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Event Planning Checklist

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Event Planning Checklist
Date and time
by next Wednesday
Accessibility needs
by next Thursday
Number of attendees
by next Thursday
Appropriate venue
by next Friday
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Even people without event planning experience have some idea of what it entails. Any kind of planning requires organizing, advanced thinking, and coordination of multiple entities. 

Event planning is the vision, coordination, and execution of an event. The term itself is usually reserved for large events, such as weddings, conferences, or premiers. Events that require coordinating multiple vendors, many attendees, and a tightly dictated schedule necessitate a plan. Event planners may also be responsible for planning multiple events occurring concurrently or sequentially over a short period of time, such as an event weekend. 

Event planning can often be a thankless or underappreciated task. If an event goes well, the planner has successfully completed the job for which they were paid. But if the event goes poorly, the blame is often placed on the planner. And sometimes the event may go poorly for reasons far beyond the planner’s control. 

Event planning requires foresight, creative thinking, and a keen sense of organization. Event planners have to please a diverse group of people on a pre-specified budget, with terms dictated by one client. They can have a difficult time balancing their own vision and knowledge with the wishes of a client and the needs of attendees. 

A well-planned event is what stands between a successful night and an expensive disaster. 

Should I Hire an Event Planner or Do It Myself? 

If you are well-organized and thrive in stressful situations, you may be able to handle planning your own event. If not, you should definitely consider hiring a professional. Oftentimes event planners are also hired for on-site event management. This isn’t possible if the event is, for example, your own wedding. So consider whether you would need to hire a separate day-of event manager when making this decision as well. 

If your budget is strained and you think you can handle planning your own event, you might benefit from the event planning checklist and tips we have included below. 

If you can’t afford a wedding planner, you can be your own event planner with a good checklist. (Source)

Event Planning Checklists

If you’ve decided to plan an event, you want to start out in an organized way. We have developed a general event planning checklist for you to use. However, as each event is different and will require different considerations, we are also including some guidelines for how to create your own checklist. 

A checklist is the number one tool in an event planner’s toolbox. It provides a structured way to visualize the event and the timeline. A comprehensive checklist keeps you from realizing one hour before the event that you never mailed the invitations. 

How to Create a Checklist

Before you make your checklist, find a time when you can commit to thinking exclusively about your event. Because a checklist is only as good as the items on it, you can’t afford to be distracted and forget items. Start at the absolute beginning, as if you have no prior knowledge or understanding of the event. It will help you begin with a big picture and narrow down from there. 

Make sure you won’t be interrupted or distracted during this stage. You want to complete your first draft in one sitting. Then you can take some time off, clear your mind, and approach the list again for another review later. You might want to consult others- either others in your profession or novices who might approach the situation with a fresh perspective. It’s a great way to map the process and identify all the variables. 

At this point, you should have an outline of what steps are required for successfully carrying out your event. Next, fill in as many details as you can. Do you know how many attendees will be there? Do you know what kind of food the client wants? You likely at least know the date and time. You can also add any documents or background information relevant at this time. 

The best framework for planning an event is to organize the elements into decision trees. Which items depend on decisions made about other items? 

For example, the design of the invitations should match the design or theme of the event decorations. Figure out which one needs to come first and work from there. Which items have to be decided on a specific schedule? Do the invitations need to be sent on a specific date? Does the caterer need a specific amount of time to process an order? Will shipping certain supplies take a certain number of weeks? 

These elements will impact others and help organize the priority for your decision-making. If there are items that are not time-sensitive, they can be worked into the schedule in-between the other items to help optimize your time. 

By this point, you should have a good idea of the items you know you need, and the items you already have sorted out. You should have an idea of the timeline in which you need to accomplish certain items. But if you’re still feeling lost, you can reference our event planning checklist below and revise yours as needed. 

Checklist Template

When developing an event planning checklist, here are some of the items we find indispensable. Always remember that your event may have different requirements. 

  • Date and time
  • Number of attendees
  • Accessibility needs
  • Appropriate venue
  • Insurance needs for the venue
  • Catering and bartending
  • Lighting and audio
  • Entertainment
  • Event staff
  • Accommodations (hotel block)
  • Walkthrough of venue
  • Review and sign contracts
  • Contingency plans
  • Invitations
  • Security
Conferences also make use of event planners (or conference planners). (Source)

Other Considerations

Even with the best of checklists, there are some other considerations you should keep in mind. 

