By Jill Jackson, CMP

In my career of event planning, I have planned numerous types of meetings and events – conventions and trade shows, educational workshops, weddings and receptions, birthdays, baby showers and anniversary parties…  You name it! I have probably had a hand in planning some part of it.

As Senior Meeting Planner at Partners in Association Management, my knowledge and creativity are always put to the test in planning meetings and events with very limited budgets, but of course requiring a successful outcome and memorable experience.

No matter what event you are planning – big, small, formal or just fun – there are FIVE BASIC ASPECTS TO PLANNING A MEETING / EVENT:

  1. Select Dates & Location
  2. Determine Program & Events
  3. Prepare a Budget
  4. Promotion of Event
  5. Making it all Happen


  • Does the event have to take place on a certain date or certain time of year?
  • Is it a new event or one that has been done previously?
  • Is this a one time event or an event that will be done annually?
  • Is the location pre-determined or done by random selection?

Helpful Tips:

  • Events during the week are usually easier to book and less expensive.
  • Choosing a location during off season will usually give you better hotel rates.


  • How many days will your event be?
  • Will you have a set program each day?
  • Does the location you have chosen have a limited capacity for seating?
  • Will events only take place during the day or will you have evening functions?
  • Will everything be held at one location or multiple locations?

Helpful Tips:

  • If you will have attendees who will be driving in to your event, make sure you start your event at a time that most attendees will be able to arrive and check in before the event begins.


  • How many people do you anticipate to attend?
  • Will there be a registration fee or cost to attend?
  • Are funds in place to make the event happen or will there need to be sponsorships?
  • Will attendees pay for their own lodging or will lodging be provided?
  • Will you need to provide any transportation to the location or any additional events?
  • Will there be rental fees on meeting space if your event is held at a hotel or facility?
  • Will there be food or beverages at the event?
  • Will the food or beverages be included in the registration fees or charged individually by event or at the event?
  • Will you need to rent audio visual equipment?
  • Will you need to pay invited speakers or for entertainment?
  • What promotional pieces will you need to produce and distribute?
  • Are you responsible for printing all materials or are your speakers responsible for doing this?
  • Will you be doing a tradeshow and need to pay decorator fees?
  • What supplies will be needed for registration and at the meetings?

Helpful Tips:

  • Registration Fees = Expenses / # of Attendees
  • Sponsorships can be done by levels or actual events if funds need to be raised.
  • Allowing vendors to set up tabletop displays at a set price is a great way to make money with little expense.
  • Using your own audio visual equipment can save you money. Only rent important necessary items.
  • Asking speakers to bring their own handouts or materials is a good way to save on printing costs.
  • Proper tipping – $1.00 per box or bags for bellman. $1.00 per day for housekeeping.  All other service staff at your discretion within your budget.


  • You must promote an event to make it successful.
  • Promoting an event should be done as soon as possible once all of the details of the event are in place.
  • Most important no matter what type of marketing is providing all necessary details and making sure they are correct.
  • You must promote your event in the most effective way to reach those you wish to attend.
  • Does the group you are inviting have access to email or website information or preferred mailed pieces?
  • Either email or mailed promotional pieces are both great ways to put information in the hands of your attendee.  It’s up to you to determine which method will get the most exposure and get the attention of those who you want to attend.

Helpful Tips:

  • Event promotion by email or website is the most cost effective way to promote an event unless your group doesn’t use this form of communication.
  • If your budget does not allow for an expensive publicity piece you can always have information printed in black ink on colored paper.
  • Reminder emails with event highlights and important deadlines are great to keep the upcoming event in the minds of your attendee.


  • Start a “To Do” list.
  • Prepare a timeline for deadlines and important dates from present time until the conclusion of event.  Don’t forget to include post event items that need to be completed.
  • Sign all possible contracts to confirm event location and details.
  • Select a committee or staff to begin delegating duties and “Making it Happen!”

Helpful Tips:

  • Including every minor detail that needs to be done in your “To Do” lists will save you time and piece of mind when tasks or duties have been completed.
  • Setting timelines and reminders of important dates will keep everyone on target for completion of a successful event.
  • Put all possible details in your contracts so no questions or concerns have to be handled after the occurrence.
  • Only put those who you can depend on to do a good job on tasks that they can complete. Delegation is only successful if the key players are detailed and reliable to get the job done.

In the end, an event through the eyes of an attendee or individual invited may look like it was a simple process to put together.  It is supposed to look easy!  However, every meeting and event, big or small requires communication, teamwork and “A Plan to Make It All Happen!”


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