Event planners want every event they organize to be a success. It doesn’t matter if it’s a corporate retreat or backyard wedding—a happy client is good for business! But with so many details, items, and people to track, any event can easily go off the rails.
As the event planner, you need to be on top of everything. An event’s success depends on your ability to notice the details, identify and defuse potential issues, and creatively fix surprise problems as they arise.
An event checklist can help you do all this. While every event is different, this is a great starting point for building your own wedding venue contract checklist, corporate event planning guide or checklist to plan just about any other type of event!
1. Before the event
There’s a lot of work that happens before an event can begin. Depending on the event, your event planning timeline and preparation may begin several months or up to a year in advance!
2. Set the event’s goals
A successful event has at least one clear goal. These might be as simple as “celebrate the newlyweds” or as lofty as “raise $100,000 for the chosen charity”. Once you know the goals of the event, you can start planning around them.
3. Develop a master plan
A master plan outlines the steps and items needed to meet the event’s goals. The items included in your master plan will depend on the type of event you’re planning.
- Important dates – This is more than just the date and time when people need to show up. Also, think about deadlines for sending invites, launching ticket sales, collecting RSVPs, and securing vendors.
- Budget – A detailed and realistic budget of all items and labor you’ll need to make the event a success.
- Location – Choose a venue that can accommodate the event.
- Guest count – Determine how many guests will be attending.
- Theme and design – An inspiration board (real life or on a site like Pinterest) can help you and your clients clearly visualize the look and feel of the event.
- Staff and vendor contacts – Keep a list of vendor contact details, so you can reach them when necessary.
- Shopping lists – Create a list of items you’ll need to purchase or rent for the event.
Other items in your master plan may include a marketing plan, communication plan, sponsors and partners, and necessary licenses and permits, depending on what the event is.
4. Determine budget
Price is a big concern for many clients. They want a great event but may be limited in what they can or are willing to spend. However, they also might not have a clear understanding of how much an event really costs. That’s where your guidance can help. Your knowledge and expertise can help clients set realistic budgets.
5. Choose the venue
A venue helps set the tone of an event, but don’t get carried away by the beauty of a space! There’s more to choosing a venue than just the look and feel. You may also need to consider if it has capacity for your guest list, what the parking and transportation situation looks like, if there’s a plan for rainy weather, and if they have a clear emergency plan.
6. Select vendors
The vendors working at your event are essential. Bad ones can ruin a party—and by extension, your reputation! Finding quality and trustworthy vendors is important and can make planning future events a breeze. Party vendors you may work with include:
- Food and beverage catering
- Waitstaff and bartenders
- Photographers and videographers
- Audio and video techs
Each vendor should receive a vendor event checklist, so it’s clear what services they will provide and when.
Many venues require all vendors working on their premises to have their own General Liability insurance. It may be your job to collect and present everyone’s certificate of insurance to the venue coordinator, including proof of your own event planner insurance.
7. Check your event planner insurance
Speaking of insurance, you may want to check that your policies provide enough coverage for your business. You might need to increase your coverage amount if you’ve started planning larger events. Event planners often consider policies such as:
- Professional Liability – This is an essential policy that protects you and your company in case of a lawsuit due to alleged professional wrongdoing, such as undelivered services or a breach of contract.
- General Liability – This insurance can protect your business against bodily injury or property damage lawsuits from outside parties.
- Business Owner’s Policy – These policies combine General Liability insurance with other types of coverage, such as business interruption and business property damage, in a convenient and affordable package.
8. Event Day
Your job doesn’t end as soon as everything is booked. Clients will likely expect you to be on hand to set up and manage the event. You’ll be the main point of contact for the venue, vendors, and maybe even guests. And if something goes wrong, you’ll need to fix the issue as quickly and quietly as possible.
9. Gather supplies
Create a plan for taking necessary items to the venue before the event. In some cases, your vendors may be doing the drop off while you supervise. This may be a time when you’re glad to have all your vendor contact details in one place, especially if you need to track down missing or late deliveries.
9. Set up the event
Turning an empty space into a breathtaking event takes a lot of work! Allow yourself and the vendors enough time to decorate the venue before guests begin to arrive. It may help to have an event setup checklist with a map of what goes where—from the tables and chairs to signs and decorations.
11. Manage the event
Most events will have some sort of agenda, with “mini-events” happening at certain times (for example, the couple’s entrance and cake cutting at a wedding reception). Even if it’s just getting dinner on the table by 7 pm, you may be in charge of keeping everyone on schedule. You’ll also be on hand just in case something goes wrong. Some quick thinking and creative problem-solving could help you resolve the issue without the client knowing.
12. After the event
Event planners often put in long hours on the day of an event, staying long past when the last guest leaves. You may also need to follow up with the vendors or venue the next day to ensure everything is cleaned, returned, and paid for.
13. Clean up the venue
In some cases, the venue or vendors may take care of clean up. But sometimes, it’s up to the event planner and their staff. You may need to check if the venue has a cleaning policy or protocols to avoid being charged additional fees.
14. Organize the return of items
If there are special items that need to be stored or returned to the client, you might want to take care of this yourself to help ensure they are not lost, thrown out, or damaged. Setting up a secure area in your office for client property could help keep their items safe while they’re in your care. This can also help you avoid unnecessary claims on your event planner insurance policies. Consider putting a pickup date in the event contract to ensure clients come and get their items in a timely manner.
15. Send thank you and follow-up emails
It takes a team to pull off a successful event. Sending a thank you card or email to the venue coordinator and your vendors is a nice touch. It shows you value their time and hard work and can strengthen your professional relationship. They might even prioritize your next event or offer future discounts!
And don’t forget about your clients. A follow-up email could be a fantastic way to get feedback on how they feel the event went. You might include a brief survey so they can rate your services or invite them to write an online review for your event planning business.
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