Planning a large event can seem like a daunting task. It’s one of those occasions where meticulous organisational skills are needed, but more than that, you need to understand how to prepare for things going wrong. If you don’t have contingency plans in place, a cancellation from a caterer or the news that heavy rain is forecast can feel like a disaster. With a solid plan and plenty of event protection, you can weather any storm.
Whether you’re running a market, a music festival or concert, organising a convention or exhibition, or throwing the street party or wedding of the year – you’ll find invaluable tips and advice. Our handy guide will take you through the planning process for a large event, step by step, including how to financially protect your project too.
Fail to Prepare…
…prepare to fail, as the saying goes. And when you’re planning a large event, this couldn’t be more appropriate. You may be keen to secure the star performer you’ve been dreaming of or hire in the caterers everyone raves about, but don’t rush in too hastily. Take the time at the start of the process to strategically plan out your event first.
Before you even think about choosing dates and making bookings, decide precisely what the concept of your event is. Ask yourself:
- What is the purpose of the large event that you’re organising – what do I want it to achieve?
- Who do I want to attend the event?
- What would this target audience want from the event?
- How big should the event be and how many people can come?
- If you’re planning a large event outdoors, how will you look after attendees in terms of facilities and weather protection?
- What is the event budget? Is there any flexibility here?
- How long will it take me to organise the event, and when could it feasibly be held?
It’s best to answer these questions before you move forward with your planning. These give you not only a clear vision of the concept of your event but also provide you with a realistic time frame in which to organise the event and a budget that guides your choices.
The finances of an event are clearly critical. Not all events are run for profit, and in the case of a wedding or party, you may need to be very strict with your budget. If you are charging people to attend your event, the cost of tickets must be carefully considered. You can’t assume that all tickets will be sold and therefore cannot base your budget on that projection.
Planning large events takes time. One attended by 500 people can take up to a year to prepare. Refer to this realistic one-year timeline for planning an event to help you map out your event organising:
- Twelve months before the event – conduct an event planning session, set your budget, organise a team (or enlist friends and family to help you), decide on your date and book your venue. Conduct an initial risk and health and safety assessment and secure event insurance – doing so at the planning stage offers you financial protection from the start. Contact key acts/performers/vendors to provisionally book the event date. At this stage, you should also research whether you’ll need any permits for your event (and please be aware that permit requirements can vary between local authorities and councils), as these often take more time than you’d anticipate. Set up your event website and get your booking systems in place for early bird ticket sales.
- Nine months before the event – reassess your budget and amend any upcoming expenditures accordingly. Plan your venue layout and finalise design/décor schemes, start marketing your event if applicable, and book caterers and equipment, staff, security, transportation and site services. This is also an excellent time to research back-up plans for your main performers, venues, food and beverage and staffing. Don’t be tempted to skip this step and consider going as far as getting quotes, so you know where you’ll stand with your budget if you need to follow plan B.
- Six months before the event – reassess your budget, confirm your provisional bookings, conduct an updated risk assessment, organise merchandise/gift bags/favours, plan your emergency procedures, and design and print programmes/invitations/passes.
- Three months before the event – reassess your budget. This is the final stage where you can feasibly raise more capital or implement major cutbacks. Refine your security plans with your chosen firm, make a final push for ticket sales, check that all merchandise/gifting is in order and arrange an on-site visit with your team or helpers. If you need to recruit temporary staff for the event, now is the best time – any sooner and you risk a problematic level of drop-out.
- One month before the event – meet with the caterers and provide them with final attendee numbers, double check and confirm all bookings/staff/performers/vendors.
- Two weeks before the event – provide all staff and key personnel with a detailed breakdown of the event and their allocated duties.
- Two days before the event, brief your team, perform a run-through and start setting up the event.
- A week after the event – this is the final stage of organising an event. Monitor the event clean-up, deal with the remaining financial matters (wages, invoices, ticket sales) and report any claims or issues to your insurer (but remember claims by staff or members of the public may take many months to be lodged). Send out thank messages/cards, update any related social media, and evaluate and assess your event.
