The Golden Checklist for Event Planners
There’s nothing new about a checklist. It’s an ancient tool that will never go out of fashion. Why? Because checklists save the day. They make sure nothing is overlooked and prepare everyone for an uncertain future. Field marketers know (and most have learned the hard way) that you can plan an event down to the minute—but something unpredictable is going to happen. A solid, comprehensive plan is your best defense. We’ve compiled a list of what to consider when building your next marketing event.
3 months out
This is this time to nail down the big details of your event—the what, where, when and who. What’s the best event structure? Who is your audience? And what on earth is everyone going to talk about?
Choose an event date and time
Choose a date and time that is suitable to the context and the location. Things to consider:
- Other major events happening in the region/city at that time
- The day(s) of the week your event should fall on to accommodate guests
- Finding a logical time in the year for your target industry (i.e. Don’t schedule a meeting of NFL team owners in January.)
Select an amazing event venue and location
Choose the right venue for your event. Visit the site—ideally in person, but virtually at a minimum. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does the space allow for all the key elements of the event—from large presentations to small discussion spaces? From dining and lounge spaces to small work areas?
- Is it the right type of venue for your event? Don’t rent a conference hall when a small dinner event at a local restaurant would better suit your gathering.
Determine guest list and audience profile
Are you inviting the right type of people and not diluting the pool for the sake of attendees? Quality over quantity is absolutely true here—and Banzai can help you refine and expand your target audience.
Build your agenda
This may be the hardest (and most rewarding) part of planning your event—the soup-to-nuts planning of an agenda. This includes the research, outreach, interviewing, negotiation and scheduling of speakers, special guests, sponsors, and business partners.
Schedule the heck out of the day(s)
Structure your timeline to the minute. Yep. The minute. Particularly if you’re planning a large-scale event with tracks and multiple meals, you set the schedule that everyone is going to run on, from attendees to AV staff to the hotel service. Be the ringmaster.
Set a registration goal (and a plan to meet it)
Work backwards. How many people would you really like to have at your event? Get serious about your numbers and realistic about the rate of attrition, which can be up to 75%.
Launch registration link
Believe it or not, a LOT of people are still challenged by online registration. So after registration is live and the word is out, be ready and resourced for some troubleshooting.
4 weeks out
Time to hone in on the fine details. Where are the gaps in your agenda? How are you tracking on registration? Turn up the juice on promoting your event!
Nudge your ‘unregistered’ list
For those folks who didn’t respond to your invite 2 months ago, you should develop a VIP outreach strategy to get them registered.
Set your speakers (and yourself) up for success
Do they have everything they need? Do you?
- Confirm travel and accommodation details. Make sure you have this info.
- Collect and review copies of speeches and/or presentations.
- Confirm that nothing has changed about the angle or topic of their presentation.
- Ensure that all releases, contracts, and releases are signed and saved.
Each sponsor is a unique butterfly. They will each have different needs, expectations, and interests. Make sure you know what all these are and have set everything up to deliver on your promises.
Get the word out
Whether you’re sending an email blast, updates through LinkedIn, or running a fully orchestrated social media blast, four weeks before the event the golden time to promote. Give yourself more lead time for larger events. Include highlights about keynotes, the stellar program, and any VIP guests.
1-2 weeks out
Send important info to attendees
- Parking Info: Will you offer free parking? Valet or in a lot? What’s the procedure?
- Uber (or comparable) credits.
- Special venue information and perks for standard and VIP guests.
- The final agenda (make it pop!).
- Any recent updates to the program timing, venue or program.
Empower your people
Bring together your team and confirm event details against a master agenda. Give everyone agency in the process by asking them to create a backup plan for their respective areas.
- Write your contingency plan. You’ll thank yourself.
- Review and revise scripting.
- Get a live minute with all hosts, sponsors, and staff to review their timing and roles.
- Finish seating plan, place cards, etc.
- Send final attendee numbers to caterer or hotel.
- Make print and online copies of presentation content.
- Check that your registration list is solid and badges are finished.
Distribute the onsite contacts list
Everyone should know who their main point person is—but create a contacts list and send it out, just in case.
Wake up early! Arrive early!
You’ll feel 1000% more prepared if you arrive onsite well before your first attendee. Even veteran marketers who could breeze in and work a packed room like Fred Astaire (yes, you!) should still arrive early.
Survey the scene with food-inspector intensity
To really see the venue the way an attendee will, you need to wear a different lens. Give it the first sweep, looking at the place and your team like you’ve never seen them before. Then check in with each team lead to make sure everything is running smoothly. If you’re the team lead, make sure your staff is on track.
Double-check your details and materials, like:
- Copies of all critical paperwork
- Seating charts
- Guest lists
- Parking permits
Be ready for surprises
Remember your contingency plan? Have that on hand as well as some other handy problem-solving strategies.
Schedule a post-con meeting
Get all the goods and bads of the event down on paper before you forget. To be really effective, this meeting should include your entire team. Create a standard form with pointed questions that everyone completes and brings to share. You’ll get some gems out of this process.
Send out thank you notes
Did your grandma teach you that ‘thank you’ notes are like gold? Ours did. Thank everyone that gave anything to your event—even if you may not think they necessarily deserve it. Need help?
Tie-up loose questions
You likely fielded dozens of questions and requests from speakers and attendees. (Hopefully, you kept track!) Set aside a few hours on your calendar to respond to these.
Make promised connections
Similar to the above, take time to connect clients or facilitate intros between clients and vendors. This is the type of little thing that shows clients you really have their best interests in mind.
What was your final attendee number? What was the attrition rate? Where did you land around the event budget?
Send out a post-event survey
Want to know what attendees and sponsors really thought? Ask them. To get the best candid feedback, make the survey anonymous.
This may look daunting, but a great checklist can make your job exponentially easier—and be used again and again. Field marketers can design and implement 10+ events a year. You can do it!