- Contest Factory
- July 20, 2021
If you have ever planned an event, you know how many moving parts are involved. Event planning requires exceptional organizational and prioritization skills, and even still, things are bound to fall through the cracks if you don’t have a systemized way to keep track of your progress.
Whether you choose online software or opt to go old-school “pen and paper”, you need to create a comprehensive event-planning checklist that outlines your planning process from start to finish, from your event date to your marketing plan to your post-event follow-up tasks.
Here’s an Event Planning Checklist to get you started, including the most important details to consider as well as a timeline to guide the process.
Note on the timeline: For larger gala or conference events, we recommend starting the planning process at least 9 months before the event date. For less-involved events, 3-4 months is the standard timeline, although the more time you give yourself, the better.
Now, let’s get planning!
Phase 1: Getting Started (3-6 months out)
- Establish your event goals and objectives
Is it your priority to raise money, awareness, etc? How many attendees are you aiming to have? Fundraising goals?
- Create an event budget
Factor in costs for your venue and/or virtual event platform, food and beverage, entertainment and speaker fees, insurance, etc. Room rental.
- Recruit event committee
This includes selecting an event manager or chair, and establishing sub-committee chairs.
- Select the date
Check for other major events or holidays happening nearby to avoid low turn-out.
- Secure venue and/or virtual event platform
Secure contract terms for physical venue and select online event management platform and registration process.
- Develop event branding & website
Create event logo, tagline, and hashtags and build event website and Facebook pages with easy access to registration process.
- Create & initiate your event marketing plan
Assign staff to oversee media communications, printed materials, signage, social media posts, etc.
- Confirm speakers, presenters, and entertainers
- Create sponsor packages and begin recruiting sponsors/partners
Phase 2: Ramping up (2-4 months out)
- Coordinate presenter, entertainment & sponsor logistics
Finalize topics and content, request bios, photos, sponsor logos for online and printed materials. Encourage all to promote event on their social channels (provide verbiage for accuracy and convenience).
- Secure live venue and logistics
Determine and arrange all catering details, registration and room set-up, audio/video, parking, and process for obtaining any special permits, licenses, insurance, etc.
- Security protocols
Review accessibility requirements (wheelchair accessibility, all-gender restroom options, etc.) and security needs/protocols for the event.
- Create/gather & distribute all required documents
This can include contracts, venue safety regulations & accessibility information, agendas, maps, logistics, etc. Include digital copies for participants on the event website.
- Draft Event Program & Content
Develop the event program and agenda, draft script for MC and additional presenters (with host notes, introductions, closing speech, etc.).
- Design & produce marketing materials
Design and produce digital/print invitations, programs, posters, tickets, etc. Order event swag and branded materials.
- Execute publicity plan & marketing materials
Develop media list and all media kit materials (e.g., speaker info, photos, etc.). Develop publicity content (newsletter/blog/articles/ads, etc.) and include promo video on social pages.
Phase 3: Dialing it in (1-2 months out)
- Send reminders to your contact lists
Use all your communication outlets and include event teasers, registration, and other incentives. Prioritize VIP list.
- Finalize details with presenters & speakers
Confirm all travel and accommodation info. Request a copy of speech or presentation content and make sure they have all the necessary info and resources.
- Finalize Sponsorships
Confirm sponsorships and underwriting and request promo materials for the event. Remind sponsors to share event details on their social channels.
- Continue executing your publicity and marketing plan
Release newsletter and press announcements about keynote speakers, VIP guests, etc., and circulate to all partners and affiliated organizations, etc. Post event news and details on your site and social media channels.
Phase 4: Homestretch (1 week out)
- Schedule final committee meeting
Confirm event details, troubleshoot, and ensure all backup plans are in place.
- Finalize & run-through event script
Do a full practice run with MC and presenters. Prepare print/online copies of any speeches, videos, and presentations.
- Finalize your room set-up & seating plan
Ensure it includes clear paths for wheelchair accessibility.
- Do a final registration check
Make sure all name badges match numbers/names on the registration list.
Countdown (1 day out)
- Ensure all signage is in place
- Confirm room set-up is correct and safety requirements in place
- All promo items, gifts, trophies, etc. are on-site and in place
- Registration table ready to go with all essentials
- Ensure all A/V equipment is set up and working properly
- Confirm media attendance
- Have copies of all info on you
Don’t forget instructions, passwords, guestlist, seating charts, phone numbers, parking permits!
- Check-in with committee, catering, speakers, and sponsors
- Breathe & remember to enjoy your big day!
Phase 5: Wrapping up (Event Follow-Up)
- Check-in with venue
Finalize everything and ensure nothing valuable was left behind.
- Send thank-you’s and acknowledgment letters
Don’t forget your sponsors, volunteers, speakers, donors, and media.
- Post-event publicity
Share highlights on your website, social media, and other communication channels.
- Send follow-up emails to event participants
Thank them for participating, share the final tallies, and how they can continue to support you throughout the year. Include a brief survey to learn what they loved and how you could improve for next year.
- Debrief with team
Get together or send out team surveys to get honest feedback on all aspects of the event.
Hopefully, this checklist got you revved up and ready to roll out your next event. Creating a detailed template will not only keep you on track but will also save you time and steps for your next event. Plus, you don’t have to worry about repeating the same mistakes twice!