From cancellations and missed flights to equipment malfunctions and registration issues, there are many potential problems that can derail an otherwise well-planned event.
An event planning checklist is the event planner’s best defense against an event gone awry.
Here is our event planning checklist with 11 tips and reminders to help keep you event planners on track!
1. Plan Your Event On The Right Date
Event planners should be aware of common competitors for dates, including holidays, other board meetings and quarterly reports.
Additionally, keep in mind your intended audience. Teachers, for example, will not flock to a conference event if it’s in the middle of the school year.
For safety’s sake, you should have a range of potential dates in mind for your event.
2. Set A Realistic Budget
Event planners should always be reminded that expenses – including speaker fees, catering costs, hall rentals, hotels bookings and travel tickets – add up exponentially.
Therefore, it’s better to plan and prepare to spend too much than too lite – the bigger the conference, the more you should be prepared to spend.
Also, don’t overlook supplying funds or materials for events and conferences, as supplying either can help advertise your business.
3. Assemble An All-Star Event Planning Committee
If you plan on collaborating with fellow colleagues for an event or conference, make sure you choose the right team to get the job done. The way you and your team function together as a group can make or break your event.
Is someone in your organization a whiz at finding cheap deals online? Put him or her in charge of travel logistics to book hotels or plane flights.
Who’s your best salesperson? He or she could be ideal for convincing speakers to come to your event.
Do you know a meticulous registrar? It’s very likely he or she could sidestep hundreds of potential event planning disasters.
For large events, your responsibilities can spiral out of control just as quickly as your budget. Don’t overlook this important step.
4. Make An Event Agenda
Just as an agenda is important to keep your day-to-day meetings focused, a detailed agenda allows you to keep your upcoming event or conference on track.
Your agenda determines which speakers and attendees will attend your event, as well as less-obvious details such as the choice of venue and what kind of presentation equipment you’ll need.
If you don’t make a detailed event agenda with specific times and dates, it’s very likely something will be forgotten or overlooked as your event approaches, or, even worse, while the event is underway.
5. Determine Your Floor And Seating Configuration
Will your event or conference include presentations, Q&A sessions, workshops or break-out groups? These are important questions to ask and have answered completely, as they will help determine the seating arrangement of the event.
If your event will feature mostly speeches, a theater-style seating arrangement may work best. If your event will feature break-out group discussions, you’ll need to provide small tables or workstations.
Small groups may require additional equipment expenditures, particularly if you are planning on buying or renting a conference microphone system for the event.
6. Rent The Right Event Space
Calculating the size of your conference venue is another crucial step, and depends on your floor and space configuration (see above).
Conference venue rental is a big business, so you’ll want to get an early start and get competing quotes from various venues. More importantly, don’t bet on just one place: consider alternatives. A savvy event planner always has a backup plan!
7. Invite Enticing Speakers
Great speakers can ignite a conference, energize attendees and spread the word about your event long after it’s over.
Big names will attract attendees, but they’ll also drain your budget. There are plenty of great speakers out there whose reputation hasn’t caught up to their abilities – so do your research and choose your speakers carefully.
Consider reaching out to speakers who live nearby the event’s location, as this may cut down on travelling costs.
If you focus as much on getting a diverse, exciting panel as you do on attracting the celebrities, you’ll create excitement, and set the stage for bigger and better conferences in the future.
8. Capture Everyone’s Attention
Apart from sponsorships and ad revenue, registration fees are your main source of income for your event.
Whether you’re planning your event yourself or hiring a publicity firm, make sure to promote your event often and early to catch pre-registrants! Most importantly, your web presence is the public face of your event – don’t skimp on it.
In addition to your organization’s own online and social media outlets, keep your eyes open for any possible vehicle for event publicity, including print ads, local web and newspaper event listings, and news media.
Extra invitations to the conference are also a great way to generate publicity.
9. Rent Or Buy Your Conference Equipment
Now that you have your dates, venue, speakers and promotions in line, you’re ready to pick out your presentation equipment.
Projectors, whiteboards, laptops – there are a lot of presentation options out there, and the list can grow quickly.
First and foremost, find out what you need that is absolutely critical to the success of your event. Do you have anything on hand that you can use, such as old materials from a previous event? Do you need to rent or buy any new items?
Lastly, don’t forget to make sure you have what your speakers or presenters need. Oftentimes, this may change over the course of several months of planning your event. Give each presenter or speaker a quick call or e-mail to verify their needs as your event draws closer.
10. Hire Your Technical Staff
If you’re buying conference audio equipment, make sure that your existing staff can operate it.
If you’re renting your equipment, make sure that the rental company will provide on-site audio technicians to assist you and your staff if needed.
Also, if you’re planning an international conference involving multiple languages, keep in mind that the English is not always a universal language for some audiences. If may be wise to provide multi-lingual services, including translation, interpretation and transcription.
Consider hiring a simultaneous interpreting service. Learn more about the various kinds of event and conference interpreting here.
Similarly, also consider recording and transcription services. Speakers and presenters appreciate going home with videos of their talks, and it’s a great addition to your corporate archives or YouTube channel.
11. Check In With Your Attendees After The Event
This last step is no less important than other points above (and something event planners often leave off of their conference planning checklists).
Always make sure to follow up with your attendees after your event or conference: Did send thank you notes to presenters? Did you distribute recordings and videos as promised? Did you pay the venue and leave it in good condition?
All of these things can help you maintain close relationships with your attendees, colleagues and venue’s staff, and can help ensure easy event and conference planning in the future.
Are you planning an event, or have you recently planned one? Let us know what’s on your conference planning checklist in the comments section below.