June 05, 2024
By Paul Cook

We live in an increasingly digital world, and event delegates' expectations have shifted at the same pace. Attendees are demanding ever-more-personalised experiences, and to deliver such engaging experiences, you need a reliable event management plan. 

Effective event management transforms concepts into reality and crafts lasting memories. To help you, this post outlines some of today’s most effective event management best practices. 

Why is event management important?

Event management is crucial for creating unforgettable experiences. Event managers bring visions to life by coordinating every detail, from selecting the venue to engaging with attendees. 

Without the event management process, chaos would likely ensue. Just think of venues without bookings, vendors without direction, and attendees without guidance. Event management is the glue that holds everything together, creating moments that will be remembered long after the event is over.

How to manage an event in 12 steps

Knowing how to manage an event is the starting point, so here are 12 crucial steps in the event management process.

1. Set your event goals 

To define your event’s goals, there are three key questions that you need to answer:

Why are you organising the event? 

To answer this, consider how the event aligns with your organisational objectives. What are the short-term and long-term goals for the event? 

Events can be used in many ways, including, to help generate leads, establish industry credibility, or recognise employees. Whatever the reason you’re planning an event, it needs a clear-cut purpose from the start. 

Who is your audience? 

Understanding your audience’s needs and motivation is critical for success. Is the audience local or international? What’s the demographic, and what are their issues? The more you know about the attendees, the better you can serve them and provide tailored content.

Which KPIs will you measure? 

Understanding the metrics for measuring the success of an event is crucial for your organisation. Most organisations prioritise numbers, and typical key performance indicators (KPIs) could include:

  • Number of registrations 
  • New vs. returning attendees 
  • New sponsors 
  • Attendee satisfaction
  • Social media engagement
  • Number of leads generated
  • Revenue generated  

At this stage of goal setting, it’s important to agree on your individual performance KPIs. What will you be assessed on? Understanding this is crucial because it will affect how you make decisions.

2. Determine your event budget 

It’s important to produce a detailed event budget that will help you track costs and make smart business decisions.

The first stage is to make a comprehensive list of all the budget line items, such as:

  • Venue hire
  • Audio-visual (AV)
  • Food and beverage
  • Accommodation and travel
  • Speaker fees
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Other cost components

The next stage is to research the event budget costs to estimate pricing as closely as possible to the actual cost. While checking historical pricing data from previous events will give you an idea, it’s better to check with suppliers and request several quotes to get a clear, up-to-date picture.

Event management software is very helpful as it includes dedicated event budget management tools. These tools ensure accurate budgetary information collection while helping you track your spending easily, generate budget reports, and demonstrate your event's ROI.

3. Choose the right venue 

A venue sets the stage for your event, and it’s critical to choose the right one, especially as attendees have ever-increasing expectations. 

But finding the right venue can be a lengthy process. Luckily, venue-sourcing platforms like the Cvent Supplier Network can simplify the process of finding the perfect event space. 

Remember to consider the venue's sustainability and accessibility credentials. This is an increasingly important area for organisations to deliver their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies. 

4. Source and contract vendors  

Events require the services of multiple vendors for everything to be delivered without a hitch. The list of vendors can be long, including transportation for attendees, badge suppliers, and more. 

All suppliers need to be sourced, costed, and contracted. Contacting the local Destination Management Company (DMC) can help, as they have local knowledge and can signpost you to trusted vendors. 

When working with suppliers, ensure that your brief is as precise as possible to gain a clear understanding of the costs associated with their product or service. 

Remember to select vendors that align with the vision of your event and are easy to work with. Avoid simply going with the lowest bidder because they may not be able to support you if things don’t go exactly to plan. And be sure to use contracts to prevent any ambiguity in service delivery. 

5. Create your event programme  

Creating your event programme requires a mix of creativity to make it attractive to attendees and an eye for detail and logistics. 

Consider the issues of sustainability, accessibility, and inclusivity as you plan your programme. 

Reviewing your event goals, particularly the audience profile and what they’re looking for, will enable you to develop your event programme. A mix of interactive sessions, networking opportunities, and adequate refreshment breaks are staple components of any programme. Attendees will respond better than if they are just being talked at.

If you plan to involve sponsors, also consider co-creating sessions with them.

6. Select great speakers  

Select great speakers

Speakers are integral to event success. Making the wrong selection can adversely impact your event, and booking the right speakers remains an important part of the event management process.

The latest Freeman Attendee Intent and Behaviour Trends Report 2024 findings are particularly relevant. According to them, attendees want to hear about topics like innovation (39%) and from people like industry leaders and experts (34%). Celebrity speakers won’t boost registrations unless they’re experts in a relevant vertical.

It’s best to take time to check out your speakers before contracting them, even if they’re recommended by a speaker agency. 

Do you need a speaker who focuses on big overall concepts, like a futurist, or someone who delves into the practicalities of the subject? Remember that just because you might like them doesn't necessarily mean they’ll work for your event. Make sure the speaker will be right for your attendees.

Arrange a conference call to hear and see them to discuss everything. You’ll gain a sense of what working together will be like, which is something you can’t get from looking at a speakers’ showreel.

