Planning a successful event is a major challenge, and can involve dealing with multiple suppliers, council departments, the police, fire brigade, press and many other organisations. Even a small company funday can involve weeks of planning and for someone not used to it, prove incredibly stressful.
Our advice is wherever possible use a professional event planner, the money they cost may well be saved by the deals they can negotiate with suppliers, and just imagine your event opening its doors, only to find the Police waiting to close it down because you haven’t applied for the relevant licence!
However, its quite possible that your planning a smaller event and feel confident you can do it, or even relish the challenge, or perhaps your company director has decided to hold a funday for the staff and given you the job, what next.
No amount of tips will ever replace the experience that a professional will bring to the table, but a little bit of research and some methodical planning can give you a fighting chance at delivering a successful event and hopefully help you avoid some of the pitfalls along the way. There are a few pages explaining the basics, then a resource page at the end with information that can be downloaded and links to more in depth resources.
There are 6 basic questions you need answering before you can proceed with planning these are;
- How many people is it for
- What will the age groups be
- What sort of entertainment is required
- Will catering be required
- Where will it be held
- Who Needs To Be Informed
How Many People Is It For
This question is the most important as it will dictate the answers to many of the others. The number of guests is the first thing you need to find out. There is little point booking a local pub to try and house 500 members of staff. Similarly a major exhibition centre is overkill if you have 20 members of staff coming for a little party (although many exhibition centres will have a number of smaller rooms that can be hired for smaller events).
The guest numbers will also dictate how much entertainment you need (booking a funfair ride that will carry 4 people is little use if your event lasts 2 hours and you have 500 people there). Similarly you don’t want to order a hog roast for 100 guests and expect to spread it between 500, many guests will ask for seconds so really you should be ordering more than you need, we usually try to stock up for an additional 10% or so.
What will the age group be
Any entertainment, and to a lesser extent catering, will need tailoring to the age of the guests. Booking a selection of high speed thrill rides will be great for the bulk of people, but won’t impress a gang of 5 year olds, or their mothers!
Similarly a hot young contemporary comedian might go down a storm with the 30 somethings but upset the older generation, and if your company directors come into this bracket it might not be a good idea to upset them.
We would normally work the guests into catogeries;
- Young Kids
- Everybody else
What Sort Of Entertainment Is Required
You are lucky nowadays, with the advent of the Internet there is an unbelievable choice of entertainment for your event. From bands to team-building to funfair’s and much more besides.
With the information you have selected, you will be able to prepare a plan of what you are going to need. Make sure there is something for everybody, any group left out is going to complain. Obviously if there is only going to be 2 children there then you can’t really justify 4 or 5 children’s entertainers (unless they happen to be the owners kids), similarly if there are only a small number of older people in the mix you may well get away with booking a risque comedian, you could always explain that it is someone the majority of the people like and explain why they might find him offensive, you might be surprised, we’ve been to many events where the liveliest group are the older generation.
Some choices such as funfair games (hey we are a funfair company so we are going to tell you about our stuff), works equally well for all ages, kids love games such as the coconut shie, whilst the grown ups will be competitive and want to beat their mates (or impress their girlfriend/boyfriend/partner).
Your entertainment choice might be dictated by the choice of venue, if you are having an indoor event then there is no point thinking about something like a ferris wheel, there are few venues that it will fit inside. Equally a crooning singer might not like the idea of working outdoors. You need to draw up your entertainment list and then review it after you have sorted the venue out.
Is Catering Required
I can think of very few events we have attended where catering hasn’t been provided, people basically need to eat and drink, and the catering can easily make or break the event. A small number of guests at an intimate party might be better served by a sit down meal, though we regularly see 4-500 sit down guests being served a 3 course dinner, for that you will probably be better using the venues caterer as the logistics involved in laying out 500 places in a tent in the middle of a field are complex, and you would need to be sure an outside caterer was up to the task.
If you are having some outdoor entertainment, then hog roast, burger van, buffet type food is probably the way to go, the guests can mix and mingle, listen to the entertainment/use the attractions and feed when they feel like it. An ice cream cart or candy floss cart or other fun food will make a nice addition and usually keep going throughout the event.
Don’t forget to take into account any special dietary requirements, such as vegetarians or someone that can only eat Halal or Kosher.
Where Will It Be Held
Again this ties in with the number of guests you have and the type of event. If its a large family funday you are going to need enough space for the rides, games and catering attractions, and just as importantly suitable access, there is no point booking a 30 acre field for a full scale funfair, if the only access road is 6ft wide (believe me we have had this happen), any reputable supplier would arrange a site visit to check access fro large vehicles, though you may either have to pay for it, or be patient so they can arrange to carry it out when they are in the area.
Indoor venues are licensed for a set number of people, so they will be able to tell you exactly how many guests you can have. A popular range of venues are football stadiums, they tend to have enough seating indoors and catering expertise for a large sit down meal, and plenty of room outside if you want a large outdoor event to go with it, racecourses are pretty similar.
If its a small intimate function, then usually a local bar or bistro would tick all the boxes for you.
But don’t be afraid to use unusual venues, we provided catering for an event in what used to be the cells of Clarkenwell prison, spooky and damp but really fun nonetheless.
Who Needs To Be Informed
At a small gathering in a local bistro, its probably a good idea to inform your guests of the event, otherwise it could be a little quiet, but there aren’t usually any statutory bodies that you are required to talk to.
Larger events depend on what you are going to be doing, alcohol usually requires a temporary event notice if you are charging for it, if it is being given away then it doesn’t fall under the retail sale of alcohol regulations so you don’t need to apply for one, if you need one remember to do it in good time, applications that are late will be refused.
A peculiarity of the act (at least we think so) is that the T.E.N. act doesn’t just cover alcohol, the full list of activities are;
- selling alcohol
- serving alcohol to members of a private club
- providing entertainment (eg music, dancing or indoor sporting events, but funfairs are exempt)
- serving hot food or drink between 11pm and 5am
So be careful, if you are having a live band or a late night event you could come under the terms of this. Normally you have to apply for a license 21 days before the event, but this has now been relaxed and you are allowed to apply for 10 Late TENS a year, these need putting in 5 days before.
A major event will also require first aid cover, and its probably a good idea to inform both the police and fire service.