5 Things I Learned From Planning My Biggest Event Ever

21 vendors.
28 staff members.
140 volunteers.
400 cars across three lots.
858 attendees.
$26,805 raised.

These were just a few of the many, moving parts from my biggest event in 2015. It’s always been the organization’s largest event. Every year, it grows in attendance, planning, and activities.

Even though I’ve planned hundreds of events, I still learn something new after each one. Whether you’ve planned one or hundreds of events, these tips will help you plan your next gathering, regardless of size!


5. Start With a Plan

My summer was all about meetings. I met with staff members to figure out activities for their booths. I met with parking volunteers to find ways to tame the wild beast that is parking. I met with the resident chef to improve the free lunch for 800+ attendees. During each meeting, we talked about volunteers and supplies needed for each station, ways to improve from last year, schedules, and a lot of what-if scenarios (it rains, what if ___ people come, etc., it). After each meeting, I typed up my notes into a master event plan. This document evolved and was refined over time and eventually was given out to all of the staff members, volunteers, and vendors.


4. Delegate Whenever Possible

As the event host, it’s inevitable that you will be pulled in 7,000 directions the day of your event. During last year’s event, I made the mistake of trying to do everything. Did I need to check in vendors? No. Did I need to make the final parking decisions? Nope. Figure out your role during the day and delegate as much as possible (that goes for set-up too).


3. Get Everyone on the Same Page

Juggling 140 volunteers, 28 staff members, and 22 vendors was not hard; it just took a lot of communication. The last two weeks before my event was spent emailing schedules, maps, FAQs, who was working where, and detailed volunteer job descriptions to staff members, volunteers, and vendors. I wanted to allow enough time for everyone to digest the truckload of information I sent out and have opportunities to ask questions. I also made sure they knew that all of this information was available the day of the event too. Sending out information ahead of time cut down on day-of confusion.


2. Not Everything Goes as Planned

There’s a reason the phrase, “We make plans and God laughs” exists. Hosting an event is a mix of creating plans and just rolling with the punches. And chances are, you will be the only person to notice if every single thing didn’t go according to plan.


1. Every Event is a Learning Experience

After every event, I sit down to figure out what worked best and what could have been improved. I’ll send around a survey to staff, volunteers, and attendees with the same questions. Not only will these answers help shape future events, but they will help me grow as an event planner.

It doesn’t matter if you are hosting 10 or 10,000 people. To pull off a successful shindig, you will need a detailed plan, a core group of helpers to take on responsibilities, lots of communication, and the ability to solve problems on the fly (a sense of humor helps too). What are some lessons you learned after an event you hosted? Let me know in the comments below!

Photos by Peter Forster