The 10 step guide to putting on a great event

We’ve all been to them, the events that live on in our memories, are talked about in our friendship circles for years, and totally hit the mark when it comes to nailing a great event.

And then there’s … the others.

The ones that we make excuses to leave as soon as it is deemed polite enough to do so. The ones where we vow never to attend again, and the ones where we need to make a stop at a fast food drive through on the way home because we are still so hungry.

So how do you make sure that you’re falling into the first not the second category?

Here’s our 10 step event guide compiled by the event planners at The Pavilion Kiama who have seen more than their fair share of both the good, and the not so good.

1. Know what you’re trying to achieve

This one might sound a little strange, but the absolute first step in any event planning is to have a really good think about what you’re trying to achieve with your event. What are the outcomes you want and how do you want your guests to feel?

Of course ‘events’ can encompass many, many types of gatherings from; family birthday parties to key life celebrations like engagements, christenings or funerals. They can include public events such as music concerts, shows or performances. They can be private events, open only to those holding invitations, or public events which bring in extra levels of complexity around ticketing and pricing.

Whichever type of event category yours falls under, it’s vital that you take some time to think through what you’re trying to achieve and what would make the event successful?

2. Think about the ambience

In line with tip 1 think about the ambience and atmosphere that you would like your guests to experience. How do you want them to feel when they walk into the room?

It can be a very underestimated element of an event. Get it right and people will not necessarily comment on the ambience, they will just know that they are enjoying being there, but get it wrong and something can feel decidedly ‘off’ about the whole thing.

3. Venue choice is critical

Leading on from both what you’re trying to achieve with the event and the ambience that you want to create, the venue choice is vital for ensuring these things come together.

At The Pavilion Kiama we always talk at length with event organisers about both of these points so that we can advise and recommend specific rooms, layouts, styling and even lighting to really bring it all together.

Want a small, intimate gathering where people can have deep conversations? Then there’s no point booking a large, cavernous room and a loud DJ.

4. Don’t forget about the lighting

Which brings us in our event guide, to lighting, an often-overlooked and under-utilised aspect of running an event. Considered lighting can really help bring an event together and set the tone and the mood. Too light and you may lose the atmosphere that you’re trying to create, too dark and you may inadvertently send your guests to sleep!

5. Catering can make or break your event

Catering is one aspect of an event that you really shouldn’t scrimp on. There is nothing worse that seeing guests hunting for food and fighting over the last canape because they are still hungry.  There is a lot to think about when deciding what to nourish your guests with – the time of day, the activities they will be undertaking and the ages and tastes of the crowd.

For family birthday parties there is likely to be a wider age range therefore consideration for both children and adults needs to be taken into account. A corporate dinner however, is perhaps a chance to wow clients and colleagues alike and therefore maybe a fancier menu is preferable.

If the event is taking place over a number of hours then ensuring there is enough food to keep guests sustained is vital. The last thing you want them doing is making an excuse to leave early so they can catch the drive through before it closes.

6. Really, really think about your guest list

This goes totally back to #1 and #2 on the list and what you want to achieve with your event. Are you hoping for a small, close gathering of friends, or a 200 person extravaganza of a celebration?

Guest lists can get out of hand very quickly (just ask anyone who has ever planned a wedding) and so being very confident in what you’re trying to achieve and the atmosphere you are trying to create can really help when you’re sitting agonising as to whether your Aunt’s second cousins’ daughter needs to attend.

7. Make sure you let your guests know the plan

There is nothing worse than being invited to an event and then not getting enough information.

Don’t forget as an event organiser, you’re living and breathing the event. So, although you have in your mind exactly what the dress code is, where the parking is and the time you will arrive – your guests are in the dark.

It is far better to give your guests more vs less information – no one likes to turn up dressed in full evening attire only to find the dress code is actually smart casual.

A helpful way to think about this is to write a list of all the questions you think you might get. For example – what time does it start and finish, how to get to the venue, whether transportation is available, what to wear and whether gifts are expected.

8. Add a chair or two

Planning on a 6 hour event serving cocktail style finger food so people can mingle and chat? Great. But please remember that if you have older people in attendance (or ladies in heels) they will be searching for somewhere to sit pretty quickly.

Even if you don’t want to have formal table seating, having carefully positioned chairs or stools, and somewhere to lean, or gather will go a long way towards your guests’ comfort.

9. What music are you going to play?

A well thought out playlist will help set the tone of the event. If you’re hiring a band or a DJ they will talk to you about who your guests are, the experience that you’re trying to create and what you’re envisaging – background music or a full dance party?

Even if you’re supplying your own music rather than hiring a professional, giving careful consideration to the playlist, taking into account the ages and tastes of your guests will really help shape the success.

10. Trust your event planner

If you’re booking a venue such as The Pavilion Kiama, make sure you use the expertise of the on-site coordinators. They have ‘been there, done that’ and know what will work and make your event a roaring success vs what will make it fall flat.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get suggestions and find out the tricks of the trade that makes it an evening that people will talk about (in a good way) for many years to come.


The Pavilion Kiama on the stunning NSW South Coast specialises in creating exceptional, tailored event experiences.  We are Covid Safe and abiding by NSW Health orders ask us how we can help you.

Find out more about the event spaces available, or call the team on 02 4232 1419.

Photo by Peter Izzard Photography

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