Events and conferences are big business. U.S. companies spend more than $122 billion annually in the meeting industry, according to Meeting Professionals International. And so, when you’re planning your own internal or external event, it’s important to make sure it’s a success. A conference planning checklist and project plan will help consistently guide you through the details of any event almost flawlessly and ensure you achieve the objective of your event.
Different types of events will include different components. For example, an event with an exhibitor showcase requires a different checklist than a conference with only educational sessions. Board meetings include different planning components than the annual employee appreciation event. But the foundation for all of them is your conference planning checklist.
Developing Your Conference Planning Checklist
Event planning may not be a big part of your job duties. But regardless of your title, it’s important to be ready to assume the role when asked, as noted by Successful Meetings. The best way to do that is preparation with the right tools. The following steps will help you create a conference planning checklist to make sure you don’t forget or miss any of the important components to organizing your next event.
1. Make a list of all of the various types of conferences and large meetings you coordinate.
- Annual appreciation events
- Board of directors meetings
- Company social events, like holiday parties or picnics
- Educational conferences or seminars
- Golf tournaments
- Multi-day events with external guests
- Sales- or incentive-based awards trips
- Awards banquets
- Strategic retreats
2. Brainstorm of all of the core details of the event from start to finish.
Some of the aspects you may want to think about include:
- Budget and finance
- Planning committee
- Event date
- Agenda development
- Speakers and trainers
- Travel planning
- Marketing, communications, and PR
- Advertising, promotional items, and signage
- A/V and technology
- Event materials
- Exhibitor showcase or bookstore
- Media production (photo and video)
3. Organize the details into your conference planning checklist in chronological order (as much as you can).
For example, you’ll most likely need to know what your budget is, and who you are working with before you start planning. You should determine the date options before you begin contacting venues, speakers, and other event suppliers about participating in your event.
4. Fill in as many details under each section as possible.
Throughout the planning process, add to this list as you go. Every event will inspire new things you should add to your list for consideration during future event planning. Here are a couple of examples:
- General session space
- Breakout sessions space
- Exhibitor space
- Speaker green room
- A/V and technology
- Media production
- Internet and wifi
- On-site catering or third-party vendors
- Guest rooms
- Morning snacks
- Afternoon snacks
- Food sensitivities
Using Your Conference Planning Checklist
For most event planners, the conference planning checklist evolves into their project plan for executing the event. Maintain the document using an easily accessible spreadsheet. Or, you might consider a more automated project management tool, like Outlook Tasks, OneNote, or Teamwork.
You will also want to develop some supporting forms and templates to systematize the planning process. Using templates helps you be more organized. But it’s also a huge timesaver. Meeting agendas, client checklists, and event itineraries are just a few examples of the types of templates you should have created and ready to use. Here are a few kinds of forms and templates to consider:
- Committee planning meeting agenda
- Planning project plan
- Timeline, day of event
- Name tags or name tents
- Exhibitor details event schedule
- Travel arrangements checklist
- Travel itinerary
- Travel profile
When your event is over, hold a post-mortem meeting or review to analyze what went well, what could have gone better, and what you’d change if you did it again. Take detailed notes. Update your checklist, and your forms and templates. Use the insights you gained in managing this event to plan future events. That’s the best way to continually improve your events and impress your colleagues at the same time.
Looking for more insights on how to better plan your next event? Learn the 10 steps that will walk you through the process.
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