If you intend for your event to be a business — to make money and become a career — you need a plan. That’s true for any kind of event, from a festival to a fundraiser to a funhouse.

Writing a business plan might sound like a major project, and it kind of is. That’s because it’s the best way to prove your event is a valuable investment to potential partners, sponsors, and other stakeholders.

But with a systematic approach, writing an event business plan is also a straightforward process involving specific steps.

Step #1: Craft your event mission statement

Your mission statement describes your event in a short sentence or two. It helps sell your event to important stakeholders and forms the foundation of your marketing. In fact, every decision you make will ultimately trace back to your mission.

A great example is TechCrunch Disrupt, an annual event held in San Fransisco, where technology startups learn, network, and compete for a $100,000 grand prize. Companies like Dropbox, Mint, and Fitbit got their start here.

Here’s the mission statement of this conference:

Disrupt is where the startup world gathers to see the present and the future of tech in one place.

This high-level mission statement sells the spirit of TechCrunch Disrupt succinctly. Make yours equally inspiring.

Step #2: Describe your greater vision

While a mission statement says what your event is about, a vision statement describes what you hope your event brand will become. It’s your big, hairy, audacious goal (your BHAG). 

The National Breast Cancer Foundation uses the mission statement “To provide help and inspire hope to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education, and support services.”

But the Foundation’s vision is even more aspirational:

Zero deaths from breast cancer.

What’s your big-sky vision? You might not cure cancer, but perhaps you want to eventually turn your little foodie pop-up into a nationwide series of locavore festivals.

Step #3: List the key objectives you want to measure

To convert your mission into on-the-ground action, list the key tasks and deliverables integral to your event.

In the foodie pop-up example above, a few key objectives might be to:

  • Host 3 foodie pop-ups in your local area this year
  • Find at least 10 sponsors — local food purveyors or restaurants
  • Acquire 10,000 followers on Instagram

Your key objectives should be doable in the short-term and in the future. Make them aspirational but achievable — and definitely measurable

Step #4: Tell a vivid story about your event 

Here’s the heart of your business plan: a tangible description of your event. Define what makes it unique and sell your audience on your vision with data that grounds it in reality. 

Here’s how to craft a succinct event story:

  • Describe your target audience, with research into the market
  • List potential or actual sponsors, investors, and partners who will support and influence your event
  • Layout the team structure you intend to build — who will get what done?

Your job here is to convince the reader that your event will be successful. Give proof that you can back up your ideas with business acumen.

Step #5: Detail a marketing strategy

Word of mouth is the dream, but most events don’t sell themselves, at least not in the beginning.  You’ve already described your mission, your vision, and the event itself. Use this content in your marketing plan and include additional information like:

  • How will you price your event?
  • Which marketing channels will you use?
  • What’s your promotion budget?

Your target audience will determine the direction of your marketing. If your arts event caters to twenty-somethings, the highly visual environment Instagram provides will be a better marketing match than LinkedIn.

Step #6: Outline your event’s operational requirements

There are countless logistics that go into even the smallest event. Break your needs into categories: facilities, services, staffing, production, technology, legal, and insurance as a starting point.

Don’t leave anything out. This exercise will help you with the next step — assigning a cost to each aspect of your event.

Step # 7: Crunch the numbers for your event budget

Financial forecasts are essential to proving the event will be profitable — and to making your plan a business plan. It’s common to include both an overview of your numbers as well as a full budget spreadsheet (usually as part of an appendix).

Identify all potential income streams, like ticket sales, exhibition space sales, food, or merchandise. If you have funding secured or capital saved, include that as well.

You’ll also need to tally all expenditures, including your operational and promotional costs.

Your business plan might serve as a way to win over potential investors. For instance, if your visionary idea for a national yoga teachers’ conference will require an initial cash infusion to get off the ground, show how it will pay for itself in a matter of years in your budget.

Step #8: Conduct a SWOT analysis for your event

SWOT stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” This risk assessment is important because every event carries inherent risks. It’s a liability to ignore them. You want to identify and acknowledge any risks, then provide solutions.

For example, your fundraising triathlon is at the mercy of the weather. You’re aware there’s a risk it could get shut down by a thunderstorm. But you’ve mitigated that risk by planning it for the mildest time of year and getting catastrophe insurance.

Set your event business plan in motion

To dive deep into the details of creating an event business plan, and learn how to compile these sections into an effective document, read The Event Business Plan to Launch, Grow, and Propel Your Event.