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Event planning checklist: Simple steps for a successful event

Successful events make an impact. The average large event, for example, is mentioned 1,400,000 times on social media before it’s over. Events like these spread information about your cause, business, or industry to people far beyond your immediate circle, which means it’s important to get every event just right.

If you’re finding it difficult to juggle all the tasks associated with planning a successful event, you’re not alone. Even the world’s most organized event planner struggles with the day-to-day logistics that makes an event possible. Don’t fret! Instead, stay on schedule with this handy 16-week event planning checklist.

  • Set goals. Why are you hosting an event? What do you hope to accomplish? Give your project direction by deciding on a topic or theme, coming up with a clear set of objectives, or finding out how many people you need to break an attendance record.
  • Assemble your team. Assign a role–like program administrator, event marketer, operations liaison, or treasurer–to each team member. The roles should come with clear objectives and, whenever possible, quantifiable goals.
  • Pick a venue, then a date. Determine how much likely participants are willing to spend, which locations they find most convenient, and who they’ll be attending your event with (kids, partners, colleagues, friends?) with a pre-event survey. Then, reach out to the appropriate venues to see which dates are free.
  • Confirm an event headliner. Draw from your–and your team’s–networks to find an exciting keynote speaker, presenter, or performer to headline your event. Confirm that the headliner is available.
  • Draw a roadmap for your event. Now that you’ve locked down a headliner, it’s time to draw a roadmap for the rest of the event. Who and what else do you want to be a part of your event?
  • Create a budget. Figure out how much your roadmap will cost and decide how you’ll pay for it. Determine how much you need to raise from registration fees, exhibitors, sponsors, and other funding sources. Use this information to set registration fees and sponsor levels.
  • Reach out to funding sources. Reach out to potential exhibitors and event sponsors with information about your event’s objectives, your headliner, and your sponsor levels.
  • Sign a contract with your headliner. Then, obtain promotional material–like a photo and bio–from the headliner. Arrange travel and accommodation.
  • Sign sponsorship agreements with your funding sources. Obtain promotional material–like logos–from each sponsor.
  • Confirm presenters. Take another look at your network and identify potential presenters, including speakers and MCs. Confirm each presenter’s interest and availability. Begin adding them to the program.
  • Confirm entertainment, catering, traffic control, and security. Reach out to event contractors to reserve your dates.
  • Secure event permits and liability insurance. Reach out to local authorities if food permits, noise permits, permissions to hang signage, permission to close roads, or police protection is necessary. Liability insurance covers injury, property damage, and other event mishaps.
  • Brand your event. Create a distinctive look for your event. This look will color your promotional material, your event decorations, and your event swag.
  • Open registration. Your online registration form should get right to the point, without neglecting useful logistical questions about arrival times, dietary restrictions, and t-shirt size.
  • Promote the event. Build a website. Create an event or a page on social media. Post updates as speakers and notable guests confirm attendance. Blast your contact list. Send out a press release to relevant media organizations.
  • Sign contracts with your presenters and event contractors.
  • Purchase or rent necessary supplies. Ask contractors what equipment they expect you to provide. Contact your venue to see if it has the necessary supplies on hand. If it doesn’t, reach out to suppliers to arrange purchase or rental. Prepare swag–like gifts and product samples–for your event.
  • Obtain copies of all speeches and presentations. Request a copy of your headliner and presenter’s speeches and presentations. Make sure each one is appropriate and, if necessary, work with presenters to make changes.
  • Create an event program and script. Have a backup plan for inclement weather or low attendance.
  • Assemble volunteers. Determine your staffing needs, then send out an open request for volunteers. Find the perfect role for every volunteer by asking questions about skills and interests in an online volunteer registration form.
  • Close registration.
  • Send out information packets. Send out a packet that includes an event program, a menu, information about the presenters, the contact information of other participants, or any other useful information that helps you meet the goals you set for the event. This is also a good time to survey participants about their expectations for the event. If your event has an app, include instructions on how to download it.
  • Set up media interviews for presenters. Contact relevant media organizations with a list of the event’s presenters to gauge interest. Then, connect presenters with interview opportunities. Prepare media passes. If possible, set aside a place at the venue for interviews.
  • Make a physical and digital copy of every speech and presentation. Nothing proves Murphy’s Law more than a high-stakes event.
  • Set up. Ensure all the necessary supplies, including swag, are on site. Set up registration booths, chairs, tables, and stages.
  • Brief volunteers. Keep volunteers accountable by assigning them to small, dedicated groups managed by one of your event team members.
  • Call the media. Confirm each media organization’s attendance.
  • Collect real-time feedback. Send event feedback forms during breaks in the program. These surveys gauge the event’s success in real time and give you a chance to address issues as soon as they pop up.
  • Send out thank you emails. Draft a separate email for participants, volunteers, and presenters. Highlight event accomplishments like high turnout, productive dialogue, and positive feedback.
  • Attach a post-event survey. Measure the success of your event, and start planning for your next one, with a post-event survey. Tailor the survey so that it covers those issues most relevant to participantsvolunteers, and presenters.

Put your event on the fast track to success with our comprehensive event planning checklist. Remember that even as you check off the boxes on our event planning checklist, the best way to measure your progress is by using those goals you set for yourself back in step 1.