Last update: Sep 2, 2016 | Whova

Event Planning Checklist details

You know that feeling you have when you leave the house and feel like you forgot something? Keys? Check. Phone? Check. Wallet? Check. Suddenly, you realize that you left the oven on, and turn back around to safely turn it off. Scary!

Thankfully you have that feeling to remind you. Unfortunately, event organizers, especially new ones, don’t always have this feeling when they forget something.

It’s common for event organizers, especially first-timers, to forget at least one thing. If you do, no sweat: just take a deep breath, do what you can to overcome it, and consider it a lesson.

“The first event’s the hardest. By the second event, you know how everything works,” points out Marc Chew, Manager and Event Coordinator at 3rdSpace.

This is so true.

So for you new event organizers, and those of you wanting a refresher, here are some things that are commonly forgotten, but crucial, in an event planning checklist:

event planning checklist

Food

1. Allergies and Food Preferences. When your attendees and volunteers grab their tickets online, use this as a chance to find out their food preferences. Both you and your attendees will be in for a surprise if you find out during your event that many of your attendees are vegan while your event is catered by Phil’s BBQ.

2. Alcohol Licensing. If your event will be serving alcohol, listen up: don’t forget your alcohol licensing. Laws differ by country and state, but here in California it’s called an ABC License. It sounds like a made-up name, but it’s a real thing, and a real issue if you can’t obtain one on time. It usually takes about five weeks to get your application approved so don’t forget to work this into your planning schedule.

3. Food and Snacks for Volunteers. Volunteers are carrying tables, greeting hundreds of guests as they sign in, and keeping the show running. You’ll want to make sure they have their energy as they’ll likely be working even harder than the attendees. Whether you are ordering food, or just providing your caterers with a number of people who will be eating, make sure to include the volunteers. Want to score even more points among your volunteers? Bring some special snacks for them to munch on throughout the day.

Logistics

4. Dollies and Hand Trucks. While not exactly glamorous, having a dolly or a hand truck on hand when you need to move heavy items will feel like a back-sparing lifesaver. You can rent them from U-Haul or buy from any home improvement or office supply store. You’ll be glad you remembered!

5. Day-of Breakdown. When it comes to schedules, event planners really have two schedules: the one that attendees see, and the one that’s for the event team’s eyes only. The one only for your team’s eyes will have important day-of details that ensure a smooth day, in front of and behind the scenes. For example, your schedule might begin something like this:

  • 7:00 am: AV team arrives and begins setup
  • 7:15 am: Stage, sound, light, and set tested
  • 7:30 am: Tables
  • 8:00 am: Attendees begin arriving
  • 8:30 am: Doors open
  • 8:45 am: Breakfast served
  • 9:00 am: MC takes stage
  • 9:10 am: First speaker takes stage
  • 9:45 am: Buffet snacks set out
  • 10:00 am: Break
  • 10:20 am: Speakers in breakout rooms
  • 10:30 am: Session one begins

The above schedule can be even more detailed and should give your team a clear idea of day-of breakdown, which will help ensure a smooth show. Don’t forget to share this breakdown with all vendors, speakers, staff and volunteers it affects.

6. Printed Master Sheet. This master sheet will have coveted information, such as contact information for all the vendors and exhibitors and Wi-Fi passwords. You can keep this in Evernote, Whova app (Logistics section), Google Drive, or other mobile apps, however, it’s always a good idea to have printed copies on hand as well.

7. Name tags/badges. Attendees, sponsors, and volunteers all enjoy having name tags of some sort which help with networking. You can print them out beforehand and make them into name badges, or you can use the plain old “Hi My Name Is” name tags (psst: don’t forget the sharpies and pens). Either way, ensure that your attendees have an avenue to identify themselves.

8. Capacity. Do you know the capacity of the room or venue where your event will be held? This seems like a small thing, but is information you should get upfront when looking for venues so that you can set a limit for ticket sales. Rubbing elbows with new acquaintances is more preferable than rubbing shoulders with a stranger, which is what happens in crowded rooms.

9. Liability. Let’s face it: we’re all clumsy at times. One of your attendees might be so busy talking to a colleague that he doesn’t see the chair he’s about to trip over. After you make sure he’s okay and help him up, you may want to have him sign a liability form for hazards. Check with your venue on their procedures for this.

