Event planning is akin to project planning – an event could be considered as a project: the same problems occur in events as they do in most other projects – strategies therefore are also similar.

A project or event plan can be described as a road map which shows the route for completing specific objectives, (and alternative ways) from start to finish. When you first start to plan an event all the relevant aspects associated with the event, from conception to end, may not always be totally clear. A planning process or strategy helps to clarify and identify the needs associated with an event.
Once the staging of an event has been considered and decisions to proceed have been made, it is time to formulate and implement a planning strategy. This framework or plan is essential for implementing a project. It ensures that what is needed is accounted for, and that the correct steps are taken. The key approach to event planning is to identify and determine the planning parameters of the event.

Planning Parameters
Correct planning involves a number of activities which have to be carefully thought out before an event can be staged. These include:

  • Working out the necessary resource requirements
  • Defining each task’s objectives
  • Determining a set of performance measures to evaluate progress

The main event parameters need to be defined beforehand, in order to complete these activities. This involves:

  • Quality planning
  • Time planning
  • Expense planning

Planning Quality
To plan the quality of an event is to refine those tasks broadly defined during the event formulation phase discussed earlier.

Part of the quality planning is to prioritise the order of tasks into a sequence which best fits the event’s progress. It is important to remember that the quality dimension is the crucial linchpin between resources required and the time/cost dimension. Quality planning outlines the standards of performance expected by the stakeholders, and provides a useful guide for monitoring progress.

Key quality planning elements are:

  • Determining the quality and types of resources needed (human and material)
  • Setting the performance standards desired
  • Verifying output quality

The latter two elements (performance standards and the verification of output quality) are monitored by comparing the actual progress of the project during the implementation phase, with the planned progress as defined by the event schedule or the event’s strategy framework.

Developing a Strategy Framework

A strategy framework breaks down into tasks, and reduces the possibility of overlooking essential objectives or sub-objectives which must be completed during the event’s planning cycle. Each task is listed as a specific activity which must be done in order to stage the event.

Tasks can be prioritised according to how essential they are. Categories of essentiality include "essential", "not so essential", "non-essential" and "not necessary". This does not mean that tasks which fall within the last ‘not necessary’ category are in fact unnecessary. Rather that if the budget, time or other unpredictable constraints occur and the strategy framework needs to be changed, then these tasks can be left out altogether, without any lasting disruption to the project. For example, perhaps you decide that you would like some balloons let off at the end of an event. However, the organisation of the balloons becomes difficult and costly, and as it is under the “not necessary” category, you may decide not to bother with balloons. But if you were running an event to promote balloons and balloons sellers, then this final release of balloons would most probably be “essential”. It is for the event manager, and those involved, to decide what is essential and what isn’t. This can be easier said than done. An event manager may be organising an event where there will be hundreds of vendors, bands, stalls and so on. They may all have different requirements, different things they consider important. At the end of the day, the event manager must be sure of the focus of the event and ensure that what is consider essential or not essential is based on that focus.  If the focus is to promote the sales of balloons, then that is the focus.

A Strategy Framework should broadly incorporate the following qualities:

  • The goal and sub-objectives of each task.
  • General resource commitments.
  • A general layout of planned schedules.

A more detailed breakdown of the task schedules and requirements is often necessary when planning quality. This is accomplished by an Event Breakdown Structure.

Developing an Event Breakdown Structure

  • An event breakdown-structure is an analysis of the tasks listed in the Strategy Framework. Each task is broken down into sub-tasks and all the relevant activities identified. An event breakdown-structure therefore goes further than the
  • Strategy Framework, by detailing the process required to complete each task of the project. In particular, the Project
  • Breakdown-Structure identifies the necessary resources and standards, or output quality, to be fulfilled.

Useful questions to ask at this stage include:

  • What is the overall goal to be accomplished?
  • What has to be done to meet this goal?
  • How can it be done?