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Jan 30
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Timeline for Planning an Event

Whether you are planning for your first event or you are an event-throwing professional, it’s always important to keep track of what you need to do at each stage of event planning and how far in advance those tasks need to be accomplished.

Six to Twelve Months Before Your Event

Because you will want plenty of time to organize and plan, set your event date so you have somewhere between six and twelve months to get ready. Exactly how long you give yourself to plan will be determined by what kind of event you’re throwing, but this is a good standard.

At this point, you’ll also want to establish a planning committee or identify key individuals involved in planning and begin meeting regularly. At these meetings, outline the goals, objectives, and branding for the event. This is also a good time to set the program outline.

For most types of events, you’ll also need to book and confirm the event venue and, if it applies, lodging for out-of-town guests. You’ll also need to come up with the guest list and use it to project your estimated attendance. Develop your system for tracking guest lists and RSVPs and begin designing and ordering invitations and “Save the Date” cards.

This is also when you’ll need to confirm guest speakers, emcees, and VIP attendees. You’ll also want to come up with a solidified program plan and identify what equipment or rentals you’ll need to make it happen. Confirm your budget so you can be sure your ideas will work in practice.

Three to Six Months Before Your Event

This is when you’ll need to send out “Save the Date” cards if you’re using them and obtain any final approval or sign-offs you need. Gather anything else needed for the final design and approval of the invitations and printed program (like a speaker’s biography).

This is when you will confirm and reserve the photographer, caterer, florist, and entertainment. Many of these vendors specialize in events so be sure to reserve your spot on their schedules well ahead of time.

event planning

Three Months Before Your Event

At three months out, you’re finally getting into the real details of your event. This is when you need to order all supplies for your event—including gifts for attendees—and finalize the guest list. This is when you need to be sending and receiving your invitations from the printer.

During this planning period, confirm lodging for guests coming from out of town, solidify the needs of the speaker, and contact your florist and caterer to discuss design and menu. Don’t forget to reserve security if it’s needed.

Two Months Before Your Event

Address and mail the invitations, get the final approval of the program, and take a walk-through of the venue to make sure you’ve covered every detail of the big day. Take notes and don’t forget to keep track of the nearest restrooms and accommodations—your guests will definitely ask!

The Month of the Event

You’ll want to make sure your RSVPs are due at least two to three weeks prior to the event so you can give a final headcount to the caterer, venue, and lodging coordinator. You might have to make phone calls to guests who have not yet responded.

All guests need information on directions and location if it has not already been included in their invitation. Finalize the transportation and arrival of keynote speaker and any VIP guests, disseminate the guest list to anyone who needs it, and plan the seating arrangement.

This is the stage when you will want to confirm and re-confirm everything: the caterer, photographer, florist, security, speakers, musicians, and media (including AV and sound equipment). This is the best time to start advertising your event, including on social media.

Day of the Event

Congratulations! You made it. Arrive early to troubleshoot and review details with your day-of staff and volunteers. Bring extra copies of the agenda, checklists, etc. Be sure and check the weather and inform the caterer of last-minute meal changes.

Post Event

You did it and your event was successful. Don’t forget to give yourself time to reflect on the process to improve and make notes for next time. Also, use this time to write thank you notes to speakers and send gifts to participants.

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