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How to Plan the (Nearly) Perfect Event

UCF hospitality experts provide practical tips for event planning and discuss the importance of degrees in the field.

Whether it was the wedding boom of 2022 or Swifties crashing Ticketmaster to purchase more than a record-breaking 2 million concert tickets in a 24-hour span, the demand for events is back in a big way.

So it’s no surprise that UCF’s world-renowned Rosen College of Hospitality Management is leading the change to help meet this demand by equipping professionals with the proper tools and knowledge to handle it.

In Fall 2022, the college — which has long ranked among the top five in the world by ShanghaiRanking — launched its event leadership online master’s program, the first of its kind in Florida and the second in the U.S.

“The events industry is dynamic, exciting and complex,” says Associate Professor Jeannie Hahm ’04MS ’12PhD, who collaborated with lecturer Michelle Holm ’09MS ’16PhD and Professor Deborah Breiter Terry to develop the new program. “Events come in all shapes and sizes. It is one of the most resilient and evolving industries, which was proven during the pandemic. This program provides a global perspective, strategic thinking and critical thinking skills to use in event planning by combining current industry issues and academic research.”

Students enrolled in the program’s first cohort are mainly event professionals with three to five years’ experience who are looking to set themselves apart.

“This has become like a lot of industries where an undergraduate degree is no longer enough for leadership positions,” Hahm says, “but right now employers can only ask for an MBA. We’re going to change that.”

Hahm and Holm offer some key pointers that everyday event planners can learn from to really knock planning out of the park.

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Step 1: Set your goals

Every event has goals and objectives. So the first step is really to figure out what you or your client’s needs are, and use that as a guidepost for your planning.
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Step 2: Do your research

Get quotes from at least three vendors of a similar nature.
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Step 3: Prioritize your budget

List all of your expected expenses and rank each one in order of importance. “One is I absolutely need to have it. Two is it’d be nice to have. Three is it would really make my event look or feel great if I had it,” Holm says. This will help you figure out where potential savings may lie if you need to cut costs.
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Step 4: Plan your timeline

Holm says a common hiccup for novice event planners is not allocating the proper time for each activity in their event. “I always ask vendors the question, ‘How long will it take to complete this activity?’ And then when you build your schedule, you need to build in buffer time to allow for issues to happen, because issues will happen. There is never a flawless event,” she says.
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Step 5: Be prepared for anything

Thinking ahead of time about the potential risks that could happen at your event will help you be prepared in the moment. If a speaker cancels or the bride is stuck in traffic, what are you going to do when people are waiting for this event to start? “Talk to the venue and make sure that they can provide some food and drink to help keep people occupied,” Holm says.