One of the most challenging parts of planning events is that there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all, step-by-step’ checklist available because every event is, and should be, unique. But there is a basic framework that can be replicated to make each individual and unique event amazing! Below is the ultimate event checklist that I’ve developed through the years and use for planning before, during and after our events. I’m sharing my checklist with you to help take your 2017 events to the next level!
DETERMINE THE GOAL (AND TYPE) OF EVENT YOU ARE LOOKING TO HOST – These two elements, the event goal and event type, are the foundation on which you will build out your event. I’m not only talking about what you are looking to accomplish as the event host, I’m also referring to what you want your guests to walk away with after the event. Discovering your attendee takeaway can help you stay focused on the overall goal and event type that will create the most memorable experience for your attendees.
SELECT EVENT DATE – Be sure to consider not only when you want to host the event, but also take a look at surrounding events in the area that might conflict with the date you have in mind. You’ll also want to consider the schedule of your attendees. Does this date and timeframe conflict with other events going on in their industry or schedule? It’s next to impossible to find a date that will work for everyone, so identify at date that works for as many guests as possible.
SET THE BUDGET – This is one of THEE most important checklist items. A successful event is a profitable event. Be sure to do your research and establish realistic estimates. Give yourself some cushion to account for items that might come up that are out of your control and use a spreadsheet to track your expenses as you plan the event. Doing so from the beginning makes it much easier to calculate totals and analyze your results following the event.
SELECT A VENUE – Selecting a venue can be one of the most challenging parts of planning an event. Finding the right venue sets the tone for the event. In addition to finding out the availability, cost, and capacity of the venue, it’s just as important to ask and think about the small details that will make a big impression to your guests – location in relation to where your guests are traveling in from, parking, hotel accommodations, venue layout, other events taking place in the area, etc.
DETERMINE TIMEFRAME/DATES – Once you have your vision, budget and venue set, it’s time to go to work! Starting backwards and in sections is often the easiest way to begin. For example, when you start to build out a timeline, write out all the tasks that need to be completed for each area of the event (Logistics, Marketing, Volunteers, Social Media, Signage, Entertainment, Food/Beverage, Program, etc.). From there, plug in the deadlines that you know of, and determine how much time is needed to perform the remaining tasks. Depending on the event and the stakeholders, some event items may take longer to be approved, so be sure to commit to realistic timeframes.
INVITE GUESTS – Once you have the framework set, it’s time to invite the guests!
COMMUNICATE! – It may sound cliché, but communication is key to executing a successful event. Set up regular communications (emails, e-newsletters, conference calls, etc.) with your key stakeholders, volunteers, co-workers, vendors, clients, etc. to ensure that everyone is up-to-date on the latest details. Not only will this help create well-equipped point people for the day of the event (and decrease the number of questions that will be directed to you), it will also keep things on pace and provide valuable insights along the way.
ARRIVE EARLY – You never know what you might encounter when you arrive for set up, so always be sure to arrive early. You will feel much better having a few moments to breath before guests arrive than you would scrambling at the last minute to make sure everything is ready.
BRING YOUR CONTACT LISTS AND CONTRACTS – Create a master list of contacts (volunteers, vendors, etc.) so that they are at your fingertips in case you need to get a hold of someone quickly. Make copies of this list and provide it to staff and key volunteers that may need these numbers. Also bring all executed contracts for easy reference in case items are not taken care of as per the agreements.
BE FLEXIBLE! – Events are fluid by nature which is why it’s imperative to be able to adapt and quickly solve any problems that may come up. When a problem arises, your priority is to fix it as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Understanding why the problem occurred and if it could have been prevented can be discussed following the event.
SMILE! – Remember that communication is both verbal and non-verbal. According to a recent article on Forbes.com, UCLA research has shown that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we say, 38% comes from tone of voice, and the remaining 55% comes from body language.
SAY THANK YOU! – Never underestimate the power of a genuine thank you. While it’s important to thank your guests for coming, it’s just as important to say thank you to all of your volunteers, co-workers, vendors, donors, and supporters that helped out behind the scenes.
BALANCE YOUR BUDGET – Refer back to the original budget you created and track expenses/revenue compared to what was originally budgeted. This will not only help you track how you did, it will give insight on where the majority of your expenses/revenue came from so you are able to make educated decisions on areas to cut or expand upon for future events.
DEBRIEF WITH ALL GROUPS THAT HELPED/ATTENDED THE EVENT – You want to make sure you get a full view of what went well and what can be improved upon. An event volunteer is going to have different feedback from an event attendee, who will have different feedback from the event’s presenter, the event sponsor, and so on. By asking at least 1 person from each ‘group’ for their feedback, you will have a well-rounded list to build from for the next year.
As I said earlier, this list isn’t going to include every detail you’ll need for your specific event plans, yet it is the ultimate event checklist that can be used as the framework for all of your event planning. When you have this down, take your event planning skills to the next level and learn about event personalization. Happy planning!