Event Planning Checklist
This checklist may prove helpful as you plan your event.
A Little Planning Goes a Looooong Way
In an ideal world; begin planning your event at least six months in advance. If you don't have the luxury of time, adjust your expectations for the event outcomes.
- Determine what you want to achieve with the event, e.g., thanking your stakeholders, publicizing your opening, meeting neighboring business people, giving back to the community, etc.
- Begin working on your event theme and program format.
- Check the availability of any special guests you want to participate in your program or attend your event as special guests, and check potential dates and times for conflicts.
- Finalize date and time and confirm special guests.
- Compile your guest list. (Your list can include neighboring businesses, existing customers and vendors, prospective clients, staff, news media, and friends and family.)
- Develop your budget. (Consider things like catering, florals, decorations, entertainment, photography, invitations and collateral, audio/visual equipment, door prizes or gifts for attendees, tables, chairs, tents if you need to use outdoor space, etc.)
Roll Up Your Sleeves - preferably two months in advance
- Prepare the invitation.
- Sign contracts with vendors providing goods and services for your event (catering, photography, party supply, etc.).
- If you're sending printed invitations, give the printer plenty of time to produce them. And if you're having a mail house help with the distribution, they may need up to five business days to process the mailing. Or consider an emailed invitation.
- Send invitations out one month in advance. (Request RSVPs, but don't expect your RSVP head count to correspond perfectly with actual attendance.)
- Finalize your program and create an event-day timeline, from set-up to clean-up.
- Follow up with special guests and make sure they know their role in the program. If you're bringing in out-of-town VIPs, confirm travel plans and accommodations.
- Assign/delegate event-day tasks, e.g., greeting guests, handling media, working with vendors, set-up, clean-up, etc.
Down to the Wire
Beginning approximately one week before event...
- If serving refreshments, confirm head count with caterer approximately 3 days in advance of event. Some caters will allow a 48-hour guaranteed head count.
- Make follow-up calls to all your vendors.
- Make follow-up calls to any news media you've invited (Reality check: there are many special events and it may be difficult to get coverage, so be realistic with your expectations.)
- Conduct a walk-through with key participants.
- Get checks ready for vendors who expect payment the day of the event.
- If at all possible, get a good night's sleep before the event day.
The Big Day
- If you're lucky enough to have an event manager, stay out of the event manager's way and be where he tells you to be when ... nay, before ... he tells you to be there.
- If you are the event manager, arrive early and go over details.
- Pay your vendors in a timely manner. They might be customers someday.
Other things to consider
- Develop a contingency plan. What if it rains? What if 50 people who didn't RSVP show up?
- Keep in touch with your vendors as plans change or contingency plans are activated.
- Make sure key participants know how to reach you on the day of the event when you're running around taking care of last-minute details.
- Take a deep breath and relax. It's supposed to be fun!