The Event Planning Checklist Used By Top Event Planners

Events March 24, 2020

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand

Are you new to planning events, and want a little help?

Or are you just hoping to find an easy process for your team to follow while planning an event?

The following is a generic Event Planning Checklist that will help you get started in identifying all of the details you’ll need to consider as well as an indication of the timelines involved with your event planning process.

(And if you want to learn how to plan an event from start to finish, check out our entire guide here.)

The top ten most important steps in this checklist can be summarized as follows: 

Event Planning Checklist

  1. Establish your event goals and objectives.
  2. Select your event's date.
  3. Develop an event master plan. 
  4. Create an event budget.
  5. Brand your event and begin publicity. 
  6. Arrange sponsorships and speakers for your event. 
  7. Launch ticket sales. 
  8. Coordinate with event suppliers (catering, equipment, etc). 
  9. Manage event day set up and execution. 
  10. Conduct a thorough evaluation of your event. 

To help you out every step of the way, I've broken down this checklist into a few different sections by date, which you can see in the table of contents to the side. 

Of course, the earlier you can start working on your event, the better — that way you'll be as prepared as possible when any issues come up (as they probably will). 

I'd also recommend printing off this checklist to make it as easy as possible for you to remember everything you have to do. Planning an event is stressful, and it's normal for things to fall through the cracks. 

Finally, please note that since events can range from a small workshop through to a gala fundraising event, I wasn't able to drill down to the level of detail you may need to consider when planning your specific event — but I hope this checklist gets you started with your event planning.

How to Event Planning Checklist Guide

The First Steps in Your Event Checklist: 4-6 Months Ahead of Event

The further in advance you can start planning, the better — but I've noticed that most organizations we work with start planning their big events like galas and fundraisers about 6 months in advance. Here's what you need to do to get started. 

  • Establish your event goals and objectives. Did you want to raise money or awareness? How many attendees are you hoping to get? Establishing it up front will make it easier to gauge the success of your event. (For tips on getting more event attendees, click here.) 
  • Select the date. And make sure it doesn't conflict with any other events taking place in your area, or any major holidays.
  • Identify venue and negotiate details. What kind of insurance does the venue require? Can you serve alcohol? Determine the requirements before committing. 
  • Develop an event master plan. Ironing out every detail will help ensure you don't miss a thing. 
  • Get cost estimates. Some costs you might need to consider are:
    • Room rental
    • Food and beverages
    • Equipment
    • Speaker fees
    • Travel for staff 
    • Insurance
  • Create an event budget. Based on the costs above, you'll be able to determine how much your event will cost — and if you'll need to reduce any of them! 
  • Recruit an event committee. This includes selecting an event manager or chair, and establishing sub-committee chairs.
  • Brand your event. 
    • Start building out an event website or pages on your website that describe the event. 
    • Develop an event logo and tagline. 
  • Create and launch publicity plan. This includes ensuring staff and/or volunteers are identified to manage specific tasks – e.g., media relations, VIP coordination, printed material design & printing coordination, signage, online /social media, etc.
  • Identify and confirm speakers/presenters/entertainers. Who will you need on hand during the event? 
  • Identify and contact sponsors/partners.
  • Determine if you need event registration software to make the process easier. There are a variety of different software tools that can help streamline the event process. 
  • Determine if you need other event management software
  • Release early-bird tickets.
    • Ensure registration forms are accessible and allow space for preferred pronouns and preferred names.
event registration callout

3-4 Months Ahead of Event: Starting to Ramp Up

Now that you have some of the foundational parts of your event figured out, it's time to start executing on the rest. If your event is coming up in a few months, you'll need to start communicating with all the stakeholders outside your organization and continue coordinating with them. Some points you'll need to remember include: 

  • Build out required documents for your team.
  • Speaker/presenter/entertainer liaison:
    • Finalize presentation/speech topics
    • Get bio information, photo
    • Travel & accommodation arrangements
    • Have contracts signed if appropriate
    • Ask speakers to start promoting and sharing it with their network
  • Financial/Administration:
    • Determine registration fees
    • Set up and enable online registration
    • Finalize sponsor levels and amounts
    • Identify items to be underwritten and accounting tracking details
  • Venue and logistics planning:
    • Determine and arrange all details re menu, A/V equipment, registration set-up, parking, signage, etc.
    • Review security needs/plan for the event with venue manager
    • Investigate need for any special permits, licenses, insurance, etc.
    • Assess accessibility requirements (e.g. all-gender restrooms, wheelchair accessibility, etc).
    • Communicate accessibility requirements to staff. 
  • Follow publicity plan:
    • Develop draft program
    • Create draft event script (e.g., MC, speaker introductions, thanks, closing, etc.)
    • Develop publicity pieces -- e.g., newsletter articles and/or ads, radio spots, print blog posts articles for submission to other publications and/or ads, etc.
    • Request logos from corporate sponsors for online and printed materials
    • Develop and produce invitations, programs, posters, tickets, etc.
    • Develop media list & prepare News Release, Media Advisory, Backgrounder and all media kit materials (e.g., speaker info, photos, etc.)
    • Create event page on your website
    • Enable/create email event notifications
    • Create a Facebook event page
    • Develop a promo video and post on YouTube and your Facebook page
    • Register your event on a variety of online event calendars
    • Create some buzz on your blog or member forums
    • Determine VIPs and create invitation & tracking document (e.g., spreadsheet)
    • Order any desired event swag
Want a printable copy of this checklist? Download it here.

1-2 Months Prior To Event: Keep on Going

You're getting there! At this point, you're probably spending more and more time focusing on the event and finalizing some details. 

