Any event, no matter the size and purpose, can succeed with careful planning. Event planners who want to pull off a successful event that leaves guests with positive memories should start planning at least six months before the big day. Yes, the time frame depends on the type of event and industry, but generally, this is a good starting point.
Six months to a year may seem like a long time. However, creating a proper planning timeline and breaking the process into manageable and measurable tasks can help you stay on track. Unsure how to get started?? Here are eight steps designed to guide your next six months:
Establish the goals of the event
The best way to start planning events six months before the big day is to establish your overall goals. Ask important questions that become the foundation of the planning process. These aren’t just questions specific to planning an event, like “Where’s the venue?” or “What catering services should I use?” Foundational questions should get to the core of the planning process and address the “why” of planning an event.
- What is the event’s purpose?
- What are you aiming to gain from the event?
- How will you know that it’s successful?
Setting clear objectives with your team helps you stay focused for the rest of the planning process. Is the event educational? Is it a fundraiser or a gathering of people with similar interests? Once you have answers to these questions, planning the rest of your event becomes easier.
It’s also ideal to establish your definition of a “successful event.” Success looks different at every event. For example, an educational event might set a goal of providing attendees with new knowledge. On the other hand, success for a fundraiser could mean reaching or exceeding your financial goal. Every decision you make should be based on supporting and realizing your goals.
Identify speakers and panelists
Six months before the event, you should identify the main attraction. If you’re hosting an event with guest speakers, panelists, or special guests, planning six months ahead will give everyone sufficient time to submit materials and for you to review them. Among all the steps to plan an event, this step is critical and requires more than enough time to finalize.
As shared by SpeakerFlow, 56% of event planners include diversity goals when hiring speakers for events. Diversity allows the audience to experience different perspectives and can be represented in many ways. So, if you want your event to truly make an impact, choosing the right speakers and panelists should be one of your priorities.
However, simply contacting a person to speak at your event is not enough. As the planning process begins, start negotiations, decide on fees, and create speaker contracts that all parties can agree on. You can find the right people through professional networks, cold calling, and social media.
Planning ahead of time helps you secure a more diverse and impactful lineup. Also, you won’t have to settle for rushed planning and unmet deadlines. You get to guarantee that you stay on the same page with your event speakers!
Confirm your budget and financial commitments
Another step you should take before the big day is confirming your budget and financial commitments. Not planning your finances correctly can result in overspending or events that do not meet expectations due to a lack of funds or resources.
Start by creating a budget template that includes all the necessary expenses, like the following:
- Venue and equipment
Having a clear budget will help you anticipate expenses and track actual costs. It also guides you when setting ticket prices if the event is open to the public. In addition to planning for the actual costs, it’s essential to establish a contingency budget to cover any unexpected expenses.
Planning an event six months in advance also allows you to confirm the availability of sponsors and partners. It’s imperative if you want to outsource any planning responsibilities or tasks. A six-month planning timeline will help you find the best possible partnerships and secure more budget for your event.
Financial planning and management should be part of your planning process from the beginning. A financial plan will help you avoid unpleasant surprises or fiscal challenges.
Book required vendors and event technology
Let’s say you’ve established the goals of your event, identified speakers, and confirmed financial commitments. Six months before your event, you should also start listing and booking vendors and the technology you’ll need for the day.
According to Entrepreneur’s “Why Vendors Can Make or Break Your Event,” the success of an event planner’s business involves a team of reliable vendors: “Your events will be marred by even one bad vendor. Just as a bad apple ruins the lot, one bad vendor may leave a bad image in your client’s mind of the event as a whole.”
If you need catering, audiovisual equipment, or any other services for your big day, have a list of reliable vendors. You can start by researching and asking for referrals from previous clients. Once you finalize your list, ask for quotes and book them as soon as possible. For event technology, consider including the following the features:
- IT advisor
- WiFi and other technical needs
- AV team
- Monitoring services
Rushing your vendor selection and the event technology planning process is a risk you can’t afford to take. Vendors also need lead time for planning and allocating resources, so contracting with them six months in advance will empower their best services.
