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The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist for a Successful Event

Event planning can be stressful. After all, you’re the one who’s responsible for making sure it all goes according to plan, and for that to happen, you need to be on top of all of the little details.

Fortunately, that’s where an event planning checklist can come to the rescue. An event checklist can ensure that you don’t forget an important task. It’s also a helpful way to keep track of all the things you’ve delegated, because we know events don’t happen with just one person doing it all. 

We’re going to break this event planner’s checklist down three ways: pre-event, day of event, and post-event. Feel free to skip ahead if you’re at an advanced stage of your planning experience.

Pre-Event

While each list will be unique, depending on what type of event you’re holding, there are some general guidelines that you can consider for your pre-event checklist. For ease of organization, we’d recommend categorizing your tasks into five main areas:

  • Budget 
  • Logistics  
  • Venue  
  • Programming 
  • Promotion 

You can probably see from those five areas that there’s some overlap. Have no fear. We’ll walk you through it all, and having the event planning checklist will help minimize your stress during the planning and execution of your event.

Let’s dive in to the first category, which is all about money.

Budget 

Some might say it makes sense to start with logistics, name, theme, date. And some of those pieces, sure, you can begin with them. However, much of what you’re able to plan will depend on your budget. This is true whether you’re planning a smaller more intimate event like a bachelorette party, or a larger event like a conference or music concert series. 

If you’ve already held a similar event in the past, start with your old budget! The categories of expenses and income can be helpful. If this is your first go at it, here are some things to consider when it comes to budget:

Income:

  • Who are possible funders or sponsors who can partner with your event. What might they be able to contribute?
  • Are you selling tickets to the event? Is the event designed to raise money or are you selling tickets just to cover expenses? 

Expenses:

  • Begin with large categories: food, location, decorations, entertainment, transportation. When you’re examining this, you might begin to research different costs for different vendors. It’ll be similar for all of them, but we’ll take transportation as an example and break it down in the logistics section for you. 
  • Other smaller items to consider for expenses and get estimates for include equipment needs (a/v), speaker fees, travel, and insurance.  

Gathering these details will ensure that you don’t overspend on your event! If you need to reduce costs, you’ll be able to easily identify which areas to cut or tweak. 

Logistics

The first things you’ll want to do under the logistics category are:

  • Pick a date 
  • Select a venue 
  • Give your event a name and have a theme 
  • Make your guest list after completing the above

You’ll begin with these things, because then you’ll have a sense of some of the bones of your event. Once you know your location, you can begin to do the next two most important logistics components. It’s time to make a guest list and figure out transportation, if you need it. 

Your guest list will be determined by cost, by the type of event you’re having, possibly by past guest lists, and finally, by how many attendees the venue can accommodate. 

Also, will you be blocking off hotel rooms for your event attendees? One easy way to do so is through Bus.com partner HotelPlanner.com. HotelPlanner.com offers an overview of the best online rates for your group and even allows hotels to bid for your business, which can open up even more discount possibilities.

As far as transportation goes, you’ll want to look at types of transportation first. Do you have public transportation? Would you prefer to transport your attendees together in one spot where they can enjoy the time from one location to the next? Perhaps you decide that that’s what you’d like to do- transport everyone together. Here are some steps to take for that. 

Figure out transportation

How large is your group? If you’re transporting large numbers of people, like for a concert, perhaps a school bus is a good option. If your event is smaller and has a short distance to go, a sprinter van, a minibus, or a mini coach bus might be ideal.

Look for bus prices

You’ll want to look at several vendors for buses, and consider a few things as you examine prices.
How effective is their customer service? If something goes wrong, will they be able to quickly address it?
Do their prices fit in your budget? In this instance, the ability to get quotes quickly and easily is critical. You don’t want to waste time when there are so many things on your event task list. Finally, you’ll want to make sure that they have the highest standards for their vehicles and their drivers. You want to make sure that your participants are in the best possible hands.

Choose the option that is best for you!

With all of this information gathered, you’ll be able to make the best possible choice for which bus vendor can best suit the needs of your event. 

Some final things to consider under logistics include: 

  • Do you have all of your vendors listed in one spot? For example, a/v, catering, music or entertainment.
  • Do you have tasks or areas of responsibility assigned to specific individuals or groups? With a large event, you’ll want to make sure to split up the work— it’s impossible for one person to do it all!

Venue

Where will you have your event? There are several factors to consider when you’re beginning to select your venue. There are also a number of things to make sure you take care of. The planning checklist for this portion is mostly questions to consider as you select your venue and nail down a contract agreement.

Here are some common questions to ask. 

  • Does the infrastructure of the facility or venue meet your needs? 
  • Are there enough breakout rooms? 
  • Are there enough restrooms? 
  • Is the venue accessible? (both ADA accessible and geographically accessible. 
  • What types of transportation can get your participants to the event?
  • Are A/V and wifi needs met? 
  • Is the main room large enough to accommodate your guest list? 
  • What are nearby food court or food options, if you’re not providing food for the event? 
  • Is the layout sufficient for your needs? 

