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The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist: 7 Phases to Create a Winning Event

The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist: 7 Phases to Create a Winning Event

Event Planning
December 2, 2021

Written by:

Thomas Davey

Just about to start planning your very first event, but don’t know where to start? 

Or are you an experienced event planner looking for better ways to plan your future events? 

You’ve come to the right place!

In this guide, we will share the ultimate event planning checklist you can use to help you identify all of the details you’ll need to keep track when planning a successful event, from start to finish. 

Arguably the biggest challenge of planning an event is keeping track of all the moving parts (and there are a lot of them), and the fact that you’ll need to have your plan Bs and plan Cs with virtually all of those moving parts. 

What should you do when your key speaker suddenly cancels D-5 of the event? What should you do when the venue you’ve booked suddenly becomes available?


This is what this checklist is for, so you can keep track of all the details you’ll need to consider, and also help you keep your event’s timelines in check.

This ultimate event planning checklist will include the following items: 

  • Defining your event’s purpose and setting objectives
  • Securing event venue (for in-person events) or event virtual platform
  • Choosing an ideal event date and time
  • Create an event master plan
  • Estimate an event budget
  • Event branding
  • Event marketing plan
  • Event sponsorships
  • Securing event speakers and/or talents
  • Launching registration (ticket sales)
  • Dealing with suppliers and vendors
  • Preparation of the venue and set up
  • Execution of the event
  • Post-event evaluation

And more.

To make things easier, we will structure this checklist based on several phases of the event planning timeline. The phases can vary depending on the type and size of the event: a big, in-person event (i.e. a music festival) is typically planned 6 months or more before the event, but we can get away with starting to plan a smaller virtual event 2 months prior to the event. 

With that  being said, in this guide we will divide these phases into 7 different phases:

  1. 1st phase (6 months prior to the event)
  2. 2nd phase (3-4 months prior to the event)
  3. 3rd phase (1-2 months prior to the event) 
  4. 4th phase ( a week prior to the event)
  5. D-1 phase
  6. D-Day phase
  7. Post-event phase

You can print out this checklist to make it as easy as possible for you to use it along with your event planning and execution, and without further ado, let us begin. 

Event Planning Checklist

1st Phase: 6 Months Prior to The Event

As discussed, how early you can start planning your event can vary (we use 6 months here as an example), but the general rule of thumb is the earlier you can start planning, the better. If it’s a big event with more than 500 attendees, you should have at least 4 months in advance to plan the event, and even for a small virtual event, try to have at least 1-2 months in advance. 

Here is the checklist for this first phase: 

  • Define your event’s purpose. (support a product launch, build awareness for your brand, educate attendees about specific knowledge, etc. )
    • Define objectives based on the purpose
    • Define KPIs to track the event’s performance against these objectives
  • Securing event venue. (for in-person events, if you are organizing a virtual event, skip this)
    • Build a shortlist for potential event venues
    • Research and survey potential venues
    • Negotiate details. (determine all the details before committing including the insurance the venue may require)
    • Written contract after committing to a venue
  • Securing a virtual event platform. (for virtual events, skip this if you are organizing an in-person event). 
  • Develop an event master plan
    • Overview information of the event (name, date, location, purpose, requirements)
    • Target audience
    • Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
    • Marketing plan and timeline
    • Event agenda/schedule
    • Event revenue model
    • Event safety plan
    • Team roles and responsibilities
  • Establish an event budget
    • Venue rental
    • Insurance
    • Virtual event platform and other technology
    • Equipment
    • Speaker/talent fees
    • Catering
    • Travel and accommodations for staff
    • ______
    • ______
    • (continue as needed)
  • Establish your event team
    • Assigning an event manager
    • Establishing committees
    • Assigning roles and responsibilities
  • Event branding
    • Event name
    • Event logo
    • Event tagline
    • Event hashtags
    • Event website
    • Event social profiles
    • Other branding elements
  • Event marketing plan
    • Event marketing timeline
  • Create and publish a press release
    • Choosing the right media to send the press release
    • Develop a press release. Keep it short and attractive, but informative. Not more than 300 words long.
    • Send the press release to relevant media and influencers. 
  • Create a shortlist of potential sponsors and partners
  • Determine if you need an event management platform to help you organize the event
  • Event registration launch
    • Release early bird tickets. Make sure an online registration function is in place on your event registration page, and make sure the process is as easy as possible to prevent friction.
    • Determine registration fees. (If you are going to offer separate tiers and/or time-based discounts, identify them upfront)
    • Set-up online registration

2nd Phase: 4 Months Prior to The Event

The first phase is about planning your event, setting up a solid foundation, and ending with the release of your early-bird tickets (and the official launch of the event). The next phase is about securing all the necessary details to prepare for a successful event. 

