The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist
Managing events is stressful. You need an event planning checklist to support you from beginning to end. With countless moving pieces, keeping track of all of the little details can be challenging. From picking a venue and speakers to ensuring you’ve sent out thank you notes and running a post-event debrief, there’s a lot to think about.
The following checklist is meant to get you thinking about everything on your plate. Broken up into three buckets:
Use this event planning checklist to kickstart your planning process. Since no two events are the same, you’ll undoubtedly want to remove or add items. We suggest tailoring your checklist to fit your event.
Event Planning Checklist: Pre-Event
This typically occurs 12 months out, or further, for large events like user conferences, festivals, or trade shows; and 5-6 months out for smaller events like meetings or workshops.
- Set your event objectives. What is the purpose of the event? What will success look like?
- When will the event take place?
- Where will the event take place? Country? Region? City? Venue?
- How many people are expected to attend?
- Decide on the event name, even if it is a working title, to begin with.
- Who are the core team that will make the event happen? Are you handling it alone or will you have a team?
- What budget is available for the event? Do you need to find additional funds?
- Is it a ticketed event? What is the anticipated ticket price?
Research and Vendor Contracting
- Research potential venues to come up with a shortlist.
- Check venue availability and pricing. Look into associated costs like food and beverage, AV, and parking – are these included, where can you negotiate?
- Start creating a budget, adding in income and costs. It’s okay to estimate in the beginning and update with final numbers as you go.
- Are you offering discount tickets like early bird pricing or student discounts?
- Will you have paid speakers, performers, or special guests? Check their availability and start working on a contract.
- Negotiate terms and specifics with the venue.
- Coordinate accommodation room blocks and travel.
- Get sign-off from the legal team and senior management as required.
- Sign contract with venue and vendors
Team and Project Management
- Identify your team and their roles.
- Allocate specific tasks and action items as required.
- Define key milestones and deadlines
- Build out processes, including communication, reporting, and meetings.
- Define your event structure and agenda. Will there be a single session, a full day with a single track, or multiple tracks running at the same time?
- Think about ways to maximize learning and goals.
- Ensure there are enough breaks and downtime throughout the event.
- Consider delivery, engagement, and room layout.
- Can event technology support the meeting objectives?
- Consider how effectiveness and outcomes will be measured.
Branding and Theme
- Will there be a specific event logo?
- Develop branding and identity guidelines.
- Gather logos from all key stakeholders, including partners and sponsors.
- Be aware of any specific agreements in terms of logo placement and branding.
Website and Online Registration
- Set up the website and add details as they become available.
- Set up the online event registration process. Even if it is a free event it is useful to have a system to manage RSVPs and attendance.
- How will your space be used? Create layouts and room allocations for your event.
- What are specific unloading, load in/load out, parking, and goods lift information that should be shared with staff, exhibitors, and vendors
- Does the venue have machinery available to aid with the setup?
- Discuss specific instructions for guests with accessibility issues.
- Keep the venue informed of anyone attending with special needs.
- Confirm the key points of contact for the planning process and the day of the event.
- Test WiFi bandwidth. Upgrade or find alternatives if required.
Food and Beverage
- Consider and confirm the event’s food and beverage needs.
- Agree on catering timings and service.
- Confirm final catering numbers and dietary requirements.
- Finalize arrangements for staff, crew, and VIP catering.
Speakers and Entertainment
- Provide speakers with details and guidelines on the specifics of their session.
- Set deadlines for content.
- Gather headshots and bios to include on the app or website.
- Share details of any AV or event tech to be used.
- Book travel and accommodation as required.
- Outline arrival and departure times.
- Confirm rehearsal timings.
- Confirm contact numbers.
Event apps, live streaming, and social media walls are changing how attendees experience events. Interested in adding technology to your event? Take these steps for successful adoption.
- Research event tech to incorporate into your event.
- Have demos and get quotes from potential providers.
- Shortlist and choose solutions.
- Train staff on your technologies.
- Set up event tech tools.
- Implement the event tech.
- Communicate and promote tech to attendees.
- Provide support and encouragement to maximize ROI on the technology.
- Continually update your event budget headings, figures, and ticket sales.
- Identify that you are on track in terms of sales targets or if extra efforts and focus are needed.
- Have meetings and site visits as required to finalize the specifics of the event.
- Enter into agreements and contracts as vendor specifics are confirmed as required throughout the process.
AV and Production
- Even if you are not sure of the precise equipment required you can explain to your AV supplier the effect that you want to create and share examples from other events.
- Ensure the stage is large enough to accommodate podiums, tables, chairs, and sofas, as required and safely.
- What is the cue system?
- Is there an autocue script?
- Who is the stage manager?