Once you’ve confirmed your venue, you’ll still need to be in contact with the facility up until your event occurs.

Among other things, you’ll need to: 

  • sign a contract
  • pay a deposit 
  • setup the venue before the event 

It’s usually wise to have one person as the main point of contact for the venue. They’ll be able to communicate about any needs such as water and cups, coffee, etc, or anything else the facility is providing as part of the contract.

Programming

As you plan your schedule, you’ll want to make sure that you have a few things in place. Who is going to be attending and participating in programming? What will the flow of the day look like?

  • Select speakers or panelists

    This has a few steps to it.
    * Research potential new speakers
    * Pull from old speakers — send out email or make phone calls to invite
    *You’ll want to make sure that you reach out with enough notice that your panelists or participants can add the event to their schedule. 

  • Registration decisions: how will you allow participants and speakers to register? Is it possible through a website? App? Paper only?
  • Programming the schedule
    What’s the agenda for the event?
    You’ll want to plan out a timeline that incorporates all your necessary items. This could be super simple or it could be a complex task, depending on your event. The timeline for a wedding will be different for the timeline of a science fiction convention.

    Some things to consider as you program your schedule:
    * Do you need multiple tracts to allow for different panels or events happening simultaneously? Make sure that you’re allotting rooms, and time for breaks.
    * If you’re moving from one location to the next, and transportation on a charter bus or public transport is part of that, have you allowed enough time to get from point A to point B if there is traffic?

Promotion and Marketing

The final category of your event planning checklist for before the event is to create and schedule all of the programming and marketing components.

Here’s a list of some items that could go on that list: 

  • Create logo 
  • Gather sponsors’ logos 
  • Select places for advertising: social media, news, radio. You’ll want to ensure that people know about your event. Where will they be hanging out? That’s where you want your advertising to be located. Maybe your event is a church conference. If so, did you put an ad in the bulletin? Obviously, if your event isn’t one that requires advertising, this might look different. 
  • Create website or app for the event 
  • Draft and send email communications to potential participants
  • Craft a promo video of either live footage or animation, and post to youtube and share on social media 
  • Decide on a hashtag and start to build up a following around it
  • Release press statements about your event to the appropriate outlets and journalists. 
  • Craft any drafted materials that will be needed for the actual day-of-event. 

Day of Event

If you’ve used your planning checklist effectively, the day of the actual event should go smoothly! There aren’t many things that need to happen differently day of, if you’ve accounted for everything. Mostly, it’s typing up loose ends of execution and some logistics. Hopefully you’ll be able to watch the fruits of your labor unfold and enjoy some of the event yourself. 

Logistics

  • Set up signs as necessary 
  • Make sure you have registration manned
  • Meet speakers, if necessary, and show them the green room and share any other pertinent details. 
  • Sound and technology check: make sure that all necessary technology is working before your participants arrive. 

Venue 

  • Pay remainder of fees: whatever you still owe the venue, you’ll have to pay it on the day of your event, usually. Make sure that whoever is responsible for accounting has a check or a method of payment that has previously been agreed on. 
  • Make sure accessibility options have visible signage 

Programming 

  • Have someone who can keep sessions on time
  • Have programming booklets or schedule available for participants 
  • Be ready to troubleshoot if a panelist cancels last minute

Post Event

After your event, you’ll want to see how it all went. It’s important to conduct an analysis afterward so that if necessary, you can adapt or tweak for the next time. Make sure to save all of your event checklist information in one spot so that you’ll have it for easy reference next time! 

Budget 

  • Evaluate whether or not you stayed on budget. 
  • Gather all necessary receipts, invoices, etc and store in one place
  • Reconcile accounts 

Logistics 

  • Send out post-event survey to participants 
  • Send thank you’s to panelists/presenters, hotel, vendors, etc. You’ll want to make sure to maintain those relationships you’ve worked so hard to build. 
  • Evaluate systems. Did your planning checklist have everything on it that was needed? This is where having multiple folks helping out along the way really shines, because people will have noticed gaps that you might not have accounted for. 

Venue 

  • Insure that nothing was left behind at venue and that there was no property damage 
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of the venue. Were the breakout rooms adequate? Was someone else’s simultaneous event disruptive of yours?

Programming 

  • Evaluate programming. Was it effective? Did the participants enjoy it? Host a debrief and gather thoughts while it’s all still fresh. 
  • Send out an email to your newsletter about how the programming went and include highlights.

All in all, creating an event planning checklist that is split into tasks for before the event, tasks for during the event, and tasks for after will help ensure that your event is a hit. It takes an extensive amount of work to execute something with so many moving parts! Regardless of whether your event is a small one, like a bachelor party, or a large one like a music festival, an event task list will keep you on track.

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