1. Pad the timeline and the budget

Always assume that things will take more time and more money than you estimate. There could be a natural disaster in your location or the location of a manufacturer you are using. Your caterer could become ill on the day of the event. You will never regret planning for extra expenses or resources.

2. Use calendar alerts

Put deadlines into your calendar. Also, put routine reminders into your calendar. For example, if you need to get the menu to the caterer on the 30th, put a reminder in your calendar for the 20th, the 29th, and the 30th. Make sure you know the fees for lateness. The higher the fees, the more reminders you should schedule! 

3. Document everything

Never accept a verbal agreement. Make sure anything that is discussed or promised is put in writing. This is true for vendors and clients alike. You will be the one at fault when things go wrong, so make sure to protect yourself. 

You might be surprised to learn how often one of your vendors wrote down the wrong date, for example. If you have multiple emails or signed contracts with the correct date, you will be able to place the burden of correction on them. You will also need to document your expenses so you can get accurate reimbursement from your client. 

4. Arrive early

Try to reserve the venue for a day before the event if possible. That way you can begin walking through the space and/or setting it up as early as possible. There will always be things that need revision, and you don’t want to be in a rush. You might find that some of the lights aren’t working, or the elevator has broken. The earlier you can find these issues, the better your chances of correcting them. 

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, never assume that you can keep the details of an entire event in your own head. Even the most experienced event planner needs a comprehensive event planning checklist in order to stay on top of things. A good checklist will help you visualize how changes to one element might affect other elements. 

And whether you are looking to become a professional event planner or trying to plan one singular event, learning how to develop and follow an event planning checklist is a skill that will pay off greatly.

Gap Analysis and Event Planning Checklists 

Event planning checklists are extremely involved due to the immense number of details to manage for events of any size. Feedback on events can allow a business to understand which areas of the event could have been improved. A true gap analysis will take into account how the event went and how the ideal event would go. Gathering feedback is important as attendees of the event are the best form of data that can be collected. 

The creation of a plan to close the gap could include a myriad of factors. The caterer could have been lacking or the venue too small for the number of people that attended the event. Identifying the gaps in performance in terms of the event will allow for an actionable plan for improvement to be put into place. Evaluating each part of the event that can be improved needs to be done for an all-inclusive gap analysis to be done.

Below are factors of an event planning checklist that could improve with a thorough gap analysis:

  • Milestones and deadlines can be easily outlined in the checklist.
  • Listing backup plans in case of an emergency.
  • Add extra days and time to each deadline. Not all will go as planned so an extra few days of cushion can be useful.

A gap analysis can help improve nearly any event if done properly. Take the time to evaluate your event planning checklist to see where improvements can be made. 

Process Design and Event Planning

The process of planning an event being optimized can lead to higher quality events being thrown regularly. Process design needs to be completed during the infancy of planning an event. Experimental process designs might be required if a new type of event is being thrown. The process for throwing a corporate event is going to differ greatly from planning an award’s show or wedding. 

A process design template can help break down the different requirements and tasks that event planning demands. Below are tips to process design in terms of event planning:

  • Set clear goals for the event then create a checklist that targets them. 
  • Take a look at what competitors have done with events for inspiration or tactics to avoid.
  • Utilize statistics from previous events to generate a checklist that will leave no stone unturned. 

Exit Interviews in Relation to Event Planning

The exit interview has become a staple of the professional world. This is an awkward process for many as a valued employee could be leaving for an opportunity with a competing company. Exit interviews should be used to gather information on what the company could be doing better. An employee could have had great incite on event planning but what never asked for their input. 

How exit interview answers can be valuable:

  • Patterns in complaints about processes or specific employees can provide clarity to management. 
  • Infighting or harassment could be brought to light which should never be tolerated. One person working an event can ruin the event for one or multiple attendees. 

Exit interviews are valuable and should be conducted to gather information. As a manager or HR professional, it is easy to surpass the awkward nature of the exit interview. The large percentage of the time it will be the last face to face conversation that will be had with the former employee. 

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