So, you’ve decided to plan an event? Awesome! As experts in the field, we can tell you one thing for sure—when the excitement slows down, you’re going to start to feel the weight of the long list of things you need to do to prepare, no matter if the event is in person or running a virtual event.
Luckily, event planning doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. By taking the time to understand and map out an event planning timeline, you can set yourself and your up for event success!
- Why do you need an event planning timeline?
- How to Create an Event Planning Timeline
- Here’s a Sample Spreadsheet Template for Event Planning Task Timelines
- Putting It All Together
Why do you need an event planning timeline?
Before we get into how to create an event planning timeline, it’s probably smart that we talk about why you need one in the first place. A detailed and well-thought-out event planning timeline can help you identify how early certain steps should be started, uncover any issues in your overall planning, ensure you don’t miss anything.
How far out should you prepare your timeline? Ideally, starting the process as far out as is feasible is the right move. That being said, you don’t want to start so far in advance that all the assumptions you make about your planning are going to change. For example, if you try and plan an event two years out, vendors might not be prepared to commit to the event yet.
While it will be heavily dependent on the type of event you’re running, six months to a year is a good general rule of how far out you should begin planning your event. You want to start planning your event six months to a year out to ensure you’re able to secure venues, vendors, sponsors, and so attendees can be sure they are able to attend.
How to Create an Event Planning Timeline
In the next few sections, we want to break down the different elements of your event planning that should be completed at different stages of the process. Keep in mind this is designed to be fluid and flexible. If it makes more sense for your event type to move things around earlier or later, go for it.
6 Months to a Year Prior to the Event
- Designate Responsibilities and Roles – Running a successful event (no matter the size) should never be something you do alone. Take the time to designate people you can count on to help put things together. Make sure to clearly define roles and fully outline responsibilities. Behind every great event is a great team managed well from day one.
- Set Targeted Goals for the Event – What are you trying to accomplish with the event? Entertain people? Drive sales? Accomplish training? Whatever the event may be, it’s important to identify specific and measurable goals. By doing so (and sharing it with your team), the rest of your event planning can help to shape that unified direction.
- Designate a Budget – Figure out how much you can spend on the event first. From there, start looking at how much things are going to cost and how you can best spend your budget. Remember, there will be surprise expenses along the way you didn’t expect, so make sure to build some wiggle room into the budget.
- Select Your Venue – Probably the most important part of planning your event is figuring out (and securing) where you’re going to have it! Without somewhere for people to come, the event can’t happen. Make sure you get this secured as early as possible, as event venues sometimes book out months or years in advance.
- Book Your Major Vendors – Ideally, you should try and book all of your vendors as far out as possible. But because there is so much that goes into planning a successful event, you have to prioritize. Start with your major vendors that are key to the success of the event.
- Create a Website or Landing Page – As your event starts to come to life and people catch word, they’re going to want information. Take the time to create an event website or landing page where you can send people. This makes it so easy in the future to start taking registrations, sell tickets, and disseminate information through one channel.
- Create a Marketing Plan – You can plan the greatest event on Earth, but if no one knows about it—it’s not going to be successful. Take time to figure out how you’re going to reach your target audience. Additionally, don’t forget to plan this into your budget if you plan to do some paid promotions.
2 – 4 Months Out
- Create a Fully Fleshed Out Agenda – Six-month planning is more about the big picture. As you start to get closer to the event, though, the details start to matter more and more. Take the time to fully flesh out your agenda for planning the event and for the event itself. This is a great time to develop checklists and check in with your team to ensure everything is covered.
- Book Your Smaller Vendors – Remember those smaller vendors we prioritized further down the list six months out? Now it’s time to fill in the gaps and get them booked.
- Create a Contingency Plan – Ideally, your event goes 100% according to plan. Realistically, that doesn’t always happen. Rain, weather, permits, vendors, attendees—any number of these things might not work out how you plan. But that doesn’t mean your event can’t be a success! Start to build out contingency plans in case major elements of your event don’t quite come together according to plan leading up to the event or on the day of.
- Begin Advertising – Raising awareness for your event is one thing that can start as early as possible. But as you move into this stage of your event planning timeline, it’s time to kick things into full gear. Begin rolling out your previously devised marketing plan to start getting people ready to attend your event.
- Begin Event Registration – People live busy lives. If you get them excited about your event but don’t get them locked in, they might forget about it. Start selling tickets and taking registrations. Once people commit to your event, you know they’re going to attend.
- Tell Attendees What to Do to Prepare – Do your attendees need to buy equipment, study up on something, or get certain supplies? Are there decisions they need to make for add-ons or breakout events? Make sure you figure out this information and push it out to those who have signed up or purchased tickets.
1 Month Out
- Confirm, Confirm, Confirm – At this point, the bulk of your planning should be completed. Now comes the most important part of your event planning timeline—the confirmation step. Follow up with all of your vendors and the event venue to make sure that everyone is still good to go and on the same page. It helps to run over the key details one more time, as there is still time to potentially fix any communication mistakes that were lost in the process.
- Continue Promoting Registrations – Don’t stop pushing for people to come! Many people don’t like to plan their schedule months in advance. This is your opportunity to get those people on board for your awesome event.
1 Week Out
- Promote Final Registration Opportunities – Push hard on all of your marketing channels in the week leading up to the event (if there are still spots or tickets available). Let people know this is their last chance to get on board, and you may see a nice spike in sales or sign-ups.
Here’s a Sample Spreadsheet Template for Event Planning Task Timelines
Download this Event Planning Timeline to use as an example template for your own event planning: Event Planning Timeline Template.
Putting It All Together
Here’s the bottom line you should take away from this. Start early, take small steps, and plan as best as you can. If you start far enough in advance and develop an effective event planning timeline, you’ll be able to work systematically through the process and develop an incredible event.
If you’re looking for some help to make the process even easier, you might consider checking out Event Espresso. This online event management software can check off so many steps on this timeline in one fell swoop. Easily create a landing page, market your event, take registrations, sell tickets, and push information to attendees— all from one spot!
If you’re serious about lightening your load and running a successful event, you’ve got to check out Event Espresso now.