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, especially as an event planner. But even the most experienced event organizers can get so wrapped up that they forget a crucial detail.
Whether you’re a first-time planner or a veteran, missing something is inevitable. The best way to prevent this is by having a sync-up meeting with your team and go over an event checklist together. Here we provide you an event planning checklist, including those easily forgotten yet important items.
After the infographic below, find more detailed guidelines for each item. You can also download a complete checklist in spreadsheet, including additional checklist items that will help you increase audience participation. You can keep track of your event or conference planning status with the sample columns we added.
Event Planning Checklist (Infographics)
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 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 will be busy keeping the show running, and they need fuel even more than the attendees. Make sure you include the volunteers in your headcount to the caterer or when you put in a lunch order. Want to score even more points among your volunteers? Bring some special snacks for them to munch on throughout the day.
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. Event Agenda Management. In the days leading up to the event, small aspects of the event might change, such as a speaker or a session title. Changing the schedule everywhere it’s posted – including mobile brochure and event website – can get time-consuming or even forgotten. Have one central place to manage event schedule and make both web and mobile agenda auto-updated by leveraging the easy-to-adopt technology. Most of all, you can build a complicated conference webpage by one-line of copy and paste.
If you decide to manage your agenda manually, make sure that your conference planning checklist includes the detailed items such as when to create, how often you would update, and how to keep it consistent with an event app or other web pages.
< Turn your event agenda spreadsheet into a web and mobile agenda, and update both at once (Request a demo of the Whova’s Agenda Center ) >
6. 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. Recent meeting planner app technology helps you set capacity limits for different sessions, and only allow a certain number of attendees to check in. You can limit overcrowding and also manage session enrollment — this is useful for training or paid sessions.
7. 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. 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 ruling organizations take lightly. You’ll definitely want to remember this one.
If you are licensed to play music, it is a fun idea to get song requests from attendees through an event app, in a feature like the Community Board.
8. 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.
9. Name Badges. Name tags are key to facilitating networking and connection. Asking attendees to write their own names can seem unprofessional – and risk some unreadable handwriting! Instead, you can use a handy online tool to make professional-looking name badges in five minutes. By the way, don’t forget to add QR codes and attendees’ interests or industries into the badges. These would be useful for fast check-in and attendee networking. This in-house name badge generator is offered for FREE if you use the event app.
10. 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.
11. Printed Master Sheet. This master sheet will have coveted information, such as contact information for all the vendors, Wi-Fi passwords and even the event checklist (find out more in this event planning template). You can keep this in Evernote, Google Drive, or an event app’s logistic section, however, it’s always a good idea to have printed copies on hand as well.
12. 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. Of course, wedding planning and conference planning checklist can be slightly different.
- Notepad/loose paper
- First aid kit
- Clorox pen
13. Communication with Speakers. From lining up great speakers to collecting their bios/session information and coordinating their trips, it can be tough to keep everything straight. Automate the process as much as possible. For example, empower your speakers to upload and update their information through a speaker portal webpage by themselves. You can cut down on time spent emailing back and forth with speakers. And, right before the event, double check that speaker bios, name spellings, and session abstracts are correct in every place they are listed! This is an important item that should be in your conference planning checklist.
< Save time by empowering your speakers to upload their bios and session information by themselves (Request a Whova demo) >
14. Communication with Attendees. Keeping attendees engaged and updated on all aspects of the event is completely necessary for a successful day. Try thinking outside the box to offer unique ways of communication and connection between attendees. Here are a few ideas to add to your event checklist.
- Are you using an event app? This puts all the communication in one place, so you can directly interact with your attendees, increase their participation, and update them with instant announcements. As you spent time and money to adopt an event app, you’d like to get the most out of it. Here follow this guideline to increase an event app adoption from 30% to 90%.
- Warm up a community board (if your event app supports) by creating conversation topics like, “Recommend your favorite local restaurants” or “ What sessions are you most looking forward to attending?” Get inspired by the use cases of the Whova’s Community Board.
- Use a social wall. It’s easy to set up if your venue has a big screen or projection in a hallway or a room for lunch. If your event app can automatically send real-time feed like announcements, the next sessions, and photos shared by attendees, that will be even more exciting.
- Create a fun game – like a photo contest – to encourage engagement and friendly competition.
- Encourage speakers and attendees to share interesting web articles, news, or photos through an app a week before your event. This encourages interaction before they’ve even stepped foot in the venue.
15. Communication with Sponsors & Exhibitors. Sponsors and exhibitors will be grateful if you take the time to help make their lives easier and better promote their companies. These days it’s easy to provide a QR scanning through an event app. And, like a custom Yelp page, you can let them set up their profiles and engage attendees through mobile coupons, raffles, and giveaways on the event app (Attract more exhibitors and sponsors). Whichever lead generation and communication tools you offer them, don’t forget to send a detailed guideline right before your event. That will save you time answering their questions during the event.
16. Communication with Volunteers. If your volunteers would help check in attendees or generate badges for walk-ins, make sure that they can access the necessary tools and up-to-date attendee lists. You can also create a group chat on your event app to keep track of volunteers, and quickly answer any questions that come up. If you need more volunteers leading up to the event, post a message in your event app (e.g. Community Board) or social media. Some attendees might be more than happy to assist you, especially if it results in a perk or discounted ticket price.
17. Internal Communication. Whether you decide to use cell phones, walkie-talkies, or a private group chat within an event app, make sure the team is on the same page. The day before the event, do a test to ensure everyone is receiving the messages and is able to respond. While leveraging the chosen internal communication channel, go over your event checklist with your staff, including those working remotely.
18. Wi-Fi Password. While this seems like a meager item, knowing and sharing the Wi-Fi password is very important to 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.
19. Charging Stations. Consider these charging station options for waning cell phone batteries. When your attendees’ devices are fully charged, they can keep checking your messages and mobile brochures, posting updates to social media, and networking with people all day long.
20. Announcing Hashtags and an Event App. If your attendees are digitally connected, you’ll want to create a good event hashtag. To enable widespread use of it, have the MC inform the audience of the hashtag. Also, plan other important guidelines like how to access an event app, or how to participate in a live poll or a game/contest you planned.
21. Survey Your Attendees. Don’t forget to survey your attendees for feedback on the last day of the event. If you use a mobile survey or an event app for session rating, you can encourage attendees to spend a few minutes after lunch when they still remember their experiences. To save time, download 35 event survey questions and conveniently use it for your next event.
22. De-brief. Schedule a meeting 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, from word of mouth, and from other measurements of success. Be honest and objective. This is an important part of your event planning checklist – so don’t forget it!
23. 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.
Download a Conference Planning Checklist
Armed with this event planning checklist, you can tackle your next event with confidence and ease! It includes extra checklist items this article doesn’t cover: essential items to boost attendees’ participation, get more feedback from attendees, and increase your event app adoption rate over 70-95%.
And, Whova’s event app, online registration, and time-saving event management tools can help you make your job much easier. Let’s talk about your next event! Would you like to schedule a free live demo?