The Event Planning Checklist You Didn’t Know You Needed

June 19, 2020

Pulling off a flawless event requires careful planning and preparation. With a number of moving parts to manage, it’s easy for some action items to get lost in the fray. But the process of planning an event doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Armed with a bit of foresight and a thorough event planning checklist, your conference, annual meeting or trade show is guaranteed to get rave reviews from attendees. As we kick back into gear with in-person events, our comprehensive event planning checklist breaks down every step of the process to help you navigate the intricacies of event planning, at every phase:

A printable version of this event planning checklist is available free for download. 

The Planning Phase

 Event planning for larger events and conferences ideally begins 8-12 months prior to the event. Be sure your organization’s initial discussion around the event includes these event planning checklist items:

Draft a budget to submit for approval. Consider the cost of:
 
EXPERT TIP: A mobile app created specifically for the event can be an excellent way to track goal performance, 
such as live event app polling and registration tracking through mobile check-in.
Determine your goals for the event:
  • Define the event’s objective. Articulate what you want the attendee to walk away with.
  • Set specific targets and milestones in order to gauge its success, such as number of registrations, leads acquired, sponsor satisfaction, social media mentions, net promoter score etc.
Search for sponsorships:
  • Identify potential sponsors
  • Draft different sponsorship tiers for them to choose from.
  • Draft and send sponsorship proposals to pitch how it will benefit their company.
Propose potential dates for the event:
  • Identify the ideal season.
  • Draft different sponsorship tiers for them to choose from.
  • Draft and send sponsorship proposals to pitch how it will benefit their company.
Research ideal venues:
  • Create a shortlist of contenders to compare the cost and features of each. .
  • Confirm the venues on your shortlist have availability on your selected date(s).
  • Inquire about venue deposits and refundability
Consider event merchandise:
  • Identify potential sponsors
  • Draft different sponsorship tiers for them to choose from.
  • Draft and send sponsorship proposals to pitch how it will benefit their company.
Consider your catering options:
  • Narrow the type of food you want to offer (cuisine origin, buffet style, served, grab-bags).
  • Determine the amount of food/number of meals needed based on expected attendance.
  • Create a shortlist of caterers that meet your food and budget parameters.
  • Ask if the caterer offers menu tastings and can accommodate dietary restrictions.
Plan your entertainment and speakers:
  • Discuss what kind of talent or entertainment would be suitable for the event.
  • Search speaker bureaus for speakers who align with the goals of the event and the organization.
  • Reach out to agents and bureaus to begin assessing availability and speaker fees.

 

The Preparations Phase

Once you’ve gotten your budget approved and plan prepared, you can begin to execute the initial steps in the event, conference or trade show. Expect to finalize topics discussed in the initial planning steps around 4-6 months before the event. This is the phase where you begin executing the plans you’ve previously laid out.

Make a decision on the venue:
  • Schedule a walkthrough at your top venues.
  • Assess the venue’s ease of access for attendees, especially for destination events.
  • Once ready to sign, negotiate terms and conditions with your venue point of contact to ensure the best deal.
Book your desired speakers and entertainment:
  • Ask potential speakers to provide a highlight reel in order to gauge their stage presence.
  • Enter into negotiations for speaker fees.
  • Discuss the content of speech and/or slides and how the approval process will work.
  • Lock in your speaker as early as possible; many speakers book far in advance.
  • Book accommodations for your speaker, if necessary.
Order branded merchandise:
  • Order a sample of promotional materials from the vendor to assess quality.
  • Submit full order once satisfied.
Book your caterer:
  • Schedule tastings with multiple caterers.
  • Lock your caterer in for the date(s) of your event.
Create a mobile app specifically for the event:
  • Shop around for an app creator that specializes in conference and event apps to keep attendees engaged.
  • Find out the timeline around app creation to ensure the developer has ample time to create a custom branded app for your event.
Draft a tentative schedule for how the event will unfold:
  • Budget for attendee arrival, speaker slots, lunch, networking opportunities and happy hours, with room for breaks.

The Promotional Phase

About 2-4 months prior to the event, your organization should launch marketing efforts (although more time may be needed depending on the scale). Complete the crucial event marketing checklist items below, to draw your target number of attendees:

Create event website with online registration setup:
  • Launch a dedicated website for your event to link to in all paid ads and promotions.
  • Set up an online registration portal through your site or a third party.
Launch marketing campaigns and build marketing collateral:
  • Launch regular social media promotions for your target audience, including prospects and existing members.
  • Design and print marketing materials such as brochures and programs.
 EXPERT TIP: Include the download information for your conference app on all marketing materials to drive downloads.
  • Determine the best outlets (across different mediums) for paid advertising in order to reach your target audience.
 EXPERT TIP: Ask yourself, what does my ideal attendee read? Where to they shop? Where do they live? 
What do they watch, or listen to?
Send event reminders:
  • Launch email and social media campaigns to remind registrants of the upcoming event.
  • Schedule reminder push notifications through the branded event app you’ve already created.

The Finalization Phase

The finalization phase should occur around 4 weeks prior to the event. This is your chance to:

Finalize venue layout and set up:
  • Determine where signage will be posted throughout the venue so that attendees can easily navigate the event. This includes locating the restrooms and emergency exits.
  • Ensure all supplies have been ordered for booths, graphics, banners and decoratoins have been shipped to the venue
  • Test equipment to make sure it is working properly, but be sure to test again on the day-of.
  • Contact hotel staff about potentially helping with set up prior to the event.
Make event materials available on your event mobile app:
  • Publish the event schedule, directions upon arrival, venue map, surveys and any other relevant documents for guests on your event app in the weeks leading up.
  • Sync your registration list with your mobile app so all registrants are funnelled through your event app.
  • Publish and promote event sponsors and speakers
  • Generate and attach event surveys to collect actionable data for sponsors, speakers and future events.
Confirm planned activities are in order:
  • Touch base with your event staff, catering company, speakers and vendors to proactively address any snags in execution.

The Post-Event Phase

After the event is over, there are just a few more steps your organization must take to wrap things up, including:

Measure event success against pre-established goals:
Manage finances and receipts:
  • Compile all receipts from the entire event planning process and document them.
  • Compare actual costs against the budget and make adjustments when planning future events and conferences.
 

Take Your Event to the Next Level With MobileUp

Having a strong and thorough event planning checklist is integral to organized event planning. A custom branded mobile app for the event not only supports you throughout the planning phase, it can be essential to driving attendee engagement the day of. On a larger scale, your mobile presence in members’ lives should be consistent, not episodic. 

A year-round app solution like Engage 365 from MobileUp can drive year round engagement for your company, while helping you build your brand and cultivate an atmosphere of member communication and retention. MobileUp is a leader in the creation of cost-effective conference and event mobile apps that enhance the guest experience. Having a branded mobile app condenses all of your event resources and communication efforts in one place, making sure your event runs as smoothly as possible. Alleviate the stress of event planning with MobileUp today.

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