. If you plan a Christmas Eve celebration on Dec. 14, you will - at best - have to make sacrifices. Finding and booking a venue at the last minute will be challenging, if not impossible. You will also have difficulty determining guest counts on such short notice.  

Set a timeline that allows plenty of lead time. Work backward from your planned event date, noting every task. If you're not sure how much time to allot for each task or decision, seek out online resources. For example, wedding planning is a common event, and there are plenty of guides to help. They list details like when to order your dress and book venues ahead of your big day.

4. Create a Budget

Your plan should include an event budget - one you can stick to. Your financial plan is only effective if you choose to use it. Make sure that part of your budgeting process includes tracking expenses carefully. Monitoring how much you spend, including contracts you sign, is essential. 

Some items will need to be purchased in advance. Other things, like venue rentals, may require deposits or entail payment plans. Suppose you ignore your budget and spend more than you have available on things like decorations or entertainment. Then you'll have to sacrifice in other areas like catering if you run short on funds.

5. Invite Attendees Well in Advance

There's no more essential aspect of an event than the list of attendees. Your guests should be at the center of your event. To make sure people can attend, send invitations early. That way, guests have the details and can plan. More advance notice is needed if the function requires travel and booking accommodations.  

Don't neglect to include a request for RSVP or another way to track who will attend. Knowing your guest count and creating a cut-off date are crucial for getting accurate food counts for caterers. Your guests will enjoy themselves if they get enough to eat, and your pocketbook will be happier if you're not paying for uneaten food. 

6. Create an Outline for the 'Day Of'

A timeline is not only important to the lead-up of the event; it's also critical for the day of the event. Some venues allow you to set up the night before. Other venues won't allow you access to the facility before the morning of the event. Creating an outline that includes times, deliverables, and the point person for each task will keep things on track. 

You can head off a lot of problems when everyone involved knows the details regarding setup, catering, and the number of guests. Your detailed agenda might include the time doors open, food is served, and speakers make their presentations. Having a set agenda will enable you to use your limited time in the venue to best advantage. 

7. Thank Guests 

Remember to thank your guests for attending. You can do this through a gift at their place setting, a goodie bag, or a handwritten thank-you card. For higher-attendance work events, you might send out a thank-you email instead. This can be an excellent relationship-building tool for future events. 

If you are hosting future work-related events similar to this one, ask for feedback in your thank-you message. You can even create an online survey or comment card. That will allow you to evaluate your event's successes and slip-ups and help the next one go even better! 

Event planning is not for the faint of heart. It requires organization and a lot of work beforehand to ensure the event goes smoothly. These tips can help you prioritize and stay on track so you and your guests leave happy. They can also help you reduce your stress in the process.