Event Planning Ideas & Resources

Whether it's your first event or you're a seasoned pro, one of your biggest challenges as an event planner is to consistently come up with new event planning ideas.  And when you do come up with the world's most amazing event, you only bring on a new problem; how will you top this next year?  

The world of events, like any other industry, is constantly changing; and it's imperative to your success to stay on top of, or ahead of, the trends.  This can be extra challenging because usually you start planning at least six months (sometimes a year or more) in advance of the actual event; so how in the world are you supposed to know exactly what will be trendy (or old news) a year from now?  

There's no easy answer, and it's always a gamble.  But the best thing you can do is to fully immerse yourself in the world of event planning, and know everything that is "hot or not" in the industry.  If you're not up-to-date on what's hot now or what's already been done, then how can you continually plan events that "wow" your audience time and time again?  

If you are just starting out in the industry, this is particularly important for you to understand.  Just because a concept is new to you, it doesn't mean it hasn't been done a thousand times over.  If you finally land an interview at one of the greatest event planning firms in the nation, they are going to ask you for some event planning ideas and what you would do for an event.  If all you can come up with is a luau theme and balloons for decor, you're not going to get the job.  

Of course, there are some "evergreen" themes that you can always rely on; these are concepts that never go out of style.  What are some examples of evergreen event planning ideas?

  • Usually, anything that honors the "Golden Age of Hollywood" are a safe bet; it's hard to go wrong with classics.  Decor is usually either red, gold and black or perhaps elegant black and white.  Entertainment can be a band that covers Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, or Glenn Miller; and you can take the theme up through the 50s with Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard.  
  • Along the same lines, you can choose a classic movie and mold your entire theme around it.  Good candidates are Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, and Grease.  
  • If you're in a destination that demands it, country western-themed events are a safe backup.  Of course decor is easy with bandanas, stacks of hay, and gas lamps; you can hire instructors to teach line dancing and hire a local country band.  You can additional entertainment by providing a mechanical bull, roping lessons, and fake shoot-outs where the guests participate.  There is nothing unusual in this concept and it's been done a thousand times; but if you're in a pinch, guests almost always have fun at these types of events.  
  • Finally, you can (usually) never go wrong with an international theme; showcasing foods, decor, and entertainment from around the world.  You can create an "around the world" concept with separate areas dedicated to different countries.  In each area, you can use decor and highlight food and drinks from that particular country.  Guests always love this because it gives them a taste of escape, and makes them feel like they had a little mini-vacation at your event.  

Let's face it; most of us are attracted to the industry because we have a creative side.  So it's important that you show your creativity to the world!  But, as I just mentioned, it not only needs to be creative to you, but to your audience as well.  Keep in mind that many of your guests will have been to dozens of events in their life; so it will take a lot of creative event planning ideas to really impress them.  Staying on top of what's been done is as much a part of your career as picking out menus or finding entertainment.  

So how do you do this?

Event Planning Resources

The minute you decide you want to become an event planner, you need to start doing your research.  I suggest that you pull up old issues of popular industry trade magazines and find older webpages, blog posts, and articles.  Yep, that's right, I said older.  That's because you need to know what's been done already before you decided to jump into event planning.  You don't want to come up with a concept that you think is the newest, trendiest concept ever, only to find out that your idea is about ten years old.  

Start with a few years back; maybe four or five years, and work your way forward.  If you actually do your research in chronological order, instead of jumping all over the place, then you are more likely to see how the industry trends.  Pay attention to what was happening culturally at the time; events tend to lag slightly behind pop culture; probably because it takes so long to plan an event, and then by the time the event happens, pop culture has moved on.  

There are many resources (and more each day), but here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • BizBash (http://www.bizbash.com):  BizBash is one of the industry's leaders when it comes to seeing what's trending in the industry.  Bookmark this site and refer to it often!  
  • Event Solutions (www.event-solutions.com) 
Event Solutions is a trade magazine for professionals involved with any aspects of the event, meeting and incentive industry. They feature the annual Spotlight Awards, presented to the top industry professionals in a variety of categories. 
  • Special Events Magazine (www.specialevents.com)
Special Events Magazine is a resource for event professionals who design and produce Special Events in hotels, resorts, banquet facilities and other venues. Each issue provides design and menu inspiration, practical tips on solving problems when producing events, sources for great products and services, sales-building strategies, and business management tips; all to help make our readers creative, productive, and profitable professionals. 

  • MeetingNews (www.meetingnews.com) 
MeetingNews, the industry's only national newspaper that delivers the most timely and accurate news and analysis - keeping planners up-to-date on the ever-changing developments in the meetings industry. MeetingNews is published eighteen times a year, along with Regional Guides and the Meeting Planners Handbook. 
  • MPI (http://www.mpiweb.org/Home): Meeting Professionals International, the premier global association community for meeting and event professionals, believes in the unequalled power of events and human connections to advance organizational objectives.

Other Resources for Planning

If you're looking for something beyond just event planning ideas and need some help, click on the links below for help with:

* Sample Event Planning Contracts

* Sample Event Planning Resume

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