The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist: A Roadmap to Success

Are you new to event planning and in need of some guidance? Or perhaps you're searching for a streamlined process for your team to follow when organizing an event? Look no further! This comprehensive event...

Are you new to event planning and in need of some guidance? Or perhaps you're searching for a streamlined process for your team to follow when organizing an event? Look no further! This comprehensive event planning checklist will provide you with everything you need to plan and execute a successful event, whether it's in-person, hybrid, or virtual.

What Does an Event Checklist Include?

When creating your event checklist, it's important to cover all the essentials. This includes:

  • Date
  • Location
  • Type of event
  • Goals
  • Budget

While there may be other aspects specific to your event, these are the fundamental elements to get you started. Now, let's dive into the 10 key steps to plan an event.

The 10 Steps to Plan an Event

What are the 10 steps to plan an event?
Image: The ultimate event planning checklist

The top ten most important steps in planning any event are:

  1. Set your event goals and objectives.
  2. Select your event’s date.
  3. Develop an event master plan.
  4. Create an event budget.
  5. Brand your event and begin publicity.
  6. Arrange sponsorships and speakers for your event.
  7. Launch ticket sales.
  8. Coordinate with event suppliers (catering, equipment, etc.).
  9. Manage event day set up and execution.
  10. Evaluate the success of your event!

To help you along the way, I've broken down these steps into more detail, providing a clear roadmap for each stage of the planning process. Refer to the table of contents on the side to navigate through the different sections based on the timeline of your event.

Remember, whether you're organizing a small workshop or a grand gala, this checklist is the perfect starting point for your event planning journey.

The First Steps in Your Event Checklist: 4-6 Months Ahead of the Event

The sooner you start planning, the better. Most organizations begin planning their major events, such as galas and fundraisers, about six months in advance. Here's what you need to do to get started:

  • Establish your event goals and objectives.
  • Select the date and ensure it doesn't clash with other local events or major holidays.
  • Identify the venue and negotiate the necessary details, such as insurance requirements and alcohol service policies.
  • Develop an event master plan to ensure nothing is overlooked.
  • Get cost estimates for items such as room rental, food and beverages, equipment, speaker fees, staff travel, and insurance.
  • Create an event budget based on the estimated costs.
  • Recruit an event committee, including an event manager or chair, and establish sub-committee chairs.
  • Brand your event by creating a dedicated event website or pages on your existing website, along with an event logo and tagline.
  • Create and launch a publicity plan, assigning specific tasks to staff or volunteers for media relations, VIP coordination, printed materials, online/social media presence, etc.
  • Identify and confirm speakers, presenters, and entertainers for your event.
  • Identify and contact potential sponsors/partners, starting with your existing network and using tools to find new prospects.
  • Determine if you need event registration software or other event management software to streamline the process.
  • Release early-bird tickets to generate interest and excitement.
  • Ensure your registration forms are inclusive, allowing for preferred pronouns and names.

3-4 Months Ahead of the Event: Ramping Up

Now that you have the foundational aspects figured out, it's time to start executing your plans. Here's what you should focus on at this stage:

  • Build out required documents for your team, including general to-do lists, event goals and objectives, budget documents, and design requirements.
  • Liaise with speakers, presenters, and entertainers to finalize their presentations, gather bio information and photos, and make travel and accommodation arrangements.
  • Take care of financial and administrative tasks, such as setting registration fees, enabling online registration, finalizing sponsor levels and amounts, and determining which items can be underwritten.
  • Plan venue logistics, including menu selection, A/V equipment, registration set-up, parking, signage, security needs, special permits or licenses, and accessibility requirements.
  • Follow your publicity plan by developing a program draft, event script, media releases, and promotional materials. Create an event page on your website and use social media platforms to generate buzz.
  • Close early-bird ticket sales and prepare for standard pricing.
  • Finalize and proofread all printed materials, checking for errors and brand consistency.

1-2 Months Prior to the Event: Keep Going

As the event draws nearer, you'll spend more time on the finer details. Ensure you cover the following at this stage:

  • Send reminders to your contact list regarding registration and participation deadlines through email and social media.
  • Reach out to presenters and speakers to confirm travel and accommodation details, obtain copies of their speeches or presentations, and remind them about promotion dates.
  • Follow up with sponsors to confirm their commitments, gather any promotional materials they'll be sharing at the event, and ask them to promote the event on their channels.
  • Continue executing your publicity plan by releasing press announcements, sharing event details on social media, and updating your website to reflect the upcoming event.
  • Close early-bird ticket sales and transition to standard pricing.
  • Finalize and proofread all printed materials, double-checking for errors and brand consistency.