  • Identifying and securing speakers/talents
    • Negotiating the deal
      • Establish a written contract
    • Get bio information, well-taken photo, etc. 
    • Travel and accommodations
    • Ask the talents to start promoting the event and sharing the event on their social profiles/websites
  • Paperwork
    • Identify required documents for all team members and external stakeholder
    • Identify items to be underwritten
    • Create a separate checklist to keep track of the event’s paperwork
  • Sponsorship campaign
    • Identify potential sponsors
    • Send out event sponsorship proposals
      • Finalize sponsorship packages and amounts
  • Venue, catering, and logistics details
    • Catering details (i.e. menu)
    • A/V equipment checklist
    • Parking arrangements
    • Signage placements
    • Security needs for the event
    • Figure out whether you’ll need to pay for any special permits, insurances, licenses, etc.
    • Accessibility requirements (i.e. wheelchair accessibility)
      • Communicate accessibility requirements to event staff and volunteers
  • Finalize event schedule
    • Create an event script. (i.e. opening, introducing speakers, thank yous, closing)
    • Finalize schedule with speakers and external stakeholders
  • Execute marketing plan
    • Develop marketing materials. (blog posts, ads, radio spot scripts, videos, etc.)
      • Develop marketing collaterals. (invitations, posters, tickets, etc.)
      • Develop media kit materials. (speaker bio information, photos, etc.)
    • Request logos from sponsors for inclusion in marketing materials
    • Create an event page on your website
    • Create event social media pages
    • Create email notifications for event
    • Register your event on a variety of event publication platforms and online event calendars
    • Generate buzz on social media and forums
    • Order/design event swag bag

3rd Phase: 1-2 Months Prior to The Event

You are getting closer to D-Day, and in this phase, we are going to focus on finalizing details as well as attracting more attendees to encourage registrations. 

  • Further execution of marketing plan
    • Send newsletters to past event attendees
    • Encourage registration 
    • Invest in more ads and publication spots
    • Announce keynote speakers, headlining talents, VIPs attending, celebrities, etc.
    • Post more details about your event on social media
    • Post your news release on your website, share it with all partners 
    • Finalize all printed materials. Proofread everything carefully.
  • Finalizing with speakers/talents
    • Confirming travel/accommodation details
    • Request copy of presentations/speeches/performance scripts
    • Ask speakers/talents to promote your event and share on their social media pages/websites
  • Finalizing with sponsors
    • Confirming sponsorships
    • Underwriting. Make sure everything is legalized in writing
    • Get logo and promotional materials from the sponsors
    • Ask sponsors to promote your event on their social media pages, websites, and promotional channels
  • Close early-bird registration. Follow up with another time-based discount or release standard pricing

4th Phase: 1 Week Prior to The Event

You should’ve finalized the important details of your event in the previous phases, and this phase should be about adding the final touches. 

  • Finalizing details against the event master plan. Gather all your team members in a plenary meeting
    • Develop backup plans for various situations
  • Finalizing event script
    • Plan practice sessions for everyone who will speak on the event
  • Planning interview opportunities with speakers, talents, and VIPs
    • Plan photo-op opportunities
  • Confirm media attendees
    • Confirm their needs and logistics arrangements
  • Briefing staff and volunteers
    • Assign responsibilities
    • Brief everyone about their duties and timelines
  • Seating arrangements
    • Finalize your seating plan
    • Ensure clear paths through the venue
    • Ensure wheelchair-accessible areas
  • Finalize food and beverages
    • Provide attendance number to the caterer
    • Buffet arrangement
    • Catering logistics details
  • Distribute print and online copies of any speeches/presentations/video presentation transcripts

D-1 Phase

You’re almost there, and here are some last-minute final touches you may need to do

  • Ensure all elements of venue decoration is in place
    • Re-check all signage placements
  • Ensure registration tables
  • Ensure all software solutions are set up and working properly
  • Ensure A/V equipment is set up and working properly
  • Re-confirm media attendance
    • Ensure media tables are prepared
      • Ensure necessary items are placed. (name badges, pens, paper, etc. )
  • Ensure all marketing collaterals are on-site
  • Ensure gifts, swag bags, trophies, plaques, etc. are on the venue

D-Day Phase

Finally, the day has come, and this phase should focus on the execution of the event, but here are a few details to remember. 

