Event Planning – The Ultimate Timeline for Making Your Event a Success6 min read

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A successful event doesn’t happen by accident or on a whim. Instead, a lot of time and attention goes into event planning, ensuring that every detail is considered, from the procurement of a space to lighting rental requirements and more.

Often, there are so many points to cover that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily, by following a great timeline guide, you can make sure every critical detail is handled.

If you want to make your event a success, here is the ultimate event planning timeline that can help you do just that.

The Ultimate Event Planning Timeline

In most cases, if you are preparing a large-scale event, it’s best to break up the event planning process into several stages. After all, it can take up to a year to get an event coordinated, so breaking it down makes it easier to stay on target. Plus, the approach helps you focus on each area at the proper time, as certain points usually need to come before others.

For example, you usually need to handle securing the hosting location before you dive into your lighting rental needs. That way, you know what sort of lighting is available through the venue, as well as how the space is laid out.

This event planning approach also ensures you won’t overlook anything crucial. You can focus on each area one at a time, making it less overwhelming.

If you’re ready to start planning your event, here is the ultimate timeline.

Stage 1 – Initial Event Planning

Man and woman using post its to create a timeline

During this first stage – which can last up to three months – your goal is to get your event idea off of the ground. Along with hammering out the nature of the event, you may need to secure investors, scout venues, and manage other foundational aspects of the soirée.

Here is a quick checklist of what you need to cover during stage one:

  • Define the nature, size, and audience for the event
  • Create an event deck for investors, vendors, and sponsors
  • Scout venues, request quotes, and get overviews of the on-site services
  • Develop your ticketing strategy
  • Create an initial vision for marketing
  • Outline your management strategy
  • Mockup initial event designs
  • Identify viable service vendors for key needs, including lighting rental, A/V equipment rental, catering, transportation, stage production, etc.
  • Identify transportation and accommodations needs

In some cases, you’ll also be able to request service vendor quotes during this stage. That will largely depend on whether the venues you are considering are highly similar or if you’re able to commit to one quickly.

Stage 2 – Connections

During stage two, you spend a decent amount of time focusing on relationships. You’ll want to connect with investors and sponsors to secure their support, as well as start courting vendors, speakers, and other people who make your event attractive to potential attendees.

Usually, this process starts near the end of stage one and continues through the rest of the event planning process. After all, it can take time to secure every necessary commitment, so it’s best to view this stage as continuous.

Stage 3 – Commitments

Stage three often takes two to three months to complete and includes handling various kinds of commitments.

When it comes to your responsibilities, you’ll want to secure:

  • Licenses
  • Permits
  • Insurance
  • Venue contracts
  • Marketing services
  • Ticketing services

Additionally, you should finalize your site map and outline the production. This allows you to start formalizing arrangements with a range of other service providers, including:

  • Catering
  • Transportation
  • Accommodations
  • Lighting rental
  • A/V equipment rental
  • Tech team members
  • Production service providers
  • Entertainment and talent

It’s also a smart time to hammer out your marketing and PR strategy, as well as build the foundation for merchandising.

Stage 4 – Generating Interest

Once stage three is drawing to a close, it’s time to launch your marketing and PR efforts. You’ll want to start building interest, as well as securing initial ticket sales.

In most cases, this stage is ongoing once it begins. You don’t want to pare back as long as there are tickets to be sold.

Additionally, you want to launch an ongoing engagement plan for anyone who has expressed interest or purchased a ticket. Regular updates keep attendees interested, leading to better word-of-mouth and higher final attendance rates. If you don’t keep in touch, they may have doubts about your event, and that won’t work in your favor.

Stage 5 – Finalizing

About one to two months before your event is set to take place, you want to review all of your contracts to make sure every detail is addressed. Confirm you have the proper licenses, permits, and insurance. Touch base with service providers to ensure they have all of the details they need to handle their responsibilities.

This stage is crucial, as it allows you to spot potential issues while there is still enough time to intervene.

Stage 6 – Pre-Production

During pre-production, you’re finishing up all of the event planning tasks and create your production folder. You want to touch on every point, addressing everything from accounting to talent management and more.

Stage 7 – The Build

Stage seven launches right before your event. Here, you’re actually bringing your event to life, handling all of the installations, signage, and various finishing touches that will make your venue, sessions, and every other feature the best it can be before attendees arrive.

In many cases, the build process takes up to three days. That gives you enough time to handle the work and conduct a final walkthrough, creating opportunities to make adjustments as needed.

Stage 8 – The Event

Exactly what you need to plan for once your event is underway will vary. This stage is all about operations, ensuring every aspect of the event moves forward as intended.

Stage 9 – Wrapping It Up

When your event ends, your work isn’t done. It will usually take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to wrap everything up.

In many cases, you’ll have to handle venue-related work, such as breaking down installations. Additionally, there are a lot of administrative tasks, including paying invoices, sending out follow-up messages to attendees, and more.

Stage 10 – Celebrate (and Prepare for Next Year)

Once you have everything wrapped up, take a moment to celebrate. Pulling off a great event takes effort, so it’s okay to relish in the success.

If you want to host your event again next year, then head back to stage one. That way, you can keep up your momentum, ensuring your event planning is handled properly every single time.

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