- Carefully review and QA all presentations, graphics, and visuals and link them all together.
- Ensure there is a switch and backup computer in case of any issues.
- Is there a comfort monitor to avoid the speaker or performer having to look behind them?
- Triple check the number and type of microphones and when mic changeovers will take place.
- When can the AV team have access for set up?
- What time must everything be ready?
- When are rehearsals and run-throughs?
- What are the contingency plans for technical issues?
- Have all staff had a clear briefing about the event and the likely questions they will be asked.
- If they are unsure of something that is the protocol?
- Are staff clear about the dress code?
- Specific timings, roles, and responsibilities should be agreed upon in advance.
- Is there a theme for the event? If so how will this flow through the event?
- How can you create impact, wow factor, and photo opportunities within the event?
- Does the venue provide florals in key areas?
- Do additional flowers need to be ordered?
- If it is a seated event consider table decor.
- What opportunities are there for branding and signage across the event?
- What are the specific formats and deadlines for items, for instance, digital signage?
- Do you need banners, signage, printed panels, and other items to be designed and printed?
Marketing and Social Media
- Create a marketing a promotion plan.
- Set targets and milestones for your goals, including registration numbers, new followers, etc.
- Research and create an event hashtag.
- Be active and share interesting and relevant content leading up to the event.
- How can you increase brand loyalty through your pre-event marketing and ideas to implement at the event?
- Will you be working with influencers?
- Create collateral and suggested tweets to make it easy for partners to share content.
- Encourage networking opportunities and connections prior to the event.
- Has the photographer and videographer been briefed in terms of key shots and footage required and turnaround times?
- What is the policy in terms of photographs and filming at the event? Do disclaimers need to be signed and permissions sought? Has the policy been clearly communicated to attendees?
- Will a press release be sent out before the event?
Sponsorships and Exhibitors
- Identify potential sponsors and approach them early with a strong event proposal.
- Share details about the event and understand what they would get out of the event. Suggest ideas that will help them to achieve their business objectives. Be prepared to be flexible and responsive to their needs.
- Are additional revenue streams required? Are there opportunities for VIP upgrades, fringe events, sales, merchandise, selling access to content after the event, etc.
- If you have exhibitors at your event, ensure that you create an exhibitor manual and communicate clearly in terms of key information and deadlines.
- Outline precisely what they get (space only, exhibition shell scheme, furniture, power, WiFi) and instructions including set up times, unloading, arrangements for passes, health and safety requirements/guidance, etc.
Health and Safety
- Ensure that you have the relevant permits and licenses in place.
- Notify the local authorities and agencies that the event is taking place as required and for large events establish multi-agency planning meetings.
- Ensure adequate insurance cover is in place for the event.
- What are the arrangements in terms of security, bag checks, and so forth?
- Check risk assessments, method statements, and insurance documents from vendors, exhibitors, performers, etc.
- Identify any specific risks.
- What are the code words and procedures to deal with situations such as evacuation, fire, suspicious packages, and so forth?
- Is a lost child/vulnerable person policy in place?
- Identify contingency plans.
- Create an overall event risk assessment.
- Share copies with the relevant people and venue.
Final Pre-Event Checklist
- Send out final attendee information.
- Create a logistics checklist of all items, who is responsible for each, and where it needs to go on site.
- Are any gifts or tips needed for anyone?
- Check all information has been returned, including presentations from speakers, risk assessments, and proof of insurance from all suppliers.
- Ensure all essentials are in your event manager box(es). This will include items such as blue tack, screwdriver, post-it notes, spare pens, extension leads, gaffa tape, and much more.
- Share and print copies of any important documents that you will need to reference.
- Create a master running order and variations of this such as specific supplier, staff, and Chair notes, including load in and load out.
- Provide final staff briefings and instructions.
- Collate goodie bags, delegate folders, handouts, and giveaways as appropriate.
- Prepare badges/place cards/table numbers.
- Print signage.
- Load/arrange transportation of all event items and equipment.
- Ensure you have all possible cell phone numbers and contacts listed on your master contact sheet and that everyone that might need it has copies. Enter them into your phone if possible.
- Give a courtesy call to all key people involved, particularly speakers and performers.
- Send out a final reminder to attendees.
Event Planning Checklist: On-Site Setup and During the Event
Once you arrive on-site, whether it be a couple of hours ahead for a meeting or days ahead of a large conference, there are individual actions and processes you’ll want to complete to ensure in preparation and during the event to ensure it runs smoothly.
- Keep the team informed of progress and timings in different rooms so that adjustments can be made if necessary.
- Notify the venue/catering ASAP of any changes.
- Triple-check all branded elements. You don’t want branded items to be crooked or show wrinkles on all the pictures.
- After the event, package, label, transport, and store-branded items that can be reused.