  • Ensure copies of all instructions are available and correctly distributed
    • Directions
    • List of phone numbers
    • Keys placements
    • Seating charts/guest lists
    • Extra parking permits, etc. 
  • Check-in with your team. Make sure all committees are on track.
  • Check-in with sponsors
  • Check-in with speakers/talents
  • Assist sponsors, speakers/talents, and other parties as required

Post-Event Phase

Congratulations! You’ve successfully hosted your event, so now you can take a deep breath and relax a bit. 

Yet, your job is not yet done, and immediately after the event is over, here are some activities to remember. 

  • Re-check the venue. Ensure nothing’s left behind
    • Gather lost and found if any
    • Set up a debrief meeting with the venue
    • Confirm the final bill tallies with the caterer
  • Gather all receipts and documentation
    • Final number of attendees
    • Sales numbers (if selling any product)
    • Update budget accordingly
  • Send official acknowledgment and thank-yous
    • Volunteers
    • Donors (for a charity event)
    • The media
    • Sponsors
    • Speakers/presenters/talents
  • Send email to event attendees. Thank attendees for participating. Promote future events if any, and inform relevant information.
  • Post-event survey. Tools like Eventtia can help you easily generate post-event surveys to learn what attendees/sponsors/talents think about your event. Use these valuable insights to improve future events. 
  • Post-event marketing
    • Update website/event page accordingly so visitors will know that the event has finished
    • Issue a post-event press release. 
    • Develop a highlight video to share
    • Share highlights on the event page
    • Share highlights on social media
    • Send out an email to your subscribers with highlight reels from the event
  • Debrief your team
    • Send post-event surveys to your team
    • Interview relevant team members. Learn what they think about the event and identify areas where you can improve
  • Evaluation
    • List what’s going well
    • List areas that can be improved in future events
    • Evaluate budget
    • Evaluate KPIs

—————————————————————————————————————————

You’ve reached the end of the checklist, and we hope you found this checklist helpful in planning your next event. Below, however, we’ll share some event planning best practices and tips you can use in using this checklist. 

Event Planning Best Practices and Tips

1. Start as early as possible

A very important principle in event planning is the earlier you start planning, the more options you’ll have, and the better your event will be. 

Take the event’s venue, for example. Popular venues are often booked months and even years in advance, so by planning your event earlier, you’ll have more venue options, and you’ll have a better chance of securing the best possible venue for your event. 

Also, don’t underestimate how long you’ll need to effectively promote your event and attract enough attendees. The earlier you start planning your event, the more time you’ll have to promote it.

If your event is fairly large and it’s an in-person event, you should ideally start planning at least four to six months in advance. Even for small, very simple virtual events, try to have at least one month in advance so you’ll have enough time. 

Also, as you can see in the checklist we’ve shared, the last week prior to the event tends to be very busy, so try to ensure all underwriting and contracts are completed at least a couple of weeks before the event. 

2. Conduct pre-event surveys

Don’t underestimate the value of pre-event surveys. 

You can conduct short pre-event surveys with potential attendees and ask them about their expectations and what they’d want to see at your event. The earlier you conduct this survey, the better since you can use the insights you’ve gained to plan and design your event agenda accordingly. 

Also, you can use pre-event surveys to identify what marketing channels will be effective for the target audience. For example, by asking “what’s your preferred social media platform?”. 

Last but not least, you can include a short questionnaire on the online registration form to ask whether your attendees have special needs, restrictions, or requirements you may need to be aware of (i.e. wheelchair accessibility, food allergies, etc. )

3. Remain flexible and always have backup plans

No matter how perfectly you’ve planned your event, no event will go 100% according to plan. 

