Event Planning: Timeframe and Scheduling
The following one-year event planning model can be truncated for smaller events and expanded
for bigger ones. This model is typically sufficient for planning an event up to the size of a
multi-day trade show that has dozens of exhibitors and daily after-show activities for them
The timeframe is the foundation of your event plan’s master schedule and checklist, and
it spawns of the task-specific checklists used by staff and committees. The best way
to create a timeline is to create an overall outline of what must be done from the outline
of your plan. Then work backwards from the date the event starts to flesh out what happens
right before the event through to many weeks, months, and even years before it.
Choose the Date(s): The first step in creating a workable master timeframe timeline and checklist
is to lock in the date or dates of the event. Once this is done, you can use a calendar
to establish scheduling blocks during which elements of the plan are implemented. In this
model we’re using months and weeks, but some timelines will need the last weeks broken
into days, and maybe previous years blocked into quarters or thirds.
One Year Out: In this first month of planning you need to focus on the fundamentals of the
plan: identifying goals and objectives, defining the vision and getting the key players and
any committees or task groups in place. This is also the time to create a big picture outline
of your event plan, and hold at least two organizational and creative meetings. Outline
your budget, now, and confirm your financial ceiling. You will also choose the destination
and venue in this month, and verify that your dates coincide with venue availability.
Month 11: Now that the venue is confirmed, you will need to conduct a site inspection.
First, meet with your venue point people and take detailed walkthroughs of the facility;
do this with a mind to what areas will be needed for various event activities, attendee
numbers, décor, etc. Don’t visit just the venue, also familiarize yourself with the
community around the venue and its resources, then take a look at all of your transportation
options. This is also the best time to meet with any vendors, caterers and suppliers,
establish your point person, and verify for yourself that they have the capabilities you
require. Month 10: This is paperwork month. Time to
get all your contracts in place for the venue and your suppliers. This is also the month
when you need to find out what permits you need, if any, and get the permitting process
underway. You know enough about the vent by now to check in with your insurance carrier
and start working up a comprehensive policy as well. If you are hiring entertainment or
keynote speakers, you need to confirm and contract with them now, and obtain at least
verbal confirmation from your presenters, exhibitors and volunteers.
Month 9: During this month you will focus on your agenda for the event. Start working
up themes and topics and attaching the key players to them. Once you have the agenda
well outlined, you can continue to obtain confirmation and verbal agreements from your
speakers, presenters, entertainers, etc. Month 8: In month 8, you should have your
event “blueprint” well in hand. This shows what exhibitors will be where, or which presentations
will be in what rooms and given by who. You’ll now have a fairly rock solid agenda and feel
quite confident that all your key players are aware of it and have agreed to it. This
is a good time to make sure you know what lighting, a/v and other special requirements
they may have and pencil them into your blueprint. Month 7: In preparation to start your marketing,
review your plan, budget, contracts, agenda and key players roster. If you haven’t obtained
final written agreements and contracts from all of them, do so now. You need your agenda
to be as airtight as possible before you invest in marketing materials. This is a good time
to investigate all of the travel arrangements you need to make and define your transfer
plan and providers. Month 6: In month six you should concentrate
on your marketing plan. Identify what you need from invitations through press kits to
a web site. Obtain quotes for graphic and web services, printing, web design and hosting,
etc. Make your decisions about which providers you will work with and make sure they put
you on their production schedule. The earlier you start actually designing your marketing
materials the less stressful the process will be, so get the marketing plan to work now.
Month 5: This month is all about lists. Create your attendee list. Create your food and beverage
services lists and get your menus underway. Make a list of all you’re a/v requirements
and make sure your provider has everything you need. Go through your facility needs checklist
with your venue point person, and make sure you’ve checked off that all of your marketing
projects are well underway. Month 4: At this point, your web site should
be live and you should have all your printed material designs ready to deliver to the printer.
Go through your budget and make sure all providers have received their deposits and check in
with them to make sure they have you on their schedule.
Month 3: Review, approve and get in the groove in month three. Check your plan, checklists
and budget over carefully to make sure you are where you need to be on all fronts. Review
and complete all marketing plan elements and get any printed invitations to the mail house.
Double check that all contracts are complete and both parties have current copies, confirm
any travel arrangements and secure transfers companies. You should also add in and confirm
any of the wishlist items you can afford at this time: photographers, gifts, awards, special
effects, etc. Month 2: This is the month when all your staffing
and materials requirements are fully identified, confirmed and developed. Make sure all the
people who work for you have their schedules and that the vendors and caterers have staffed
their services adequately. Confirm your volunteers and set up your channels of communication
with all your staff. By now, all you marketing materials are complete and your press and
public relations campaigns are in full swing. Week 4: Get your signs printed and put together
your meting and attendee packets. Make sure all the travel and accommodations arrangements
have been made and are confirmed. Begin organizing your on-site and mobile offices, as well as
registration and ticketing. Week 3: Make copies of everything you need
duplicated and complete all the paperwork. Confirm that all your suppliers are in sync
with your plan, and that the budget is in line. Make a final confirmation of attendee
numbers and finalize menus and food and beverage programs. Try to get a break in for your staff
and you and the next two-plus weeks are going to be exhausting.
Week 2: Put your on-site office, mobile office and registration center together and pack
and ship all the items to the venue; note that if you are planning an overseas event,
your customs broker may have had you do this weeks earlier. Confirm a/v, and final attendee
numbers for venue, food and beverage services. Dot all the “I”s and cross all the “T”s
in your budget and plan. Review all your checklists. Week 1: Prepare any welcoming materials like
nametags, travel to the venue, and do an on-site rehearsal with staff and volunteers. Set up
office and registration, oversee move-in and check all equipment. Touch base with all of
your point people to make sure they have everything set to go. Put on your white gloves and check
over every detail, making improvements and adjustments as needed. Also make sure you
have your after-event checklist on hand so you don’t forget thank yous, gratuities,
bill paying and creating the final budget and report.
The key to using your scheduling timeline effectively is to stick to it and even complete
elements ahead of schedule. Remember to format it as a checklist and tick the completed tasks
off as you proceed so anyone who is relying on it for a status report can easily understand
what’s done, in progress and incomplete. It’s show time! Go get ‘em!