Have you ever downloaded one of those generic event planning checklists, believing that the logistic process is the same for everybody? Did you ever try to adjust the management of your event to predetermined to-do lists that actually made no sense? Do you have an event protocol document that you never use?
Well, guess what? Although it might sound counterintuitive, the planning process for every single event is different. You may have to cover the general planning topics such as the venue, the audiovisual requirements, event branding, ... Yet each event is a new field you must discover gradually.
That’s why, before starting to plan a new event, it's important to conduct an in-depth needs assessment. As the author Kevin Van der Straeten indicates, "One of the most underestimated (and overlooked) aspects of event management is the logistical side of things. It is not only important to ask what needs to be done; it is just as vital to ask how it can be done."
By assessing the needs of your event, you can map an efficient action plan, based on both the tasks you must accomplish and the ways in which you can do it. If you don’t, you run the risk of having a poorly coordinated event, comprising your image as a professional. To ensure a flawless planning protocol, you must conduct an event needs assessment. Here’s how you can do it:
Step #1. Respond to the 'W' questions
Start assessing the event's needs by asking yourself (and your clients) the 'W' questions:
- What: What type of event are you going to plan? Is it an indoor or an outdoor event? What’s the size of your event?
- Why: Why are you holding this event in the first place?
- Where: Where is the event going to be held?
- When: What is the timeframe for the event? Do you need a specific date or season, or is it more flexible?
- Who: Who are your potential attendees, and what are their needs?
All of these questions will help you shape the format of your event, and you’ll be able to identify needs as the details will pop up.
For example, if your event is a hackathon for computer science professionals, you’ll know immediately what your event needs are (high-speed Wi-Fi, specific furniture, open buffet, etc.). Your goal in this case is to extract all the needs by identifying the particularities of the event.
Step #2. Analyze your capabilities
From your budget to human resources, you must know what your possibilities are. It’s like going on a long trip - knowing exactly what you’ll have to pack. For example, if you don’t have enough space for a cocktail dinner at the event venue, you may want to consider nearby restaurants. Or if you don’t have enough room in the budget to rent audiovisual equipment, you may need to choose a different stage setup.
Always confront your event’s needs and the resources you have. Subsequently, you’ll know to what extent you can cover everything you need and where you maybe have to do a little compromising or cutting back.
Step #3. Set up the goals for your event
Another way to identify your event’s needs is to review the goals or outcomes you want to achieve. If your intention is to enable your attendees to build business relationships, then you may need to plan a B2B matchmaking dynamic.
Eventually, your list of needs will increase and you’ll need to handle a broader range of actions. If your goal is to deliver unique experiences, you’ll have to introduce a series of event needs related to the social program for the attendees. Although the “W” questions are important for the initial step, by setting up the goals, you’ll end up refining the needs assessment procedure.
Step #4. Conduct a feasibility analysis
As Anton Shone and Bryn Parry suggest, "The feasibility of an event might not have been considered at all, because it seemed 'such a good idea'. But without a doubt, most event planning would benefit from a brainstorming phase when various ideas are thrown in and tossed around to 'see which is best'."
When it comes to needs assessments, the feasibility analysis is crucial. There are situations when certain event needs weren't identified, or perhaps there were some 'needs' that turned out to be unnecessary. It’s always advisable to sit down with your event team and double check all the needs you´ve already listed.
Step #5. Distribute correctly the resources you have
The same way you must distribute your planning and marketing budget wisely, you must allocate the existing resources to covering specific needs wisely. For example, you must delegate certain tasks to your team proportionately, so everyone can do their job without feeling overwhelmed or, on the contrary, bored.
Call to action
The number one step you must take before planning an event is to conduct a thorough needs assessment, identifying the upcoming actions. By doing so, you’ll gain full control over the event logistics, knowing exactly how to distribute your resources.