1 Week Prior to the Event: The Home Stretch

You're getting closer to the big day! Focus on these last-minute details:

  • Have all committee chairs meet to confirm all event details against the master plan. Develop backup plans for any potential issues.
  • Finalize the event script and assign practice sessions for speakers.
  • Brief hosts, greeters, and volunteers about their duties and timelines.
  • Confirm the seating plan, ensuring it accommodates accessibility needs and provides clear pathways.
  • Provide final registration numbers to the caterer.
  • Ensure you have print and online copies of speeches, videos, and presentations.
  • Perform a final registration check, including name badges and a registration list.
  • Identify photo opportunities and interview possibilities with presenters and VIPs.
  • Confirm the attendance details with media representatives.

1 Day Before the Event: Almost There

The event is just around the corner! Remember these last-minute preparations:

  • Confirm media attendance.
  • Ensure all signage is in place, both within the venue and in other required areas.
  • Prepare the registration and media tables, stocking them with essential items.
  • Ensure all promotional items, gifts, plaques, trophies, etc., are on-site.
  • Check that all A/V equipment is correctly set up and functioning.
  • Get sufficient rest for the big day ahead.

Event Day: Your Time to Shine

Day of event checklist
Image: Day of event checklist

The long-awaited day has arrived! Here's what you need to remember:

  • Take a few deep breaths and schedule time for self-care before the event starts.
  • Have copies of all essential materials, such as instructions, directions, phone numbers, keys, and seating charts.
  • Check in with each committee chair to ensure everything is on track.
  • Assist sponsors, speakers, and other team members as needed.
  • Greet new attendees and make them feel welcome.

Immediately Following the Event: Post-Event Follow-Up

While conducting a thorough evaluation and updating the budget are essential, there are some other post-event tasks you should complete. These include:

  • Checking in with the venue to ensure nothing important was left behind and maintain a good relationship with the venue management.
  • Gathering all receipts, financial documents, and final registration data for accurate reporting and budget updates.
  • Sending thank-you and acknowledgment letters to sponsors, volunteers, speakers/presenters, donors, and the media.
  • Engaging in post-event publicity by creating email highlights, making a publicity reel video, and sharing event highlights on social media.
  • Reaching out to event participants to thank them for their support and encourage further engagement with your organization.

Post-Event Analysis: Learning and Improvement

While the event is still fresh in your mind, it's crucial to gather feedback and insights for future improvements. Consider these analysis tasks:

  • Conduct a post-event survey to learn about attendees' experiences, what they enjoyed, and any areas for improvement.
  • Debrief your team, gathering their thoughts and suggestions for future events.
  • Evaluate the overall success of the event by considering whether you achieved your goals, objectives, and key performance indicators.

The Event Registration Software You Need to Try

Tired of handling event registrations and payments manually? There's software available that can automate the entire process for you. Membership Management Software is the key to effortless event logistics and streamlined management for any membership organization. With this software, you can:

  • Create online registration forms instantly.
  • Add a calendar of events to your website and automatically update it.
  • Process event payments directly into your account.
  • Seamlessly transfer event attendee data into your contact database.
  • Generate automatic invoices and event reminders.

If you're interested in exploring this software, give WildApricot a try. As the #1 Membership Management Software on the market, WildApricot offers a 30-day free trial. Start your trial here and experience how it can simplify your event planning and membership management needs.

"As a small non-profit, this software has made organizing and communicating with our membership SO much easier. Membership is now automatic, and registering for our events is easy for our guests and requires less work for us." - DeeDee LaBaron, Oregon Employment and Training Association

Planning Your Event Sets You Up for Success

I hope you find this ultimate event planning checklist helpful as you embark on your event planning journey. Use it as a starting point, assigning tasks to volunteers or staff members, and check off items as they are completed. For those planning virtual events, we also offer a downloadable Virtual Event Checklist to assist you further. Remember, careful planning is the key to a successful event. Good luck!