You may need to switch to another venue or another virtual platform, you may need to change event times, or sometimes you may even need to revamp the whole event altogether               

So, it’s important to stay flexible when planning and organizing your event. Ideally, you should have plan Bs and plan Cs for all the different elements of your event, but at the very least, you should create backup plans for the most important assets of your event. 

Also, develop scenarios where you can’t use any alternative plans and have to cut an asset entirely from the event. 

4. Have a functional event website

Don’t underestimate the importance of a well-designed and functional event website. 

Even if you already have a website (as an event organizer), it’s still important to create a dedicated event page for the event, which will be the most important of your customer-facing marketing assets. Also, even if you’ve already built a strong enough social media presence, your social media profiles aren’t direct replacements for a functional website. 

Potential attendees will visit your event page and may decide whether to attend your event (or not) based on the impression they get from your website, and your event page should: 

  • Include complete and accurate information about your event
  • Be an attractive, memorable representation of your brand’s values
  • Have a functional online registration feature
  • Be well-designed with consistent visual branding
  • Attractive, to-the-point copywriting

Nowadays, there are various affordable and easy-to-use website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and others that can help you build a professionally-designed event website in no time, and if you’d like more versatility, there’s always the handy WordPress. You can then easily integrate online registration to the event page with all-in-one event management platforms like Eventtia.

In short, there’s simply no excuse not to have a well-designed and functional event page. 

5. Promoting your event effectively

Marketing an event is difficult, period.

The thing is, even if you’ve perfectly planned all the other aspects of the event: booked the perfect venue, have your event headlined by the top speakers in the industry, and so on, it’s doomed as a failure if you can’t attract enough attendees. 

Create a comprehensive marketing plan as early as possible, and leverage various marketing channels to maximize the exposure of your event: 

  • Social media marketing: in today’s social media age, it’s fairly obvious that you should market your event on social media. The key is to find the right balance between your organic efforts (i.e. posting relevant and valuable content regularly) and paid efforts. Also, approach relevant influencers so they can help spread the word about your event to their followers.
  • Email marketing: especially powerful if you’ve collected the email addresses of attendees of your past events. Personalization is key: create email messages that can effectively communicate the benefits of attending your event to different segments. 
  • Videos: create attractive and informative videos to showcase to prospective attendees what your event is going to be about. For example, you can publish teasers involving your event’s key speakers. 

6. Document everything

Carefully record all relevant paperwork so you’ll have a transparent audit trail for your event: floor plan, guest lists, attendee information, vendor contracts, sponsorship contracts, and so on. With a proper event management tool, you can also store all of these on the cloud for safer storage and easier storing. 

Also, photograph everything. If you have the budget, you should hire a professional photographer to document all kinds of photos required. Again, these photos can be useful for demonstrating the success of your event to relevant stakeholders and for securing future sponsors.

7. Evaluate your event when it’s done

You’ve successfully hosted your event, congratulations! 

However, don’t forget to dedicate some time to evaluate the event and analyze post-event data, for example:

  • Which sessions were the most popular?
  • Which sessions were the worst performers?
  • Total number of event attendance
  • The ratio between actual attendance and total registrations (tickets sold)

And so on. 

This is where using an event management solution like Eventtia can give you an easier time in evaluating post-event data and keeping track of various analytics and reports. 

Especially if you are planning to host more events in the future, this post-event data will be useful for securing future sponsorships and for proofing the event’s value to all relevant stakeholders. Also, you can use these valuable insights to plan and host better events in the future. 

Closing Thoughts

Above, we’ve shared our ultimate event planning checklist listing all the different moving parts and variables of planning an event. To make things easier, we’ve divided the checklist into 7 different phases according to the typical event planning timeline.  

To complete the event planning checklist, we’ve also shared 7 best practices of event planning you should pay attention to when using the checklist in order to organize a successful event and attract a lot of attendees. 

We hope you’ve found this checklist helpful in getting started with event planning, and you can use this as a foundation of success for your next event. 

Talk with one of our event planning experts to learn how Eventtia can simplify your events.

Thomas Davey
Content and Marketing Specialist

Copywriter and marketing specialist who enjoys showing the world what can be done with the power of events and some good technology.

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