We’ve all been to events—good and bad. The good ones make us feel alive, integrated and remarkable. The bad ones leave a sour taste in our mouth and make us want those hours of our lives back.

Whether you’re a professional event planner or not, running events is impactful for lifestyle design. 

Every event, no matter how casual, is a microcosm of society—a chance to harness the collective intelligence of a group of people in some form. Being the leader of such a group puts you in pole position to benefit from the advantages such a group confers.

It also gives you default access to a likeminded community. Why worry about joining another community when you can create your own? This is particularly useful when moving abroad when you don’t know anybody. It’s a quick way of meeting likeminded people and you’ll distinguish yourself since most expats don’t hold events of their own.

All these potential perks leave many wondering how to plan a successful event.

You don’t have to be a professional in the events industry to organise a flourishing event. By following the guidelines in this article, you’ll be hosting memorable events that will leave attendees longing for more. Even if you work in the events sector, chances are you’ll learn something new that you can apply with positive effect.

How to plan a successful event – Core vision

The first thing you need to flesh out when thinking about how to plan a successful event is your core visionwhy are you holding this event and what do you expect to get out of it? Before any “how?” should lie a “why?”

Your ‘why’ should be centred around two key elements: value and topic.

Value refers to the usefulness of the event to the people who attend. Does your event help solve a problem for future attendees? Does it meet a need? Does it provide tangible or intangible benefits to them?

There are different types of value you can create through events:

– Entertainment: an event can provide recreational fun and leisure

– Education: an event can provide skills, knowledge and mentorship

– Networking: an event can provide opportunities for professional or social liaisons

– Social: an event can provide the chance to bond and connect with others

Think about the value proposition you can best bring to a set of people and what that set of people needs most. A helpful mindset to have is that your event is taking people through an experiential journey. Where are your attendees at the start of the event and where do you want them to be by the end? You want that journey to be one that takes into account their emotional states and leaves them better off than when they arrived. Your event is the vessel in which to achieve this.

Your event can be focused around one type of value or multiple although more than two risks making your event’s purpose convoluted.

When planning your event, never forget the underlying value(s) you’re delivering to the people who come. This is the principled base on which you make decisions before, during and after the event. It’ll help orient you towards what matters most when complexities enter the fore; your attendees will thank you for it.

Topic refers to the subject matter or theme of the event. There are events around the world on almost any topic you can think of ranging from massive music festivals to tiny goat farming get-togethers.

If your event is lifestyle design and community-formation related, it helps if the topic you pick is something you’re passionate about. You’re more likely to establish yourself as an authority figure and connect with your attendees.

Consideration of topic scope is important, especially if you’re monetising the event. You can increase or decrease the topic scope by making your event niche broader or narrower. For example, someone running a Latin dance event might want to consider whether they open the event to all types of Latin dance or focus on salsa only.

There are trade-offs to your chosen topic scope. A wide, less-niched scope is marketable to more people but is harder to form a community around, there’ll be more competition from other events and less invested attendees. A narrow, more-niched scope has a smaller attendee pool to draw from but is more likely to attract people passionate about the topic and have less events to compete with.

Think about how your topic aligns with your value. Using the Latin dance example, the organiser could run a festival which encompasses multiple values or they could choose to run a workshop which focuses only on the value of education. The former offers variety but the latter allows you to deliver one value proposition really well.

By mapping out your value and topic, you’ll concretise the core vision of your event which grounds your subsequent planning decisions.

How To Plan A Successful Event Topic

Know your audience/community

Once you’ve determined your value and topic, it’s time to go in-depth in examining your audience/community.

Even if your events aren’t monetised, think about your attendees as customers. There’s a standard of quality you should be delivering to them—any attendee is someone who’s taken the jump of giving your event their time and attention.

Depending on your topic scope, you can consider whether your attendee base will be more mass or niche market.

Think about who you want to come out and what they want. These people will form your core demographic. While every attendee is of course important, the core demographic attendees are the ones most aligned with your event’s ethos. They tend to have more knowledge and interest in the topic matter and have a higher chance of repeat turnouts. This means core demographic attendees form the hub of your community and as such, it’s vital to get them right.

Make sure you understand your demographic makeup and how best to promote to them and deliver value.

How To Plan A Successful Event Audience

Activities and resources

Now that you know your topical value proposition and who to deliver it for, the next step is to plan how you’ll guide attendees on your experiential journey.

Reflect on what activities you’ll need to get your attendees from A to B. A Latin dance workshop will require teaching, demonstrations, practice sessions and Q&A to meet its goal of educating. A pub quiz meetup will need a team allocation process, trivia activity and mingling period to meet its hybrid values of entertaining and socialising.