💡Learn more about how to secure great speakers for your events

7. Event marketing and promotion 

The event website 

An event’s website is its shop window. It’s the primary and most important touchpoint and a vital promotional tool.

Ensure your website is attractive, consistent with your brand, easy for the user to navigate, and simple for you to update. It needs to provide detailed information about what attendees can expect should they choose to attend and the ability to book tickets. 

Remember that event websites must be designed with inclusivity in mind. Some basic ways you can do this are by ensuring that the site's performance doesn't degrade when viewed on phones or tablets and that you have clear navigation and text that can be easily enlarged by users.

Creating a custom event website has never been easier. You can create complete websites from scratch that enable you to collect registrations and payments and promote your event. 

Email marketing 

For B2B events, email marketing remains the most preferred mode of driving registrations. 

Planning an event email marketing campaign requires strong attention to detail. 

You’ll need to make sure that your email list is current, schedule your messages to accommodate different time zones, and ensure that your email messaging aligns with the overall marketing strategy.

Most event management software suites provide integrated event email marketing and event contact management solutions, which can be very helpful if you are looking to simplify and update your address book and send automated reminders to prospects and customers.

Content marketing

Organising successful conferences and events requires a meticulous content marketing strategy that covers all aspects before, during and after the event.

Content comes in all shapes and sizes, and your content plan should be mapped out before the event planning process begins.

You can and should use content such as blog posts, reports, podcast interviews, infographics, videos, and more as part of your marketing mix. 

You can involve your speakers and sponsors to help co-create content that benefits both parties, but it’s not their job to market your event; ultimately, it’s yours. 

Event content should be repurposed to reinforce your message or increase reach. 

Social media 

Every event marketing strategy should include a strong social media plan. 

You’ll need to determine which platforms will drive the most engagement. If your attendees use LinkedIn, connect with them there rather than posting videos on TikTok. However, it’s more likely that your attendees use a variety of platforms, so you’ll need to identify their preferences and post across them. 

Involve your social audience in the event's planning by posting polls asking them to vote on event elements, speaker topics, or create videos that will make them feel engaged and involved.

Making content social and easy to share is key – so use short video teasers and testimonials to promote your event.

Mobile event apps 

mobile event apps

With a mobile event app, you can facilitate seamless and personalised interactions with your target audience.

Offering your delegates a mobile app empowers them to create a stronger, more personal connection with your event before it begins. They could use it to connect with other attendees, arrange meetings, and plan their schedule of activities by previewing the speakers and programme. 

Think about what you’re including in the app and why it benefits your attendees. Avoid including anything that doesn't add real value, and make sure it’s easy to install and navigate. 

During the event, you can send push notifications for updates on new and upcoming sessions, inform attendees about what they must not miss, and encourage them to take part in polls and surveys via your app.

8. Schedule run-throughs and rehearsals with speakers and entertainers  

Speakers and entertainers are busy, so you’ll need to schedule time with them for run-throughs and rehearsals. 

A run-through is simply where you discuss what you want to happen with their performance. They can ask questions to ensure they understand exactly what’s needed. If there is any confusion on either side, the run-through is the time to work it out. 

A rehearsal is delivering the session before attendees are invited in. Rehearsals iron out any sound or lighting issues and, more importantly, give the speaker a sense of being on stage. 

Always schedule rehearsals if you want the session to go without a hitch. 

9. Review your onsite event check-in 

onsite event check in

To create a great first impression, the event check-in process should be quick and smooth. By using event management software that offers onsite check-in and registration facilities, you can easily ensure this happens. 

Self-service kiosks, on-demand badge printing, and card-swiping services for payments are some of the benefits provided by onsite event check-in solutions. Once through registration, you may be carrying out security bag checks. If so, make sure that, too, is as smooth as possible. Enabling attendees to easily get badged is of little use if you then create long lines of people waiting to be security searched. 

10. Enhance the real-time attendee experience 

When your event is live, it’s critical that you act in the moment to enhance the attendee experience; otherwise, all your planning could be wasted. 

Attendees have high expectations of their event experience. Ensure there is clear signage at the venue to direct them easily. Consider last-minute attendees who need to find a seat in the plenary session. Have you made it easy for them to grab a seat quickly without disrupting other attendees? 

Most of all, be open to instant feedback from delegates on any issues that need to be quickly resolved.  

11. Gather feedback 

Gathering event attendee feedback is crucial for improving future events. 

Your event’s mobile event app is a great way to get live reactions from sessions. It also means you can gather data about the polls and Q&A while attendees are experiencing the session. 

Some things you should use it to discover: 

  • The highest-rated content and topics
  • The most thought-provoking speaker 
  • The sessions with the highest attendance
  • Whether the networking time was enough
  • What attendees would like to see more of

Feedback in the moment is useful, but don’t forget to use post-event surveys to gather reactions once attendees have had time to reflect on the event. 

In addition to attendee feedback, hold de-brief sessions with stakeholders and your team. Discover their views and use them to enhance the next event. It’s important to gather as much feedback as you can before you have a true picture of the event's ROI. 

