Successful events will often take months of development and planning. Even massive annual events—like Coachella—will begin their planning process soon after the second weekend ends. Prior to seeing the light of day, events need ample time, care, and patience in order to captivate an audience and spark something special that will leave guests wanting more.
This goes double if you want your event to be lucrative.
If you’re thinking of planning your own event, follow our event planning timeline checklist to ensure you’re giving enough time to each of the necessary event phases.
What is an Event Planning Timeline, and Why Does Every Successful Event Planner Need One?
An event planning timeline is one of the most important contributors to an event’s success. No matter which stage you are in your event planning career, creating an event planning checklist is a must-do for your future events.
Without a properly laid out timeline and event checklist, you may come across obstacles that you may have previously addressed had you prepared a planning checklist. You could forget important deadlines or let the smallest details fall through the cracks.
When equipped with an event planning checklist you will be able to prioritize all of your tasks without second-guessing yourself. Knowing exactly what is being worked on and its due date will help you and your team efficiently manage your precious time.
Timeline to Consider
Whether you’re planning a multi-day music festival or a 50,000 person convention or a week long conference, you’ll still have to consider many of the same factors, such as an event budget, event venue, and marketing efforts that encompass everything from invitations to signage. Although your event timeline should always follow the same order, it may be shortened or lengthened depending on the size and type of event.
But remember, ample planning time means less room for error.
Any great event typically calls for 8 – 12 months of planning, depending on its complexity, so the easiest way of planning an event timeline is to break up the process into phases, accompanied by a to-do list.
Phase One: Planning
The first phase of the event planning and execution process is where you want to do most of your heavy lifting, and one you should allocate 2 to 3 months to meet objectives.
- Event review and financial planning: This is where you and your team explore the details of the event (event date, what the target audience and demographic is, the number of attendees, the venue type, etc), and then build an event budget template against it.
- Create an event deck: This is a shareable presentation that you can send to potential investors, sponsors, vendors, clients, and that details the purpose of the event, all pertinent info, and establishes your creative and talent needs.
- Venue scouting: Get out there and find your venue (if you haven’t already). Generate quotes from each venue you visit and try and lock one in sooner than later. This is one of the most important tasks to conquer before progressing further into the event management process.
- Quotes for all event services: Begin collecting quotes from vendors such as catering companies, venue, stage production, art departments, etc. This is crucial for the early budgeting phase.
- Ticketing strategy: Come up with your ticketing strategy (how many general admissions, VIPs, or various ticketing packages, and how many of each you plan on selling for your event).
- Develop marketing strategy and on-sale timelines: Decide on how you’ll be marketing your event and when the tickets will go on sale for early bird, general release, late release, etc.
- Sponsorship/partnership income valuation and overall management strategy: Typically, events are not paid for out of pocket. They receive income through partnerships and sponsorships, apart from ticket sales.
- Venue walk-through and event design: With your team, go on a walk-through (or use images if you can’t be there in-person) of the event space and lock in what the event design will look like and where it will be placed.
- Choose all service providers for the event: Decide upon which event service providers you’ll be using for your event:
- Catering / Food & Beverage
- Stage Production
- General Production
- Production Vehicles
- Props / Creative / Art Department
- Accommodation (if necessary)
- Cleaning Services
- Printed Materials
- Build travel and accommodation plan (if needed): If your event calls for transport and accommodation for attendees, VIPs, talent, put an event plan together that works out the details and adheres to your budget restraints.
See why phase one is so important? It sets up the framework for the months of work to come.
Phase Two: Event Investment and Sponsorship
This next phase on your to-do list will be ongoing throughout the process as it pertains to the potential partnerships which could unfold at the last minute. Once you’ve finished Phase One, set up investments and sponsorships as quickly as possible; this could help you stem the flow of your budget.
- Event investment period: Using the deck you created in Phase One, go after potential event investors, sponsors, brand partners, and even volunteers that may be interested in helping support your event.
Phase Three: Development and Contracting
Allow 2 to 3 months for Phase Three, which will focus on securing contracts and strategies with all your various vendors, service providers, staff, talent, and teams.
- Licenses, permits, & insurance: Check with your venue to identify whether you’ll need a liquor license, special event permits, and liability or property insurance to utilize the location. Once you know which permits, licenses, and insurance(s) you’ll need, start doing online research to find the best service providers to get ahead on completing any registration requirements.
- Venue contracting & permits: Discuss all terms with your venue, any additional fees, or ticket sale or bar splits, and begin contracting.
- Marketing strategy and services contracted: Whether you’re using a team you know or a team you’ve just met, have the event conceptualization, event marketing strategy and services defined as soon as possible, if not at your first meeting—this will be one of the driving forces of your event’s success.