Put your marketing plan into action
While your team is hustling to reach out to vendors and planning logistics and financial aspects, there should also be a department for marketing. Without marketing, your event will not reach the right audience, no matter how early you start to set things up. Marketing is just as crucial as the other aspects of your event and requires separate advanced planning.
Shama Hyder, in “How to Market a Conference: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Event a Success,” said that it’s vital to establish audience personas so you know that you’re reaching out to potential attendees. You can also leverage your connection with your existing networks! Of course, all these are feasible when you maximize social media platforms.
Depending on your target audience personas, you can post about your event on corresponding platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also set up a website and boost your email marketing. Don’t forget about hashtags, ads, and buttons for social handles!
Marketing through social media has become essential and planning it early will contribute to your event’s success. Ensure your marketing team has adequate planning time and resources to promote your event. Proper planning and marketing strategies can create an unforgettable experience for everyone. Communicate with your partners
Planning a professional event timeline requires having consistent communication with your partners throughout the process. Regularly checking in with your partners ensures everything is going according to plan. Overall, scheduling consistent contact, via meetings or calls, will help track the planning process.
Communication doesn’t only happen once when you have an upcoming event. It shouldn’t stop after your first meeting. As an event planner, it’s your task to remind your partners of deadlines and include them in planning meetings if possible. By keeping on top of your planning process you can avoid potential conflicts through communication.
Communication doesn’t have to be solely about updates and planning. You can also share opinions and leverage any resources available to you. For example, brainstorming ideas and providing feedback about planning processes can prove invaluable to your team. Should you encounter setbacks, it’s easier to resolve them if you communicate regularly.
The best way to ensure regular communication is to set a planning timeline that everyone follows. Have a platform where your team can easily share ideas and discuss changes. Some of the best communication software and platforms you can use include the following:
- Google Meet
- Jitsi Meet
- MS Teams
- Troop Messenger
Confirm your event team roles
You’ve probably heard people say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” many times before. Sure enough, having a team of people with different skills can help you achieve success faster. That said, assembling your team after you’ve identified your needs for the event is another crucial step in the event planning process.
As an event planner, it’s impossible to do everything yourself. Assign specific tasks to your members so everyone knows precisely what is expected from them and when the task must be completed. The more people you have working simultaneously, the faster you can execute your event.
Your event team should include internal and external people who can help you with different aspects of the event. All members must be knowledgeable and experienced in their respective fields. Once you have identified your event team, confirm the roles everyone is responsible for and make sure there are no overlaps.
Include every aspect of the event, such as financial, marketing, and technical roles. There may be other roles you need to consider, depending on the nature of your event. Provide all the necessary details so nobody gets lost in the nitty-gritty.
Confirm you have the right event management tools
Planning events manually can be effective for some, but generally, it’s more time-consuming and challenging. When you have trusted software to automate, compile, and store all your data, you don’t have to worry about missing out on crucial details.
Event management software helps you stay organized and makes the process smoother. Event planning software usually comes with various features and tools, such as event registration and ticketing, contact management, budget tracking, reporting, and more.
The right event management tools support you in any challenges involving all the above-mentioned steps. Whether it’s sticking to your event goals and budget, reaching out to speakers and vendors, executing marketing campaigns, communicating with partners, or tracking progress — event management tools have your back!
For example, at Attendee Interactive, we provide Speaker and Session Management to streamline the process of managing your speakers and sessions. We also offer Event Management software to help you handle all the tasks involved in planning your event from one place, saving you time and money.
Investing in the proper event management tools is investing in solutions that help make your events successful. When you have them in place six months before your big day, you can rest assured that you’re ready for everything.
Event planning is not a one-day job; it requires continuous effort and commitment from everyone on the team. Attendee Interactive aims to provide event planners with solutions that make the process faster, easier, and more efficient. Contact us today, and let’s plan your next six months until the big day!