How to Plan an Event (Checklist Included)

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Need to know how to plan an event? If you’re planning a big event like a conference, we can help you successfully plan, structure and lay it out. This blog will go over everything you need to consider when planning an event, including an easy-to-use checklist.

Planning an Event

Most of us have some experience planning an event, be it at home, work or in their community. For this article, let’s focus on large events.

A conference is a common type of large event, so for our purposes, let’s talk about a TEDx conference that we were involved in to illustrate how to plan an event. This example is a good scenario to explain the structure and challenges of planning a big event, along with the benefits of planning an event with software.

Key Elements to Consider When Event Planning

The first thing to consider when planning an event is the date. That’s an anchor that can’t change. You’ll also want to estimate the amount of people expected to speak and attend. These will be two critical elements that will help inform the other aspects of your event planning.

Let’s break down the other components to setting up an event. They are summarized below:

  • Event: First, you must have an event of some sort to plan, of course. That event is going to require a series of responsibilities, revolving around its operations, legal and accounting duties.
  • Venue: The event has to take place somewhere, and that involves logistics management, food and beverages as well as the décor.
  • Marketing: Once you have a place selected, you need to start drawing people to it through a marketing program that can include a website, social campaign, email and print work.
  • Advertising: Hand in glove with the marketing is advertising. That can include radio, TV, newspaper and magazine advertisements.
  • Volunteers: A big event needs a big crew of people to get it off the ground and running smoothly. That means volunteers, which means writing contracts, defining their roles, setting up meetings and determining schedules.
  • Speakers: You must have some keynote speaker or a group of speakers to attract an audience. This will involve contracts, curators to select the talent, a program, bios and rehearsals.
  • Sponsors: All this costs money, and a big event’s life blood is supplied by its sponsors. This will again involve contracts, marketing and logistics.
  • Production: The production is going to involve creating contracts as you work on creating an audio-visual recording of the proceedings, as well as a sound and video broadcast during the event.
  • Stage: The event takes place at a specific site and on that site is a stage on which the event proper will be presented. That usually will incorporate a projector, screen, microphones, internet connection, batteries, cables and more.
  • Attendees: Don’t forget about the people who are coming to the event! You’ll need communications to inform them of event information, payment processes to collect fees, emails to stay in touch, directions, badges and access points.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be variables out of your control, such as the weather, delivery delays, technical difficulties and other potential mix-ups. As stated earlier, you can’t change the date of your event, so you’ll want to be as prepared as possible for any risks or issues that may pop up on the day of your event.

Event Planning Checklist

There’s a lot to manage when planning an event, so it’s important to have a list of everything you need to make sure you don’t miss a step. The following is a general event planning checklist to help you get started. Feel free to add your own unique responsibilities and tasks.

Goals and Objectives

  • What’s your event’s reason for existence?
  • How many people will attend?
  • Is there a cost associated with ticketing and what is it?
  • Where is the event being held?
  • Is there a theme and, if so, what is it?
  • Create event schedule.

Budget

  • Figure out what the costs will be.
  • If you held similar events, use and adjust an old budget for a baseline.
  • What ticketing and registration software will be used?
  • Finalize sponsor contributions.
  • Set ticket price.

Date & Site

  • When will the event take place?
  • Have a backup date in case issues arise.
  • Is there a best location for the event?
  • Decide on needed infrastructure: wifi, capacity, bathrooms, near shopping & restaurants, etc.
  • Hire caterer.
  • Secure what equipment you’ll need.
  • What are your security needs?
  • Do you need permits, licenses, insurance?
  • Create event signage and communication plan for attendees.

Speakers

  • Research potential speakers.
  • Create a list of relevant speakers.
  • Create a pitch for speakers.
  • Pitch speakers.
  • Finalize speaker selection, get bios and headshots, arrange travel and accommodations.

Sponsors

  • Develop a list of sponsors and what you can offer them.
  • See if there are sponsors who have partnered with similar events.
  • Reach out to potential sponsors.

Website

  • Design signoff.
  • Update site or build unique one.
  • Make sure site can handle expected traffic.
  • Have site optimized for mobile.

Promotions

  • What’s your messaging?
  • Coordinate with digital tools and social platforms.
  • Add event to online calendars.
  • Market event with blog posts and other promotions like video and ad buys.
  • Send reminders to all parties a month or two before the event.

Finalizing, Last Steps

  • Schedule
  • Caterer
  • Speakers and scripts
  • Venue
  • Equipment
  • Decorations
  • Contracts

Pro-Tip: That’s a lot to coordinate and plan, which is why there is a real need for software. It provides a common portal, where you can track costs and tasks with automated alerts. It also offers both a communication and a collaborative platform that reduces the need for unnecessary emails. Software collects all your files in one place, and makes team reporting simpler by adding efficiencies and reducing stress.

How ProjectManager.com Helps with Event Planning

ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that is ideally suited to planning an event. We have the tools to keep all the parts of your event, from managing vendors to promotions, organized.