- PR strategy and services contracted: Discuss with PR companies or publications whether you’ll have any press or journalists on-site at your event and lock in contracts with them. Make sure to discuss your event goals upfront that way they can better assist in building out those objectives.
- Ticketing partner contracting: Decide on the ticketing service that you’ll be using such as Eventbrite or Ticketmaster, and get your account up and running. Additionally, reach out to a representative that can walk you through any of your specific needs and projected ticket schedule.
- Merchandising event strategy and defining all SKUs: Get your merchandise strategy together—whether you’re using a designer or an online service—you want to define how many SKUs and items you’ll have so you can begin appropriating samples and promoting your merch items online (should your event call for merchandise). The projected number of attendees will also determine how many products are manufactured for the event.
- Build creative and design workflow: Have the creative and design process detailed so you can keep track of deadlines for art department pieces.
- Complete site map: Have a production site map completed so you know where all elements are going, such as the stage, tables and chairs, green rooms, etc. This will be one of the most important printed materials to have readily available for guests, however, their version will most likely be simplified.
- Create Standard Operating Procedure documents for the following services:
- Stage production
- Site Operations
- Food & Beverage
- Build the site operational plan and lock in contracts: Create your on-site operations plan and send it to all key players, then make sure to have any contracts signed between site ops providers or teams.
- Build a talent advance plan and lock in contracts: Create your talent advance documents and spreadsheets to share with talent managers and agents, then internally with your team. Ensure that these contracts are signed.
- Build a hospitality plan and lock in contracts: Create your hospitality item needs (such as tables, drinks, talent riders, welcome materials, etc.) for attendees, VIPs, and talent. Share this internally and lock in the appropriate contracts.
- Build food & beverage plan and lock in contracts: Create a F&B plan that will host all drinks and menu options, pricing, items needed, dry goods, and any other related info.
- Build a staging production plan and lock in contracts: Create the stage production documents and spreadsheets that detail staging needs, backline, and equipment—then sign contracts with respective service providers and teams.
With proper event logistics management, all of these small details will start to add up as you near the final phases.
Phase Four: Marketing and Sales
Similar to Phase Two, Phase Four will also be an ongoing process from the time of completion (of Phase Three) up until the event itself, as your event promotion will be what drives ticket sales.
- Marketing roll-out: As defined in Phase Three, now it’s time to begin rolling out your marketing campaign. This will allow you to gain traction through various marketing avenues such as the event website, social media, influencer marketing, digital marketing, editorials, commercials, and physical materials (posters, stickers, flyers, street teams).
Phase Five: Final Contracting and Planning
Think of Phase Five as your failsafe month. One month that allows for any final contracting and planning before you officially start in pre-production.
- Final contracts: Go back through your contracts and vendors to check you have the right details, permits, waivers, and legal documents. If anyone or anything’s missing, ensure you fill the gaps before heading into pre-production.
We can’t stress enough how important this month is. It allows you to reflect on your previous phases, review your structure in its entirety, and mitigate any chance of risk moving forward.
Phase Six: Full Pre-Production
The time has come and the event is fully underway. Take the next month in Phase Six to put together the Production Folder, or a bible that hosts all the details and contracts over the past months (along with other necessary information).
Phase Seven: Production Build & Walk-Throughs
Now comes the fun part! The production build. This is truly dependent on your event as a large festival may take several weeks to come to fruition, whereas a single evening event may only take a day to build.
- Production Build: On average, for a large event you want at least 2 to 3 days to build your production on-site prior to the event starting.
- Walk-Throughs: This can often be done on the day of the event itself, but you need to dedicate enough time to do on-site walk-throughs of the event with the various teams (think creative, production, security, safety, and fire marshall).
Phase Eight: Event Operations
Like Phase Seven, this is dependent on the event itself. Event operations will be as long as the event lasts, whether that’s 7 hours or 7 days.
Phase Nine: Event Wrap
Finally, as you close the doors of your event and feel the triumph take hold, you’ll want to dedicate at least 2 weeks to wrapping everything up.
- Event Wrap: Everyone’s event wrap process is likely to be different, but you want to give yourself time to close out outstanding payments, send off any checks, receive your recap photo albums or videos, and ship your final marketing action items. If you’re using a PR team, this is the best time to have them send you their pieces on the event.
Everyone wants their event to be successful (not to mention special and unique). You wouldn’t invest all of the time and money into it if you didn’t care how it turned out.
By creating an event timeline, you streamline your processes, create clear visibility over all vendors and contracts, and mitigate the chances that anything goes awry. But, being that an event can quickly turn into a logistical nightmare, sometimes the best decision you can make is partnering with a dexterous event management team to ensure swift event execution.
That’s where we come in. We’ll help guide you along the entire event planning process, ensuring that your event is positioned to succeed! Should you have any questions whatsoever, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, as our expert staff is ready to assist.
Wondering about virtual event planning? Learn more about hosting a virtual event here!