10. Music Permits. Planning to play some relaxing background music through speakers from your smartphone? Sounds like a nice and easy solution to feature music at your event. Unfortunately, this isn’t legal. The songs you purchase from the iTunes store, on CDs, or stream through apps like Pandora, are licensed only for personal use and an event is considered a Public Performance. This means that you have to purchase a license to play pre-recorded songs. According to Hahn Law, “American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) are the three major performing rights organizations that function to license music.”

If musicians will be performing live at your event, you’ll need to obtain a permit.

Playing or using music in a public place without a permit isn’t something that the BMI or ASCAP take lightly. You’ll definitely want to remember this one.

11. Emergency Kit. You might be surprised at how a dearth of scissors or tape can raise stress levels during an event. Packing an event emergency kit will help keep those stress levels down. Here are some ideas for what you can include in that kit:

  • Scissors
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Tape
  • Notepad/loose paper
  • First aid kit
  • Clorox pen
  • Ibuprofen

Digital Connections

12. Wi-Fi Password. While this seems like a meager item, knowing and sharing the Wi-Fi password is very important to attendees, especially technically connected attendees. Grab this information from your venue coordinator a few days before the event and ensure that you share this with everyone at your event.

13. Charging Stations. Consider at least one charging station for waning cell phone batteries. “Attendees want to remain connected during the event and share their experiences online. Setting up charging stations with tables and power cords will empower attendees to do this throughout the event. Plus, it will enable continuous social media coverage of your event by even your most active attendees,” explains Amanda Nelson, Founder of Jupiter Production House. Since more connected attendees means more coverage for your event, you won’t want to forget to include charging stations in your event planning checklist, especially if you have an all day event.

14. Announcing Apps and Hashtags. If your attendees are digitally connected, there’s a good chance that you’ll be using both a hashtag and an event app like Whova. To enable widespread use of both, have the MC inform the audience of the hashtag as well as how to access and best use the app. He or she can even remind the audience later in the day as well.

Communication

15. Communication with Venue Staff. You’ll be communicating with the venue’s event coordinator, but have you thought about who else on on the venue staff you might want to communicate with? Tysa Fennern, Founder of PROMOJO Events & PR, remarks, “If your venue is at a hotel or a location with a concierge, definitely give the people in the concierge a detailed schedule that they can reference since they’ll likely be the first point of contact for attendees.”

16. Walkie-Talkies. Sure, you can call the cell phones of other volunteers and staff across the event. However, walkie-talkies can clue several people into a conversation or situation at once which can be helpful if issues arise. You can encourage all relevant personnel to download an app like Voxer, or you can purchase walkie-talkies.

17. Communication with Sponsors. A lot of time is put into attendee communication, and rightfully so. You craft your marketing messages and carefully select your MC, but do you put as much thought into communicating with your event’s sponsors? “Having someone on your team whose sole responsibility is to the sponsors will help to ensure that sponsors are happy with the value they receive from the relationship,” points out Amber Brandner, Producer at Connected Dreamers.

18. Confirm with Volunteers. Whether or not you have a volunteer coordinator, it’s important to the success to your event to verify attendance with all volunteers as well as their roles and responsibilities in the days leading up to the event. Don’t forget, and risk getting caught short-handed.

Wrap up

19. Survey your Attendees. Many busy event organizers forget to survey their attendees within one week after the event. Surveys are important because you can gather honest feedback from the attendees to gain information on how you can improve the event next time. If you’re using the Whova app, you’re in luck because, not only does it sync with SurveyMonkey, but the Whova team also has the ability to create a custom survey page for you as well. By this time, you’ll probably have remembered any items you may have forgotten, but the survey will help give you ideas for improving your event next year.

20. De-brief. Congratulations! You’ve completed the event and may have even remembered to survey your attendees. What many organizers forget, or fail to do, is meet with the core team of organizers and review what went well, and what can be improved. You can review data from the survey, from social media, from your own experience, and from word of mouth. Be honest and objective. This step usually isn’t forgotten so much as passed over. But it’s important part of your event planning checklist!

21. Share the Recap with Sponsors. Now, this step is usually forgotten or not even considered in the first place. A great way to foster long-standing relationships with your sponsors is to share a recap with them. The recap could include the number of attendees, popular social media posts, relevant information from the survey, and any other information that would delight them to see.

 

Final Words

While most event organizers who forget or overlook the above information don’t get that uncomfortable déjà vu feeling that we get in our everyday lives, they will likely experience a moment, or two, or three, of stress when they realize that they forgot one of the items on this event checklist.

What are your thoughts on the above list? Is there anything else commonly missed when organizing an event?

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