Event planning is a fast-paced industry that involves many details, moving parts, and the ability to manage changing circumstances with little or no notice. Whether you’re organizing full-blown trade shows or mini conferences, the process can become overwhelming if you don’t set a timeline.

After all, there are so many pieces required to host a gathering of any size and each is as crucial as the next. If you’re determined to host a flawless event, everything has to be well thought out, from online registration to budgeting to sponsorships.

Whatever you’re planning, the secret is to start as early as possible. Our specialists created this event planning timeline to keep you on track, starting a year before the event.

Read on to become a rockstar planner!

The First Steps: 6 to 12 Months Before the Event

The sooner you start planning, the better. If circumstances allow, we recommend a 12-month head start.

Below are the first steps to help establish your event successfully:

1. Establish event goals

Let’s break this section down into smaller categories.

  • Identify your primary objectives: First, think of the driving force behind the event. Do you want to educate, entertain, or sell? Important event components will fall into place once you have a cohesive goal.
  • Determine the event type and size: Once you decide on your goals, you can start pinning down how to achieve them. Should you organize mega, hallmark, major, or special events? This can be from large conferences needing online registration to smaller franchise multi-location programs.
  • Think of the perfect venue: Come up with venue ideas. Remember, your event’s success largely depends on the setting you choose, whether it’s a conference center, sports club, or art gallery.
  • Consider timing factors: Another crucial factor to review is your event timing. Before setting a date and time, think of holidays, milestones, and current event calendars in your top venues so as not to create a conflict for potential attendees or sponsors.
  • Discuss metrics: Next, find ways to measure the success of your event. You can gauge your key performance indicators (KPIs) based on event satisfaction, the number of attendees, or the number of sponsors who sign up during the event.

2. Choose a compelling theme

Modern consumers have increasingly high expectations when it comes to event experiences. If they’re spending any of their time away from home, they want to be part of unique and memorable experiences that cater to their wants and needs by offering a clear or tangible value.

A compelling theme can signal just such an experience, by representing your client’s brand while engaging your audience. Without a compelling theme, you risk hosting an event that feels generic or flavorless.

3. Create a budget

After setting your goals and theme, the next ideal step in event planning is to create a budget. You can’t get into specifics without identifying how much you can spend on your event. Trust us on this: Your budget will help you determine your priorities and identify what are actually trivial expenses.

Your event budget should also help you answer questions like:

  • Is a five-star hotel crucial to your event’s success?
  • How much of an attendance fee should you charge to meet all your payments?
  • How many major and minor sponsors will you need to cover costs?

4. Finalize Your Venue

Your venue will impact your event’s success. After all, it sets the scene for the attendees and influences their experiences. Plus, you will likely spend most of your budget on this component.

When finalizing a venue, consider these factors:

  • Costs: Expect the venue to take up about half your budget. If your preferred space takes up more than this percentage, we recommend finding more affordable alternatives.
  • Layout and capacity: Reflect on your event objectives and determine if the venue’s features can help you achieve them. Ultimately, the goal is to keep your guests comfortable and entertained.
  • Location: Find a safe and accessible space for your attendees. Ideally, they should have the option to commute to and from the venue or park their cars there.
  • Food and beverage: Some event venues have in-house catering services, and some only allow accredited suppliers. Should this setup sound unappealing, look for a space that gives you more freedom to choose providers.
  • Exclusivity: If you’re sharing the venue with other groups on your event date, make every effort to ensure that doing so will not compromise or ruin the experience for your attendees. For example, you don’t want to plan a wedding next to a concert.

5. Find Speakers and Hosts

Speakers and hosts can bring your event to life. Finding enough lecturers is one thing; connecting with the best ones is another. At least six months before the big day, start booking experts to attract more attendees.

The halfway mark: 4 to 6 months before the event

Establishing event goals and finalizing your theme, budget, venue, and speakers are crucial in planning an event. However, even after completing these tasks, you’re still a long way from the finish line.

Let’s look at the next steps in creating an unforgettable experience.

6. Establish easy, online registration

When making e-commerce purchases, people prefer quick, easy, and seamless transactions. The same principles apply to the registration process for an event, educational opportunity, online training, or conference.

In today’s modern world, online registration has become a core event planning skill. Here are some pro tips to get you started:

  • Style your website according to the event theme
  • Create attendee personas
  • Map out a registration path for every guest type
  • Find the ideal technology provider

For on-site registration, provide guests with relevant information before the event. Doing so expedites the process and eliminates unnecessary waiting time.

7. Market your event

After planning an amazing event, the next step is to promote it. The right marketing strategies can help you create buzz, generate revenue, and attract the ideal attendees.

You can use various techniques to promote your event, including videos, social media platforms, and email campaigns.

Show time: managing the big day

Your event is the culmination of all your hard work over the past months. By this time, you should be confident because you’ve already planned every little detail. Having said that, we still have a few friendly reminders below. After all, things can change at the last minute and the ability to accommodate and even anticipate these changes separates the pros from the amateurs.

8. Get yourself organized

Prepare yourself for a busy day by wearing comfortable clothes and shoes, eating well, and having a printed schedule and always contact list with you. We also recommend having an emergency kit nearby, with event basics like first aid supplies, safety pins, tape, and a sewing kit.

9. Oversee the setup

Before the actual start of the event, check on your vendors, guests, and attendees. Review your timeline to ensure everything is on track. Prepare yourself for questions and last-minute adjustments.

The post report

Event planning doesn’t end when the event does. Remember, you still need to track your event’s success and prepare reports.

10. Measure your e event’s success

This process ensures you meet attendee, exhibitor, and stakeholder expectations. Below are some KPIs to consider:

  • Return on investment (ROI): This KPI is arguably the most important of all. After your event, evaluate your financials, and compare your revenue goals to actual sales. For clients and sponsors, your achievement rates speak volumes about your effectiveness as an event planner.
  • Registration rates: Evaluating this factor gives you valuable insight into components you can improve in the future. For instance, if you’re not happy with the numbers, you can amp up your marketing efforts.
  • Marketing results: Speaking of marketing efforts, we recommend measuring your campaigns to determine which strategies worked well. Check ad clicks, email open rates, and engagement levels across social media platforms. Doing so helps you identify which channels best fit your needs.

Plan the perfect event

Event planning — no matter the scope or size — is no easy feat. Without a guide, you risk missing out on crucial details.

Whether you’re an industry pro or a newbie, a timeline can help ease the stress of the whole process. For more event tips, contact us!