Knowing the activities required will help you elaborate the resources needed to be able to carry out those activities in line with your value delivery.

Here are some of the most common resources event planners need to stay on top of:


Knowing your financial capabilities for an event will help the rest of your planning decisions unfold with clarity.

Depending on the complexity of the event, you’ll want to keep track of budgeting and expenses using a financial tool or spreadsheet; a professional event planner will require this anyway.

A monetised event with a revenue stream can alter budgeting decisions as the organisers may decide a higher expense is warranted if projected turnover increases. For example, organisers may justify investment into extra resources to accommodate an unexpected spike in registrations during the event promotion phase.


“Location, location, location” is a golden rule in real estate and the same can be said of the venue you choose for your events. A venue can make or break an event and it’s well within your interests to spend the time and energy to choose it wisely.

When researching venues, think about which ones align with your core vision within budget. Once you’ve narrowed down a list of venues, contact each one to glean further information and determine compatibility with your goals.

Unless it’s impossible, I strongly recommend that you visit the venue you have in mind in person before agreeing a contract or starting the event. Photos or a phone conversation can give you a sample of the taste but the full flavour of a venue can only be extracted in the flesh.

I once changed an event venue last minute because despite extensive online research and phone calls with the venue owners, a late visit to the actual space revealed it to be a dingy room smaller than the photos conveyed with poor atmosphere and lighting. Luckily, the alternative venue ticked every box and the event went off without a hitch but I’d learned a lesson.

Other factors you’ll want to consider about venues are: accessibility, community preferences and contract terms.

It’s important to consider accessibility both from a distance/logistics perspective and ease of use for disabled attendees point of view. This increases your event’s convenience factor and improves the chance that more people will attend.

With community preferences, think about which place best suits your core demographic. If you run a series of events, it’s useful to take into account any feedback on the venue from attendees. This will help you determine whether the current venue is the best place for you all or whether you should consider another to better align with group interests.

Different venues have different terms on how they contract the space out for your use so it’s important to understand these before you reach any formal agreement. Some venues are happy to let you use the space for free as long as attendees purchase in-house products (such as a pub quiz). Many will require a fixed up-front fee in advance. Others will operate on a minimum spend basis with deposit meaning attendees need to collectively spend a certain amount on the venue’s goods and services otherwise they’ll keep your deposit.

Whatever your agreement, don’t be afraid to negotiate better terms, particularly for event types where you can demonstrate the clientele you can bring in to the venue which is in the venue’s interests as well.


As any professional event planner knows, it’s crucial that any equipment required for the event is planned and accounted for in advance and checked on the day.

In some cases, the venue will provide all the equipment you need to run your event as part of the agreement you have with the owners.

But for many events, you’ll have to procure at least some, if not all the equipment needed for the activities and value you deliver. A venue may supply the audio visual (AV) equipment as part of the space but it’s unlikely to provide the signage or computer tech.

Some of the most common types of event equipment include:

– Tables and chairs

– Tents and canopies (for outdoor events)

– Signs and banners

– Power and cables

– Lighting

– Stage

– Sound (e.g. microphones, speakers, stage monitors)

– Visuals (e.g. laptops for presentations or videos, projectors, screens, flip charts)

There are of course other types of equipment for specialist events and niches. Whatever your field, ensure your equipment is accounted for on a checklist so that you don’t experience a nasty surprise of being without items on the day of the event.

How To Plan A Successful Event Equipment


All the people involved in your event are key stakeholders. ‘Partners’ refers to anyone involved in helping to run the event whether they attend or not. Calling a partner a resource does not objectify them, rather it brings attention to the important role they have to play in delivering the experiential journey for attendees.

Examples of frequent types of partners in the world of events include:

– Co-organisers: of course the team you run your event with are partners but co-organisers can come from places that you don’t expect.

A registered attendee who reached out ended up becoming a frequent co-organiser for a series of events I held. There are also examples of ‘organiser crossover’ where organisers from different and sometimes competing events collaborate with each other on a function. This type of ‘coopetition’ can yield greater resource potential for an event and wider exposure across demographic bases.

– Venue owners and staff: the people running the venue are critical collaborators in pulling off a successful event (which is why prior research and touching base with them beforehand is so useful). Treat them as professional friends—it makes a difference to the operation on the day and as I’ve found out, you may even get a few perks and discounts thrown in on future collaborations.

– Sponsors: these are organisations, companies and brands that supply an investment into your event in exchange for marketing themselves to your audience. Sponsorships can help bolster your finances pre-event as well as increase exposure through the credibility of working with a brand and the free marketing they provide.

There are different types of sponsorship deals (financial, digital, promotional etc.) you can consider if relevant for your event. A good partner sponsor creates a win-win situation for both of you.