  • Send reminders to your contact list regarding registration and participation.
  • Reach out again to presenters/speakers regarding: 
    • Confirming travel and accommodation details
    • Request copy of speeches and/or presentations
  • Sponsorship finalization:
    • Follow up to confirm sponsorships and underwriting
    • Get any promotional materials you'll be sharing at the event
    • Ask sponsors to share event on their promotional channels
  • Continue executing on your publicity plan:
    • Release press announcements about keynote speakers, celebrities, VIPs attending, honourees, etc.
    • Post your initial event news release on your website and circulate to all partners, affiliated organizations, etc.
    • Post more details about your event on social media
  • Close early-bird tickets; release standard pricing.
  • Finalize and proofread printed materials. 

1 Week Prior to the Event: The Home Stretch

You're getting so close! By this point, the majority of the event details should be confirmed and all that's left will be final touches, such as: 

  • Have all committee chairs meet and confirm all details against Master Plan. You should also ensure back-up plans are developed for any situation (e.g., back-up volunteers as VIP greeters, additional volunteers for registration or set-up, etc).
  • Finalize event script.
    • Assign practice sessions for anyone who has a speaking slot. 
  • Brief any/all hosts, greeters, volunteers about their event duties and timelines.
  • Finalize your seating plan.
    • Ensure it includes wheelchair-accessible areas and has clear paths through the venue.
  • Provide final registration numbers to caterer.
  • Make print and online copies of any speeches, videos, and presentations.
  • Do a final registration check, including name badges & registration list. Depending on when your registration closes, this may not be possible until a few days in advance, but try to finish it as early as possible. 
  • Determine photo op and interview opportunities with any presenters and VIPs.
  • Confirm details with media attendees. 
Attachments for events banner  

1 Day Before the Event: Almost There

Here are a few last-minute details you might want to remember:

  • Confirm media attendance. 
  • Ensure all signage is in place — both around the venue and any other areas in which it's needed. 
  • Ensure registration and media tables are prepared and stocked with necessary items (such as blank name badges, paper, pens, tape, stapler, etc.)
    • Ensure there are enough outlets. If not, consider bringing power bars for attendees and your team.
  • Ensure all promo items, gifts, plaques, trophies, etc. are on-site. 
  • Ensure all A/V equipment is set up and working properly.
  • Get a good night's sleep! You'll need the rest before the exciting day to come. 

Event Day: Your Time to Shine

The big day has arrived! Here's what you have to remember:

  • Take a few deep breaths — you got this! 
  • Ensure you have copies of all instructions, directions, phone numbers, keys, extra parking permits for VIP guests, seating charts and guest lists with you
  • Check in with each Committee Chair to ensure their team is on track. 
    • Also check in with catering and any sponsor teams that are attending. 
  • Assist sponsors, speakers, and other teams as needed.
  • Greet new attendees. 

Immediately Following Event: Post-Event Follow-Up

While you need to conduct a thorough evaluation and update your budget, there are post-event publicity, fundraising and member development opportunities that you can take advantage of with just a little pre-event planning.

Here are some of the activities you might consider once the event is over:

  • Check in with venue. Ensure nothing important was left behind. 
  • Financial status:
    • Gather all receipts and documentation, final registration data, etc. and
    • Update budget
  • Send thank-you’s and acknowledgement letters to:
    • Sponsors
    • Volunteers
    • Speakers/presenters
    • Donors
    • The media

In your thank-you notes, be sure to remind the recipients of the event’s success – and how they contributed (e.g., dollars raised, awareness - number of participants, etc.

  • Post-event publicity:
    • Send out an email to your subscriber base with highlights from the event
    • Make a publicity reel video to share how it went (and as a bonus, you can use it as publicity next year!)
    • Share highlights on social media
    • Update website page to reflect that it's a past event. 
  • Conduct a post-event survey. Learn what people enjoyed about your event and where you have room to improve. 
  • Reach out to event participants. Thank them for participating and promote your ongoing programs and how they can support you throughout the year by joining, volunteering or making a sustaining donation.  
  • Conduct a team debrief to learn their thoughts.
  • Conduct a thorough evaluation of the event. What went well and what could you do better next time?

I hope you found this checklist helpful in getting started with event planning! Use this as a starting point to identify or assign activities to various volunteers or staff, or print this off so you can literally check off items as they are assigned or accomplished.

And if you're planning a virtual event rather than a traditional in-person one, we have a downloadable  Virtual Event Checklist, as well!

How to Event Planning Checklist Guide

The Event Registration Software You Need To Try

If you're sick of processing event registrations and payments by hand, there's a software that can completely automate the process for you online. It's called Membership Management Software and here's what it can do:

  • Allow easy creation of online registration forms
  • Put a calendar of events on your website
  • Automatically update your website with upcoming events
  • Deposit event payments directly into your account
  • Send automatic invoices and event reminders
  • Dump event attendee data directly into your contact database
  • and more

Not only does Membership Management Software take care of all event logistics, it also makes running any sort of membership organization easier, because it automates a number of other administrative tasks around managing your contacts, website, finances, and email communication.

If you'd like to see if this kind of software is right for your organization, try WildApricot, the #1 Membership Management Software on the market.  The best part is that WildApricot is free to try for 30 days. Click here to start your free trial now.

WildApricot ReviewAs a small non-profit, this software has made organizing and communicating with our membership SO much easier. Membership is now automatic and registering for our events is easy for our guests and much less work for us.

-DeeDee LaBaron, Oregon Employment and Training Association

  Event Checklist Event Checklist

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