Whatever the size, frequency or cost of events, they all share common elements. They begin with an idea; the idea is developed through planning; a budget must be estimated, funds raised and arrangements made for the necessary facilities or services. The following provides an overview of the steps that an organization should consider in planning a new event. Small events may not need as much detailed planning.


a) The Idea
The idea may originate from a meeting held specifically to develop a special event. More often, however, the idea springs spontaneously from a meeting that was held for another purpose, or an invitation to host is received. Regardless of how the idea arises, it will need to be developed further before any major planning is undertaken, and prior to making any serious commitments.


The initial development of the idea should include some assessment of the organization’s capabilities to organize the event, the objectives, the potential theme(s) and the desired success of the event. A committee can be formed to develop the idea further and to assess the potential of the event.


b) Evaluating Support
Successful events are created by well-managed organizations. It may take from a few months to several years for the event to develop from the idea stage through to completion. The financial commitment during this time may be considerable. Suppliers must be assured that they will be paid. Many other aspects of the event will have to be planned and managed in great detail. These and other tasks will require a strong organization with businesslike decision making skills.


The committee should address the following questions:

  • Is there a strong organization that can support the event?
  • If there is support from a strong organization, is the organization fully capable of undertaking all of the planning and development or is outside assistance required and available?


If the supporting organization is already experiencing a shortage of resources (human or financial), the development of an event may only magnify these problems. The financial, organizational and planning capabilities of the organization should be honestly evaluated. Enthusiasm alone is not enough to ensure the success of an event.


c) Establishing Objectives
Once the initial objectives have been developed, and it has been determined that the idea has both merit and support, further development and prioritization of the objectives will be required.


As planning progresses, additional objectives may be added and the expanded list may become too large to be realistically achievable. A clear prioritized list of objectives will be essential when evaluating the success of the event.


d) Establishing a Theme
The theme can be established more easily after the objectives have been listed and prioritized. Ideally, the theme should be unique, providing the event with its own distinctive quality. Wherever possible, the theme should also promote or be strongly associated with a natural feature, legend, culture, attraction or other element of the area in which it is held.


e) Determining Feasibility
The committee should assess the feasibility of the event and develop a realistic estimate of the attendance. This will involve a critical review of the market appeal of the event locally, regionally and beyond.


An estimate of attendance can be based on the experience of similar kinds of events in the community and elsewhere. Discussions with organizers of other events can help to determine the reasons for success or failure and provide an opportunity to benefit from their experience.


Estimated attendance is the basis for estimating revenues, costs and more detailed budget information. Estimates should be conservative and carefully researched.

The next step is the preparation of a written statement that will summarize and document the steps that have been taken and assist in the next stages of organizing the event.


f) The following topics should be addressed:


Objective for the event

  1. What is the reason for the event?
  2. What is the event expected to accomplish for the organization, participants, visitors and the community?


Event theme or concept

  1. A basic statement about the nature of the event.
  2. Is it unique? How distinctive is it?
  3. Are there similar kinds of events?
  4. What will be the nature of programming?


Target market for the event

  1. Who is going to come to the event?
  2. Where will attendance be drawn from?
  3. Does the event complement or conflict with other events?



  1. Length of event
  2. Daily and total attendance
  3. Projected attendance in future years


Revenue estimates

  1. Admission
  2. Food/beverage sales
  3. Other revenues, including grants and sponsors


Cost estimates

  1. Facility requirements
  2. Entertainment
  3. Food and beverage costs
  4. Licensing requirements and costs
  5. Advertising and promotion
  6. Printing and distribution costs
  7. Other costs


With this kind of analysis, a decision can be made whether to proceed with the event. The next step is to establish a date with sufficient lead time to allow for proper organization and adequate promotion of the event.