– Performers: some events may have personnel involved in performance activities. This can range from a speaker at a seminar to an acrobat at an entertainment night.

Make sure you comprehensively liaise with any performers in advance so that they understand your vision and ethos. On the day of the event, check that they have what they need from you in terms of other resources to perform to an expected standard.

How To Plan A Successful Event Partners

When thinking about how to plan a successful event, stay on top of the activities and resources required. These are the tools and contacts to help make your event stellar.

Promotion and marketing

At this point, the bare bones of your event plan will be solidified and you now have a bonafide structure in place. You can now announce your event by promoting it on different platforms.

At the core of event promotion is consideration of which channels you can best use to reach your intended target attendees. You can ask the following questions to better hone in on which channels are best for you:

– Through which channels does my target core demographic want to be reached?

– Which channels work best?

– Which channels are most cost-effective?

– Are my channels integrated with our target demographic’s routines and if not, how do I do that?

Channels can be split into two types: event management platforms and event marketing tools

Event management platforms give you the capabilities to setup an event page or website, make an attendee list, track registration details and receive ticketing dues. While some of them have promotional capability, they tend to lack a comprehensive marketing system or interface that links to an external marketing system.

Event marketing tools focus on promoting your events to wide audiences including specific capacity to target demographic niches if desired. Social media tools count under this definition. While they provide marketing capability, they lack a consolidated interface for the project management of events.

Hybrid platforms are all-in-one services that offer end-to-end management of most, if not all aspects of an event journey. They’re popular with professional event planners and are useful for large scale events with lots of attendee data. While they’re comprehensive, this makes them more expensive.

Answering the above questions will give you clarity in which channels from either type you want to use to promote your event.

The following is a list of some of the most popular channels used to promote and market events worldwide:

Event management platforms


Facebook events


Event marketing tools

Facebook ads



Hybrid (Event management + marketing)



Social Tables

Webex events

The above list isn’t exhaustive, the event software space is highly competitive and there are lots of companies with unique offers vying for customers. Depending on your needs and budget, you may want to pay for a comprehensive hybrid system or bootstrap your event using only social media. As always, whatever your avenue, hold in mind your core vision and target demographic when promoting your event.

Final preparations

By now, you’ll have a planned paid or free event that you’ve promoted on one or more platforms with potential attendees who have registered their interest online. The last thing to do before the actual event itself is to make sure there are no loose ends and the different parts of your event process are on track.

Recording the different components of the event into a checklist or project management flowchart will help you keep on top of each one. You’ll want to make sure that each one is completed (i.e. prepared and ready) or on course for completion by the day of the event.

Depending on how far out you announced your event, consider sending reminders out at specified intervals to build and maintain momentum from registered attendees. It’s often useful to send at least one reminder the day before the event. Many of the event software tools covered above allow you a slick way of doing this in line with your branding.

Now that you’ve thought about how to plan a successful event and finalised preparations, you’ll be best placed to carry out and enjoy the event day itself. In a future post, I’ll detail best practice for running an in person event on the day so that it goes down as an unequivocal success. But behind every successful event is impeccable planning—following these guidelines will all but ensure your event is a roaring success.

How To Plan A Successful Event Activities


Planning events can be a rewarding magnifier in lifestyle design. It gives you the opportunity to form a likeminded community, network with new people and reinforce your authority in a field you’re passionate about.

When considering how to plan a successful event, start by externalising your core vision—your why. Your core vision is made up of the event value and topic. Think carefully about how you’ll achieve both throughout the event, this is your event’s ethos.

It’s helpful to consider your event as an experiential journey for attendees. Like any valued business proposition, think about how you would get them from A (where they are now) to B (where they want to be).

To do so, you also need to know your core demographic. These are your target attendees who best embody the spirit and ethos of what your event is about. Specifying and attracting your core demographic is the best way to start a successful community.

Successful events can’t be run without the right activities and resources. Your activities are particular to the value you wish to deliver to attendees and your resources are the tools and contacts that will help you do that. Ensure your budget, venue, equipment and partners are all prepared and aligned with your plan.

With a structure in place, you can promote your event to your desired audience using appropriate channels. Think about which channels are best for your target audience and use a combination of event management platforms and event marketing tools to optimise your promotional outreach.

Lastly, never forget pre-event checks to make sure that everything is aligned and there are no unexpected issues last minute.

As the saying goes “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Now you know how to plan a successful event, go out there, organise an event and reap the rewards from being the one to do so.

Like this article? A follow-up article covering how to run a successful in person event on the day will be released in the future. This will include concepts not even professional event planners know such as secrets about the psychology of events and how to make attendees come back for more. Subscribe to Abroad Lifestyles to ensure you’re on top of this and other groundbreaking concepts in lifestyle design.