We’ve all been to particularly fun events that leave us wishing they lasted a few hours longer. We’ve also been to some that can’t get over quick enough. Here are some fundamentals to keep in mind when planning an important event. They’ll help make sure that your party falls into the former category.
1. Location, location location!
Choosing the right location for an event is key. You want the venue to impart the vibe you’re aiming for. Is it going to have a street fair vibe? Is it a swanky cocktail soiree? Or is it a barn dance? If so, you need a barn. Find the location that’s right for the feeling you want to create for your guests.
2. Party time
What time, day and week make the most sense for your guests? We have found in the past that Thursday early evenings tend to work well for a lot of people. However, some Thursdays are “First Thursdays,” “Last Thursdays,” or some other themed Thursday that might conflict with another big event. Also, if you hold your event while people are at work, only those who can get time off will attend. Choosing the best day and time will vary based on types of guests, but there is no sense in putting on an event if most invitees can’t make it.
3. Lock down the fixtures
This isn’t the sexiest part of party planning, but it is essential. Depending on the scope of your event, you might need tables, chairs, tents, table coverings, bottled water, ice, storage containers, plates and utensils, serving apparatuses, etc. Start thinking about this early, and the day of your event will be a whole lot less stressful. While your DJ, vendors, caterers and other party participants aren’t exactly fixtures, organization will similarly pay off when dealing with them. Keep them apprised of what’s expected of them, and check back as often as is necessary to make sure everybody’s on the same page.
4. Serve tasty beverages
Clearly, this is the most important component. Okay, maybe not the most important, but it’s right up there at the top. Drinks, even if they’re not of the alcoholic variety, make people feel comfortable and more apt to loosen up a bit and chat. There is a reason booze is often called a social lubricant – it makes conversation slip off the tongue more easily and makes interaction feel more natural. Be sure to take care of this important detail.
5. Feed the people
This one seems obvious, but it’s necessary. People will stick around longer if tasty treats are available. At our recent anniversary party, we served finger foods from a local caterer that were all but demolished within a few hours. People congregate around food tables, so sometimes a couple food stations will keep people moving through your venue with fewer traffic jams.
6. Play good tunes
Many events, though not all, are even more awesome with good music in the background. If budgets allow, a live DJ – or band – is better than an iPod, but a custom playlist in iTunes will work just fine. And remember to keep the volume at a level that keeps the conversation the star of the evening.
7. Put thought into your guest list
It’s too easy to forget to invite guests if you rush and wait until the last minute to compile your guest list. Make an initial list, wait a couple days, then go back and make sure you included everyone.
When you go through the trouble of planning an event, you want people to show up. I recommend covering your bases on the invite front. The ubiquitous Facebook invite is never a bad idea — you’re reaching people where they already are. For those invitees without a Facebook account, or those who tend to ignore invites, EventBrite is a great option. You can create custom invites and send them out via email – or snail mail for your more traditionalist guests. Using these platforms in conjunction makes it more likely that you’ll reach everyone on your list. Plus, you can easily track your RSVPs.
9. Be a good host
Though exhausting, being a good host is vital to making sure the vibe of your event remains social and fun. Be sure to introduce guests to one another when convenient, especially if they have common interests. If you’re doing your job of keeping the food, drinks and people moving, you’ll only have 10 minutes or so to spend with each guest, so make sure they have plenty to talk about “amongst themselves.”
10. Main Attraction
Whether your event revolves around a guest speaker, like our extra special, month-end editions of PR 3.0, a live band, an anniversary or simply a theme – tiki beach party, zombie prom, what have you – it’s important to identify that main attraction early on and use it as an integral part of your promotion and conversations about the event. This will create excitement and guide some of the other tough choices you’ll have to make along the way to the perfect party. Finally, remember that there’s actually no such thing as a perfect party. Into every social gathering, a little awkwardness must fall. But if you grin and keep your wits, and a modicum of grace, about you, your guests will barely notice the difference. At least we hope so.
* This blog post was made possible through a generous grant from the Jake Ten Pas Brain Trust. No, seriously, we recently planned the AM:PM PR Birthday Bash together, and wisdom contained herein flowed naturally from that process.