As a small business owner, there will likely come a time when you need to plan an event. It could be a big sale, a company-wide get-together, a day-long seminar, or what have you. The question is, how do you do it?


Not surprisingly, the devil is in the details. Planning a successful event has everything to do with planning. This can be broken into two main categories:


     1. Clarifying your objectives

     2. Scheduling


Let’s dig into both:


1. Clarifying your objectives: Obviously, you have a good idea about the event you want to put on and why you are doing it. That said, you can better marshal your resources (efforts, finances, etc.) by thinking through what it is you want to get out of the program.



For example, if the goal of your event is to generate immediate sales, then you will need to advertise in such a way and in such places that your message gets out to people most likely to respond. Conversely, if your goal is to build your brand in the community, then you would want to involve community groups in your planning and promotion.


Once you are clear on what you want to do and what success will look like, then the real work begins – digging into the nitty-gritty of scheduling the event.


2. Event planning checklist: Beginning four months out, you will want to do the following:


Four months before the event:


  • Set a date. Note, for business events, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are generally tougher sells
  • Establish a budget
  • Appoint a point-person / event coordinator
  • Identify potential partners
  • Compile an invitation list of customers, prospects, sponsors, community and business groups
  • Outline promotional efforts


Three months before the event:


  • Scout and choose a location. The right location is vital. Are you going for something more casual or more serious? The location sets the tone
  • Reach out to potential co-sponsors
  • Meet with caterers and outline food and beverage needs


Two months before the event:


  • Share event details with co-sponsors and other partners for their own marketing. Additionally, outline everyone’s duties and your expectations
  • Send out ‘save the date’ notices to your list
  • Order marketing and display materials
  • Order audio-visual equipment (podium, microphones, speakers, etc.)


One month before the event:


  • Identify potential media interest and send promotional email outlining event details (avoid sending a press release)
  • Send actual invite, including RSVP
  • Launch marketing, including social posts and website updates


Two weeks before the event:


  • Follow up with media
  • Follow up with partners
  • Continue social media
  • Send reminder emails
  • Give caterer a final head count
  • Event location walkthrough. Confirm it has enough infrastructure (electrical outlets, audiovisual, trashcans, coat checks, etc.)


One week before the event:


  • Go over event details with your team
  • Assign duties
  • Make name tags, if appropriate
  • Pack needed supplies
  • Double check that you have enough chairs, food ordered, etc.


Day of event:


  • Arrive early
  • Set up event room


After the event:


  • Send thank yous
  • Follow-up on leads


And if everything goes according to plan, or close to it, start thinking about your next event!




Related Content: Tips from a Pro: How to Score a Small Business Touchdown at a Local Event by Dhani Jones



About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png


Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success. © Steven D. Strauss.


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