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Initial Event Planning

Designing and producing an event—whether it be a meeting, corporate event, fund-raising gala, conference, convention, incentive or other special event—has been compared to directing a movie, but is actually more like a live stage production. It is a high-wire act without a safety net. Once your event starts there are no second chances. It’s done in one take and there are no dress rehearsals. You can’t yell “cut” and re-shoot the scene. You are simply not able to predict—as you can with a movie script—how your guests and suppliers will interact and react. But you can plan, prepare and then be ready for the unexpected.

At one poorly planned event, the event planning decor, staging and lighting setup crew arrived days in advance to do an extensive setup for a poolside event complete with a dancing water light and music display at a privately owned venue. They found, to their horror, that the swimming pool had been filled in months ago but no one had notified the event planning company, and the event planning company and their suppliers had not been back since contracting to do a pre-event (pre-con) meeting, nor had they outlined swimming pool requirement stipulations in their vendor contract or event function sheets.

Extensive decor and a lavish fireworks display—at great expense to the event planning company—had to be brought in at the last moment to create a new fantasy look that would appease their client, who did not need to have that added stress mere days before what had been a long-anticipated special event. Although you are not creating an Oscar-winning movie, it is always important to remember that you are creating something that may be a lifetime memory for someone. Any event, whether it’s for 50 or more than 2,000, needs to be as detailed and as scripted as any film production, and so does the budget. Budgets for meetings, corporate events, product launches, conferences, conventions, incentives and special events can go from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and today it is very common to have them run in the millions of dollars. An event program is considered successful if it has no surprises on the day of the event and at final reconciliation and exceeds event objectives.

Before you begin designing your event, you need to first determine why you are having your event or taking part in an event. This is referred to as defining the event objectives, and there can be both primary and secondary objectives in each event. Event objectives will be discussed in more details. Understanding why this event is being held will help you (and your client) to lay out the company or client objectives—both tangible (day of) and intangible (long-term) returns—so that you can then select the right style of event that will be capable of delivering them. Using a business convention as an example, a company can be an exhibitor at a convention, an attendee at a convention or an event sponsor; be represented by a company speaker; attend seminars; or host the gala farewell, a hospitality suite or an evening event for select conference attendees. Each of these event scenarios will bring different returns to a company on their investment of time, money and energy, and it is important to see which style of event will provide the most value and produce the best results in meeting the company’s objectives.

Examples of Different Event Styles
Board meetings » Business meetings » Client appreciation events » Conferences » Conventions » Corporate shows » Custom training seminars involving emotional and physical challenges » Employee appreciation events » Executive retreats » Gala fund-raising events » Incentive travel and premium programs » Naming rights » Product launches » Product placement » Special events » Teleconferencing » Trade shows » Webcasts »

Once you have set your event objectives and determined the best event style to meet them, you will be able to strategically design an event that will be tailor-made to target those needs. The next decision is to establish the scope of the event. Two criteria will determine this: money and objectives.


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