Website and Registration
- Ensure any final messages and contact details are added to the website.
- Advice on the website and registration site if tickets are available for purchase at the door and will remain on sale online.
- Keep ticket sales open for as long as possible online.
- Brief all registration staff. Ensure they know where pre-registered attendees, VIPs, on-site ticket sales, and exhibitors should be directed to.
- Ensure staff members are in place to meet VIPs and escort them to the relevant person and place.
- Notify the relevant staff when key people arrive so they are ready to receive them.
- If the event fees change on the day of the event ensure the price change is scheduled and has taken effect.
- Test barcode scanners/tablets used for check-in.
- If you are printing badges on-site do a test before the public arrive.
- Conduct a final walkthrough to ensure everything is in place and looks as it should.
- Test the WiFi login process.
- Test/check radio contact and mobile numbers for the key venue staff.
- Talk through key timings, such as sponsor exhibition opening and refreshments being available.
- Check toilets are clean, fully operable, and stocked with soap, toilet rolls, and hand towels.
Food and Beverage
- Talk through the timings and all details with the catering manager on the morning of the event, including any last-minute changes to final numbers and dietary requirements.
- Verify the procedure for those with special dietary requirements. Will they have a special plated meal or will venue catering staff advise them of the options at the point of service?
- Check the riders for the performers.
- Check that glasses and water are available for presenters and performers on stage and backstage.
- In the case of extras, such as additional bottles of wine being requested, agree on who has authorization for these items and the procedure.
- If there is a surplus of food in any area, make arrangements to donate it to those in need.
Speakers and Entertainment
- Check sound, lighting, presentations, video, cues, and technology during the rehearsal/ briefing.
- Agree on specifics such as cues, signals, who will collect from the green room, and so forth.
- Tick off speakers and performers as they arrive.
- If last-minute items are required from the venue or purchased off-site, who will authorize this and how will it be paid for?
- Check in with all suppliers to make sure they are ready on time and there are no issues to report.
Event Technology and AV/Production
- Do final tests and checks, including run-throughs with facilitators and presenters who will be using it.
- Introduce performers and speakers to the stage manager and AV team.
- At the end of the event, get copies of final presentations (there may have been changes made on-site), data from event tech, etc.
- If there are any hold-ups/absences in terms of staff re-allocate responsibilities as necessary.
- Post live updates to social media channels.
- Monitor social media activity by tracking usage of your event hashtag, check-ins to the venue, and brand mentions.
- Retweet or share compelling posts from attendees.
Sponsors and Exhibitors
- Ensure sponsors and key partners are met and greeted appropriately. Look after them throughout the event.
- If they are leaving any items for collection the next day, ensure they label the items correctly and store them in the right place, ready for future collection.
Event Planning Checklist: Post-Event
Congrats, your event went off without a hitch! Though you’re not done yet. Here are the items to check off post-event.
Team and Project Management
- Send out a survey to gain feedback from all staff and stakeholders while it is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Website and Online Registration
- If you promised attendees follow-up resources, presentations, images, etc., make these available online or on the mobile app.
- Update the website and registration page with details for the event next year.
- Consider opening early ticket sales right away for next year.
- Set up a debrief meeting with the venue.
- Ensure the final bill tallies with expectations and authorizations on site.
Speakers and Entertainment
- Be sure to thank speakers and performers and to share any follow-up information, such as session feedback and images.
- Run reports to analyze and measure the data provided by your event tech.
Program and Audience
- Were the event objectives achieved?
- Send out a survey to gather feedback from attendees.
- Finalize your budget, including any expenditure authorized during the live event.
- Thank you and gather feedback from all suppliers. Any learnings for future events?
- Report back on learnings and improvements you noted for future improvements.
- Check final invoices from vendors as received against budget projections.
- Ask staff to record their observations, good and bad, and any suggestions for ways to do things differently at future events.
- Gather feedback from all parties.
- Set a date for an event to debrief the meeting.
Marketing and Social Media
- Work hard to continue the buzz, conversation, and learning around the event.
- Issue a post-event press release. Coordinate with the photographer any specific images you need to be turned around as a priority, to issue alongside the press release.
- Promote the date and venue for next year’s event.
- Let people know through all channels when tickets are on sale and post-event collateral has been added.
- Share the highlights video.
Sponsors and Exhibitors
- Ask sponsors for feedback and ensure they are happy.
- Share collateral and data.
- Discuss next year’s event and their future involvement.
- Coordinate your post-event emails and communications. Notify attendees of the post-event survey and where to access the resources as promised at the event.
- Coordinate thank you cards and gifts, as appropriate.
Ready to get started on your next event? For another look at planning an event, take a look at our 10 Step Guide to Event Planning.