Our planning software helps you get all your ducks in a row and keep them waddling in the right direction. Online Gantt charts give you control over your schedule, laying out tasks on a timeline, linking dependencies and being able to assign, all in one place.

The Gantt charts give your people a collaborative platform where they can comment and attach important event documents and images at the task level. No more rummaging through emails for important data. It’s all collected right where you’re working. Gantt chart creation view including the hours entry pageOur software is easy to use and can be accessed anywhere and at anytime, whether on site or in the office. We give you a way to keep all the parties you are working with in the loop and even collaborate with them in one place.

Timesheets make invoicing easy. They can be submitted and approved with a keystroke. Our software also offers a variety of views, from a list to a calendar and even a kanban board that helps you visualize the workflow to keep on task.

Take a free 30-day trial of ProjectManager.com and see how it can tie all the strings of your event into a pretty bow.

More About Planning an Event

Event planning can be complex. There’s a lot of balls to keep in the air. If the above is too much to digest immediately, take a break and watch one of our planning experts. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, has years of experience and uses it to teach you the fundamentals of event planning in this short video.

Here’s a screenshot for your reference.

what to plan for in a large event

Thanks for watching!

Transcription:

Today, we’re talking about how to plan an event. Well, most of us in some way gets involved in planning an event whether it’s at home, work, or in the community.

But today, I want to focus on larger events. So think about conferences. So the example I’m going to share today is one of the most fun ones I was involved in, a TEDx conference.

So I want to talk about the structure and the layout. I want to talk about some challenges that you might find common in events, some things we did to resolve those, and how software really helped us.

So first of all in laying out an event, there are multiple components of events. So I’m just going to take this at a high level. So at a high level, we have the event. So it’s about talking about what the show is about, any kind of operations, legal and accounting.

Then we talk about the venue. So we have to plan out everything regarding the location, the logistics of that location, food, and beverage, and decorations there.

Then we talk about marketing. So we have a website and we have social media, email marketing, any kind of print. And then we also have advertising. We leveraged radio, and TV, newspapers, and magazines.

And then we had to plan the volunteers which was a lot of work too. So we had contracts and we had to lay out the roles and responsibilities, and we had to plan our meetings and schedule out the work and any kind of contact information.

Then we had the speakers for the TEDx event. So we had to come up with the contracts for that. We had to go through curation and search for the speakers and vet them out and work with them to lay out their program, get their bio, and have a practice run-through.

Then we had the sponsors. So again, we had contracts with them, any kind of marketing collateral that they needed from us and we needed from them, any kind of materials they needed, planning logistics for them to arrive and set up.

Then we had production. Again, more contracts. And thinking through and planning for the audio and the video, and there were multiple components of these.

Then we had to set up the stage. So on the TEDx, you know that the stage is very important and there are all kinds of requirements for those. So we had to set up the stage according to the requirements and their projectors and screens and mics and the internet, any kind of batteries and backups, and all kinds of cables.

And then there were the attendees. So communicating with the attendees, getting their payments, sending them emails, giving them directions, badges, and any kind of access.

So there were more than this, but this is just kind of a high level scope. So you can see it gets complex with the event. All the different people involved, the volunteers, speaker, sponsors, attendees, stakeholders, and vendors, you can imagine how complex that gets.

So with that, we ran into several challenges like the event date doesn’t shift. So if anything happens or derails or goes wrong, that date can’t shift. And in most events, so if you’re doing a conference, that date really can’t shift. So that also brings a level of stress.

And just the sheer number of people that you’re dealing with. Even if you’re dealing with a smaller event, there’s still challenges because of the number of people. And then there are variables that are out of your control. So think about the weather, of different kinds of inclement weathers whether it snows or rain or anything that might impact that event.

And then there may be delivery of different equipment or the food or the beverage. If that doesn’t show up on time, then there’s a big trouble. You have to think through all kinds of plans. And then order mix-ups. So think about ordering different marketing materials or ordering the food or different things and it shows up wrong.

And then there’s all kinds of communication. See, again, thinking about communicating with all the different types of people, it’s just a lot of challenges.

So what we did is we laid a structure and a foundation, a process flow, and then we also implemented project management software which was a huge help because the benefits of that is it helps provide a common portal for everyone involved.

They get to go there to get real-time updates on what’s going on. It also allows for tracking of task and cost. Then you can set up alerts when maybe tasks are completed or when they’re late, and then when certain things need to be paid or if they’re late.

So also, it’s very valuable to have communications and collaborations. So there’s nothing worse than having to go through so many emails to dig around and find information. So if somebody sent you something, a file or something like that by email, it just helps with collaborating and communicating through this common portal.

Then it also provides a central repository for your files. It could be marketing documents. It could be contracts. It could be invoices. So they’re all right there.

And then it also allows for team reporting. So whether it’s your volunteers or some of your vendor partners, then it allows people to report real-time. That also just allows efficiency for the entire event and everyone involved, and greatly, it reduces stress.

So as you can see with the structure, how this project management tool can help.

And if you need a tool that can help you plan your event, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.com.

(This post updated December 2019)

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