12. Present your event ROI  

Using event management technology to calculate your ROI and gathering feedback from your team and stakeholders allows you to present a comprehensive report on the event’s ROI.

While you have the decision makers with you, take the opportunity to lay out your plans for repurposing the event content to stay connected with attendees and maximise the event's value. 

Event management FAQs

a) How can I ensure effective communication with event stakeholders, such as clients, vendors, and attendees? 

It’s best to always communicate proactively and consistently with stakeholders.

To ensure effective communication with internal stakeholders, provide regular updates through meetings and emails. Get clear on managing expectations from the outset. 

For vendors, provide clear briefs and, where possible, use centralised platforms like Slack for seamless coordination.

You can keep attendees informed via emails, social media, and your mobile event app, ensuring they have all the necessary details. Make clear how attendees provide feedback and ask questions. 

b) Are there any industry certifications or professional development opportunities for event planners? 

There are several industry certifications and professional development opportunities for event planners. Some key qualifications include:

  • Certified Meeting Professional (CMP): Offered by the Events Industry Council, the CMP is a recognised standard for proficiency in event planning, logistics, risk management, and strategic planning.
  • Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP): Provided by the International Live Events Association, the CSEP acknowledges expertise in all areas of special event planning and management.
  • Digital Event Strategist (DES): Offered by PCMA, the DES focuses on digital and hybrid event planning, including virtual technologies and online engagement strategies.

Additional training programmes:

  • Meeting Professionals International (MPI) offers various courses, webinars, and workshops to enhance event planning skills. Many colleges and universities also provide a range of qualifications in event management. 
  • Courses from the Cvent Academy can help sharpen event tech skills, helping planners stay current with industry trends and demonstrate their expertise.

c) What are some common mistakes to avoid in event planning and management? 

1. Poor budget management: Underestimating costs and overspending can lead to financial strain, impacting the overall success of the event and potentially damaging relationships with clients and stakeholders. Avoid this by keeping a close eye on all spending and adjusting as needed. 

2. Inadequate risk management: Not carrying out risk assessments, developing contingency plans, or addressing safety concerns can jeopardise the safety of attendees and damage your reputation. Ensuring you have adequate insurance and signed contracts in place helps mitigate any potential loss. 

3. Lack of effective communication: Communication breakdowns with clients, vendors, or team members can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and logistical challenges, ultimately impacting the quality and execution of the event. It’s vital to keep communication channels open at all times. 

4. Venue selection: Choosing an unsuitable venue is a critical error likely to result in poor attendee experiences.  Ensure that you understand what your attendees expect from your event and use a venue sourcing tool such as Cvent Supplier Network (CSN) to help shortlist the most relevant venues. 

5. Ignoring event attendee needs and preferences: Failing to understand the demographics and interests of your target audience can lead to programming, entertainment choices, or catering options that miss the mark. Keeping abreast of the latest research and trends and aligning that with your audience is crucial to providing event attendees with what they need.

How can technology help with event management?  

Event technology enhances event management by streamlining processes and improving efficiency. Key functionalities of event management software include:

  • Venue Sourcing: A venue sourcing platform allows you to easily source hotels and venues for your event, send RFPs, and compare bids.
  • Registration: Allows you to collect attendee information, create personalised registration experiences, and process payments securely, minimising manual entry and paperwork.
  • Attendee Management: Software automates tasks like tracking RSVPs, sending personalised communications, and managing check-ins with QR codes or barcodes.
  • Event app: Provides attendees the opportunity to get more information about the event, including agendas and floorplans, as well as network with other attendees, access content, and more. 
  • Venue diagramming: Allow you to create interactive floorplans, bringing your event space to life. With a tool like Cvent Event Diagramming, you can even collaborate with your teams and venue in real-time.
  • Marketing and promotion: Built-in tools automate email campaigns, event websites, and attendee engagement tracking, reducing manual work.
  • Budget management: This enables budgeting, expense management, payment processing, and report generation.
  • Analytics and reporting: Advanced capabilities speed up performance tracking, ROI measurement, and attendee behaviour analysis, providing valuable insights for future planning.
  • Lead management: Allows for event leads to be captured and qualified, so that marketing and sales teams can follow up quickly and appropriately. 

These are just some of the tools that can enhance workflow efficiency, save time, and optimise resources for event planners. 

Crafting unforgettable events: A roadmap to success

Understanding event management best practices is crucial for delivering personalised experiences. Every detail matters in transforming concepts into reality, from setting clear goals to leveraging technology.

By mastering these steps and avoiding common pitfalls, you can elevate your events to new heights and leave lasting impressions on attendees. Embrace the journey with enthusiasm and creativity, as your next event could be the start of something truly extraordinary.

Discover more about event management in our Ultimate Guide to In-Person Events.

Paul Cook

Paul Cook has been immersed in business events for over 20 years, as a writer, producer, speaker, advisor, and educator. He is the author of three event focused books; Supercharge Your Virtual Speaking, Remotely Engaging and Risk It! Paul is a Past President of the UK Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and he is currently serving as a Jury President for the Eventex Awards.

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