Event Organisation Tools
Checklists are the ideal tool for managing your event planning and tracking tasks. Once you’ve brainstormed your initial to-do list, divide your task into categories and compile workable checklists. Likely categories include venue, entertainment, food and beverage, merchandise and gifting, sales, marketing and promotion, staffing and event safety and protection.
Spreadsheets that you can share with other team members make it much simpler to track tasks. Make sure you set clear guidance as to how delegation and task completion will be represented on the spreadsheets. Colour coding is a simple way to do this and allows you to assess progress day to day quickly. It also helps you see who can be delegated more work and who may need to be supported or motivated.
Spreadsheets are an invaluable tool for budget management when planning a large event. Establishing your main expenditures at the start of the process is important. These will include the venue, food and beverage, entertainment, decorations and equipment, marketing, staff and your software. Understanding where the largest portions of your budget will go will highlight how crucial financial protection is when planning your large event. If your venue or caterers suddenly go bust, you may temporarily lose a notable chunk of your budget. Event insurance offers you a plan B for recovering your losses promptly.
If you’re organising a ticketed event, you need systems to deal with bookings, and early on in the process, you’ll need to put a cancellation and data protection policy in place. This is one of the areas where event insurance is helpful. You may like to add cover to your insurance policy that will offer protection against event cancellation, and cyber cover is wise if you’re using online booking systems.
Promoting the Event
Event planning has been made a lot simpler thanks to advances in technology. Not only can we utilise social media to promote large events, but there are also software solutions for your ticket sales and event registration.
Whether your event is open to members of the public or by invitation only, you want to create a buzz. For ticketed events, consider teasers up to a year in advance, followed by early-bird ticket offers. If your event is being sponsored, collaborate with these companies with viral marketing ideas.
Create a website for your event and think carefully about what information you’ll include in the early days. Never advertise an act or facility before you’ve confirmed that booking, and be sure to state your cancellation policy clearly.
Protecting the Event
Always expect the unexpected. It makes your planning and organisation more thorough, protects your budget and takes a great weight off your shoulders. In addition to formulating your own back-up plans, such as an alternative venue and contingency plans for poor weather, take out an event insurance policy.
Currently, in the UK, there is no legal obligation to hold public liability insurance for any size of event. However, the financial implications of not doing can be significant. Although the law doesn’t require you to take out this insurance, it holds the event organiser liable for claims made by members of the public. Therefore, you need to know that you can afford the associated legal fees and potential compensation costs.
Event insurance can be taken out for events of all sizes and duration, representing a collection of covers that protect you financially. Public liability insurance is at the heart of the policy, which is considered a wise choice when organising a public event. This cover protects you against claims made by any member of the public at the event for injury or damage to their personal property attributable to your event. Don’t be tempted to omit this cover just because your venue holds its own public liability insurance – this may not cover events hosted by a third party such as yourself.
If you’re hiring staff for your event, the law in the UK currently states that you must hold employers’ liability insurance, covering at least £5 million. Including this cover is a good idea, even if you’re only using volunteers.
Event cancellation coverage is probably something you’re interested in! This is a form of cancellation and abandonment cover, and it’s a building block of your event insurance policy that you must consider carefully. There are many reasons why an event may need to be cancelled, including an issue with the venue. Discuss with an insurer such as Park Insurance whether there are any exclusions to this cover, and then decide whether you’ll need an extension to protect you against an uninsured risk. For British events, ensuring that bad weather is covered is always a good idea.
If you’re hosting your event on your own land or within your own property, you may like to add property cover. This will safeguard against property damage from attendees, staff or the equipment used at your event.
If you’re planning a large event and would like insurance, get in touch with one of the friendly insurance experts at Park Insurance. They’ll ask you about your event, and with their years of experience in specialist insurance, they will tailor a policy that protects your finances and all that hard work.