For any event planner, creating a to-do list—and checking it way more than twice—is essential to staying organized and on top of every little detail throughout the planning process. Event management is challenging even when you’re prepared, so making a checklist can help keep your event schedule on track.
In order to help you in your event coordinator role and make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible, we’ve put together this guide to creating a no-fail event planning checklist, including a general timeline as well as important items that are often left out. If you’re planning a fundraising event specifically, be sure to check out our ultimate fundraising event planning checklist as well as the helpful links included throughout this article. You can thank us later.
It’s never too early to start making preparations for your upcoming event. Once you’ve decided to go ahead with the planning process, start making arrangements as soon as possible. Here are all the steps you should take in months leading up to your event:
Before you go any further, it’s a good idea to think about the objectives of the event. Who is the target audience and what is the ideal number of attendees? What is your expected ticket revenue?
Get a Team in Place
Depending on the scale of the event, it is unlikely that you will be able to tackle it alone. Here are some important tasks to consider when building a team of people to help manage the event:
- Logistics: This can include contacting vendors, managing event venue setup, organizing travel, etc.
- Sponsorship: When planning your event, you’ll need to think about prospecting, contacting, and closing sponsorships.
- Marketing: This includes event promotion and creating digital and physical promotional materials for both social media and traditional campaigns.
- Finance: Nothing will come together if budgets aren’t respected and vendors aren’t paid. Consider including a team to manage the financial aspects of the event, including paying invoices, submitting tax paperwork, and sponsor acknowledgment.
Set Your Budget
Putting together a rough budget at the very beginning of the planning process is vital. To help you get started, try using data from past or similar events as a baseline.
Make sure you keep your budget updated as you book services and receive updated estimates from vendors. Your budget will help guide your decisions as you move through the next phases of planning and can include such expenses as:
- Venue cost (make sure to check food and beverage minimums)
- Catering/ Bar
- Audio/ Video
- Entertainment/ Speakers
- Event Staff
- Ticketing Software
- Travel Costs for you and your staff
Select a Date and Venue
The next step in the event planning process is to start researching venues and choose a date. If you already have a date in mind for the event, this may play a part in selecting a venue depending on the availability of your top choices.
When narrowing down venue options, some of the most important things to consider are the cost and whether this cost fits your budget, as well as the size of the space and whether it can comfortably host your event.
You should also take into account the layout of the venue, parking availability, and disability accommodations.
Brainstorm an Event Theme
A theme is a good way to keep your event coherent and make it more interesting for your guests. When choosing a theme, take into account what is likely to appeal to your intended audience as well as how it will affect your decor, entertainment, and catering.
Research Speakers and Entertainment
Having a speaker at your event can be a great way to increase audience engagement and support. Start reaching out to potential speakers as early as possible, since popular speakers are likely to have a packed schedule, and share with them your intended program for the event to see if they’d be a good fit. Once you book a speaker, don’t forget to arrange for their accommodations and travel if necessary.
Reach Out to Sponsors
Sponsorships are another essential piece of the puzzle when planning an event. Closing a sponsor can be a complex process, so here are some key steps to help guide you:
- Identify Opportunity: Find sponsors that will fit your event based on things like size, target demographic, event location, and whether they’ve partnered with similar events in the past.
- Build a Sponsorship Package: Include a description/ mission statement for your event, sponsorship levels, and contact info
- Research and Contact Sponsors: Leverage your network to start compiling a list of potential sponsors. Reach out to them by phone, email, and social media.
- Create an Outreach Plan: Once you have made the list of potential sponsors, you need to track who as been contacted, when they were contacted, the response received and whether or not there is any follow up required.
Select Your Technology Providers
Mobile and online technologies have the capacity to greatly increase your reach and ultimately boost ticket sales and increase event registration. Creating a mobile app for your event is a great way to keep your attendees informed and engaged both leading up to and during the event.
Even if you do not want to create an app, using available technologies, like online event ticketing systems, can be a great help. To help you decide on a technology partner that can assist you in selling tickets online, check out our post on choosing the best online ticketing provider. Consider adding a field for people to include their dietary requirements as this will help you determine the catering options and ensure everyone is satisfied.
Determine Your Ticket Pricing Strategy
Once you’ve selected a ticketing service that’s right for you, it’s time to set your ticket pricing strategy. Focus on the trade-off between ticket prices, volume of sales, and your profit. Make sure you set ticket prices low enough to provide value to attendees, and high enough to cover your expenses. Find out more about this process here with our guide on creating an effective pricing strategy.
Build a Website and Promote Your Event
Event promotion and publicity will be one of the most important ways to get the word out about your event and generate ticket sales. Once you’ve finalized your event theme and branding, create a dedicated event website so that people can view the details and program of your event, purchase tickets, and share with friends and family through social media.
Be sure to set up a social media page for your event as well.
You can use social media posts, email marketing, and word of mouth to promote your event and share registration information.
Create a Production Schedule
As you get closer to your event date, make a production schedule including a breakdown of the timing of the day’s activities and any necessary logistics. Share the event agenda with your team members and vendors so that everyone is on the same page about what needs to be done during the set-up, the actual event, and the breakdown afterwards.
Confirm Last-minute Details
In the weeks leading up to your event, you’ll barely have time to focus on anything else. Make sure everything is locked down, including the catering menu, AV equipment, security needs, and signage. Communicate with the venue and the caterer about the event program and number of people attending, and share the guest list if there are any VIPs to be aware of. It is also a good idea to send out a reminder to sponsors and attendees with the final event details.
Pack a Toolkit
One piece of advice from expert event planners is to always pack a toolkit before going onsite for an event. This should include materials that may be needed throughout the day, such as tape, pens, scissors, and anything else you can think of specific to your venue or event needs.
Coordinate With Vendors to Setup
Make sure you stay in contact with your vendors so you know exactly when they will be arriving at the venue. Check on the setup process to make sure everything is going smoothly with the catering, AV, and all other vendors.
On the event day, arrive early at the venue to make sure you have time for a final walkthrough with your team. Make sure everyone is aware of their roles during the event, including check-in and registration details, coat check, etc. If you are using mobile ticketing software, confirm that your team is comfortable using it and knows how it works.
Sponsor and Speaker Acknowledgement
It is always important to thank your sponsors and speakers, as well as your guests, at the conclusion of your event. Be sure to mention any specific goals that were reached to emphasize the role they played and cement a relationship that may come in handy in the future. It can also be a good idea to send out a survey to your guests to get a sense of their thoughts and feelings about your event.
Try to hold a final team meeting as soon as possible after your event. It’s essential to debrief and discuss what worked well and what could be improved. Always remember to reconcile your financials to determine whether the event was profitable, and don’t forget to pay any outstanding invoices!
The event planning process is not an undertaking for the faint of heart—it is very involved and there are countless details to keep track of in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly. However, with this event planning checklist, you should have everything you need to start planning a successful event.