A Working Guide to Planning an Event

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 Introduction | Planning an event | Worksheets


This workbook has been designed to help agriculture and rural organizations increase their effectiveness in planning a special event.

Organizing a successful, worry-free event can be challenging for any individual or group. The steps to planning a week-long event or an evening seminar are the same: What do you and/or your organization want to accomplish? How are you going to accomplish it? After it is over, how will you know if you have accomplished what you set out to do?

How much detail you have to organize will vary from event to event. Use the entire workbook or only those worksheets necessary for organizing important information. This master copy of the work book will allow you to reproduce the worksheets as your organization needs them. For some events, the “to-do” lists may not be needed. Keep relevant information together for future reference.

The initiative and work of Rhonda Reid, district home economics at Edson, in developing the first draft of this workbook is recognized and greatly appreciated.

Planning an Event

It takes a lot of time and energy to plan an event. Trying to deal with all the details can be frustrating. This step-by-step guide has been designed to help you and/or anyone in your organization effectively manage and organize information related to any event being planned. Use a few or all of the forms in this guide. They have been designed to be used individually or together.

When you start planning an event, try to keep track of the basic information. Use the “Event Outline” form to help you identify key points of the event. Why are you hosting the event? what do you want participants to walk away with? and what are some suggestions for topics? Also, confirm a date for the event.

Planning an event is much easier if members in your organization get together to share the workload. Choose a planning committee that will get you the information that will satisfy the needs and interests of your target group. Try to select individuals that would work together effectively. Remember that people come from different sets of experiences. The “Selecting a Planning Committee” form will help you in organizing a committee. At a glance, you will be able to tell who is on the committee, what their responsibilities are and how to contact them.

Once you’ve identified the goal for an event, consider how you are going to reach that goal. Use the “Establishing a Timeline” form to help you priorize all the jobs that need to be done prior to the day of your event. Some examples have been included to get you thinking about the kinds of tasks that need to be organized ahead of time. You will also likely have other things to do after the event.

As you start to plan the program, consider the amount of time registration, the opening address, refreshments/meals and select-a-sessions take up. The “Planning a Program” form is a sample outline for a one day event. It has been designed to help you plan your time and events over one day. Expand the form to cover several days or condense it to outline a half-day or evening event.

Planning the different sessions will be an easier task if you keep the goal of the event in mind. The “Planning a Session” form will help you organize important information for each session. The form takes you through all the steps of planning a session, from deciding what the session will be called to sending out all the appropriate thank-you letters.

The kind of budget you set up for the event you are planning depends on the type of event you want to host. If you are supplying a public service, your expenses may exceed your revenue. In this case, you will have to dip into existing funds to cover expenses. If you want to make a profit, your revenue must be greater than your expenses. Tailor the “Budgeting for an Event” form to help you manage the financial aspects for your event.

Once you’ve decided that you want to bring in a guest speaker, determine who the person will be. Use the “Arranging for a Speaker” form to help you organize the information you want to give the speaker. When you are speaking to the person for the first time, keep the “Speaker Profile” form handy too. It will help you to get all the necessary details on the speaker, while at the same time making you look organized and efficient. Remember that the kind of information you need on the speaker for a conference, evening meeting or kitchen talk will be the same. Refer to Appendix 1, “Sample Contract” when you start discussing fees.

Book the facilities for the event as far ahead of time as possible. Take the “Booking the Facility and Coordinating Set Up” form and follow it step by step to manage all the details. When you book a facility, follow up with a contract letter that outlines the details of your arrangements. Having something in writing lets you or the manager of the facility see if all the requirements are being met. Once you have booked the facility, develop a set-up schedule. The people responsible for arranging the floor plan, planning table arrangements and setting up signs will have a better idea of what needs to be done and when. In the end, the little details are what participants will remember. The little things can make or break your event.

The caterer should be booked as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. The “Arranging for Food Service” form may trigger some things you had not considered.

Advertising and promoting your event are absolutely vital to its success. Each community reacts to advertising differently. Use the “Planning an Advertising Campaign” form to mark off strategies that work best in your community. Make a note of other things that work well for you. The committee taking over next year will be thankful!

Registering participants for an event can be a nightmare. Taking the time to plan ahead will save you a lot of trouble. Work through the form on “Managing Registration” and try a “mock” registration before the event to iron out any problems.

Deciding whether or not to invite a special guest depends on the goal of the event and what the person’s role might be. The “Inviting a Special Guest” form will outline steps to follow once you have decided to invite a guest.

Keeping track of who wants what equipment and where can be quite a job! The “Master Equipment Checklist” has to be designed to make that task easier. Mark off the total number of units of each type of equipment you will need for the event. In some cases, you will be able to borrow equipment from local sources (for example, schools, churches, community halls and so on). If you have no luck with these sources, you may have to try renting the equipment.

When you set up a display area, consider “why” you are having the displays in the first place. This reasoning will make it easier for you to decide who the exhibitors will be. You may have to decide whether you will allow selling of products. The form on “Setting up a Display Area” will also help you keep track of who the exhibitors are in case you need to contact them.

Putting registration/information packages together takes time and energy. Half the battle is thinking ahead to what contents to include, who is going to assemble the packages, where they are going to be assembled and when and who is going to deliver them to the event. Plan ahead to cut down on the actual preparation time. Use the form “Assembling Registration/Information Packages.”

In watching the details, you sometimes lose sight of the whole picture. The “Planning an Event Summary Sheet” is your event at a glance. It highlights important general information that all committee members should be aware of. You can easily update latecomers to the committee, while at the same time keeping yourself organized.

Evaluating an event, an important part of planning an event, is often overlooked. An evaluation tells you how the event turned out for the participants and others involved in organizing it and what changes should be made to make it more successful next time. When you evaluate an event, try to involve as many people as you can (for example, participants, advisory members, speakers and so on.) Ask for verbal comments or have individuals fill out a questionnaire. Remember, you want to use the evaluation to collect useful information. For example, were the goals and objectives met, what was good about the event and what are some ideas for making it better next time. The “Evaluating an Event” form will show you what to do with the information you have collected. Use the “Sample Evaluation” form for ideas in designing your own evaluation form. Design questions that will get you the answers you need.

Prepare a final report highlighting major results. The kinds of things you might want to include in a report are highlighted in the “Sample Report” form. A report will come in handy next time you or anyone else plans a similar event.

If you would like more information on selecting a committee or planning a program, the following
publications are available from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.


The worksheets are in pdf format and appear in the following groupings:

Getting the Basic Information Organizing the Details Wrapping it Up Sample Forms
Source: Agdex 1933-31-1. Revised 2012.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Rita Splawinski.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on October 3, 2012.
Last Reviewed/Revised on June 12, 2018.