Having an event timeline is an integral part of the event planning process. The event timeline is your guiding company through the planning process. Without a timeline, in place, you will find yourself lacking focus and potentially missing important deadlines. Today we dissect the importance of an event timeline, as well as what you must include in yours!

event timeline

Why You Need an Event Timeline

As stated before timelines keep your event and the planning process on track. Often in event planning, there are many hands in the pot, and in order to keep the ship smooth sailing, you need a guiding document that will set expectations for completion times for everyone’s tasks at hand. Without a timeline, the planning process can easily derail or you can find yourself lost.

Having an event timeline also allows you to prioritize when planning. A quick glance at your timeline will let you know what needs to be done now, and what may not need to be done until later. Knowing what is a priority and what is not will help you better manage your time and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Be sure to always include measurables and deadlines into your timeline to track your progress!

If you aren’t sure how to make an event timeline watch this video to help you make one in excel!

How Far Out Should You Create Your Event Timeline?

The amount of time in advance that you create your event timeline will be dependent on what type of event you are planning. If you are planning a major conference or festival this timeline may need to be created a year or more before your event date to book major venues and book event entertainment. However, if you are planning something smaller like a corporate meeting or gathering you may only need 6 months.

event timeline

What to Include in Your Timeline

 

Six+ Months Out

 

Designate Roles and Responsibilities

Before creating your timeline make sure everyone on your project knows their roles and responsibilities. When team members know what is expected of them it will be easy to see when their role becomes part of the timeline. Everyone on the team will be clear on what deadlines they are expected to hit. Include all planning meetings into your event timeline as well so everyone can add them to their calendar and prepare in advance.

event timeline

Set Your Goals

Before anything is booked you need to have a vision for your event. What will your event look like? How many people will be in attendance? Why is the reason you are creating this event? What are your goals? Develop event goals and decide what you want to accomplish. Having a clear vision of your event goals will make the planning process and your event timeline easier to create. When you know what you are aiming for you can make objectives and measurable goals for everyone on your team to achieve. By knowing the target you will be able to create a detailed timeline resulting in a smooth planning experience.

event timeline

Create Your Event Budget

In order to successfully plan your event, you need to know your event budget. Without a clear event budget, you risk spending a lot more than necessary. You need a budget to clearly understand where to allocate money. Your budget can help you decide where to splurge and where you may need to cut back when creating your event. Need help with your event budget, download our free event budget template!

Select Your Venue and Major Vendors

Venues tend to book out far in advance of event dates. After your set your goals and know your event’s vision, your venue should be one of your first selections to secure your event dates. Other important vendors that need to be booked well ahead of your event include your AV team, entertainment, and speakers. It isn’t a bad idea to book your AV team prior to your venue. They will be able to help you ensure that the venue is capable of producing your vision when it comes to structure and power. They can also help you remove unnecessary AV fees and venue restrictions. Click here for our guide on how to remove In-House AV Restrictions.

event timeline

Begin Event Promotion and Create Marketing Strategies

Promotion and marketing are a  crucial part of having a successful event. If you aren’t promoting or marketing how will anyone know your event exists? Decide how you want to promote your event and create a strategy for success.

If you don’t know where to start with promotion try to think of your target audience and where they hang out. Are they on facebook? Do you need influencers to help you promote on social channels? Are you looking to go broad and mass promote via the radio and TV? The better you know your audience the easier it will be to choose your marketing channels.

Three Months Out

event timeline

Book Caterers, Florists, and any Remaining Vendors

Don’t wait until the last minute to find your vendors. Give yourself ample time searching for vendors that fit your event goals. Finalize your vendors at least 3 months out. If you wait too long to book your vendors your favorite ones will likely have already taken other jobs leaving you stuck with subpar vendors.

Gather speaker biographies and Confirm Details

Be sure to give your speakers the rundown on what they need to know for their presentations. By this point, you have hired your AV team. Check with your AV team to see what format speakers presentations need to be in and what cables are needed to plug into the screens. Confirm topics with your speakers and request to get speaker biographies, headshots and whatever else you may need for your programs, marketing, and signage.

event timeline

Check and order necessary supplies

Now is the time to order all badge holders, swag, and signage for your event. Ordering later can result in massive rush fees and break your budget. If you order with plenty of time to spare you can make adjustments as needed if anything doesn’t work out like you had imagined it would.

Create Emergency Plans 

Especially in today’s world, emergency plans are a MUST for events. Sometimes incidents occur at our events that are beyond control. You need to have an emergency plan in place to protect your attendees at your event should disaster ever strike.

event timeline

 

One Month Out

Confirm Catering Order

Call your cater and confirm everything on the menu is correct. At this time make sure you have the right amount of food for the number of people attending by giving the caterer a final headcount.

event timeline

Confirm Setup with  AV Team, Florist, and Media Production 

If you haven’t discussed these items already now is the time to check in with each vendor and make sure you know when they plan to set up. If you want the setup to be the day prior to your event’s start date check with your venue, sometimes this may not be possible. Perhaps the venue is booked for the day before. Other times a venue may charge an early setup fee. Never assume you can set up at any time prior than your agreed upon venue rental times, ALWAYS check.

Confirm Safety & Security’s role

Go over your emergency plan with everyone on your team. Make sure you have your security in place and they are aware what is needed. Make sure everyone on staff is aware of all exits in case a quick evacuation becomes a reality.

Set up an on-site run-through (if needed) 

Sometimes a run through is unnecessary or not possible. If you do have a run-through make sure all key players are in attendance to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Create “Day of timeline”

The day(s) of your event will FLY by. In order to keep organized and avoid a chaotic situation make a day of timeline.  Put everything on this timeline from when your staff arrives, the speakers speak, what time giveaways are, breakout rooms and more. If you don’t have a timeline the day(s) of your event things will likely derail and you will leave your guests feeling like you were not prepared.

event timeline

Day of Event Timeline

It is so important to have a schedule for your event. You put in a lot of hard work planning and it all comes down to the big show! You may feel stressed out and under a lot of pressure but there is no need to be, you have planned it all out!

Having a solid schedule for your event day(s) will help everything run smoothly. Below are some items you will want to include in your “day of” schedule and tips to think of while creating it. Not sure what you need on your day of timeline? Here are some tips and must-haves for your day(s) of event timeline!

event timeline

Don’t Miss Any Details

When creating your day of event timeline try to think of every detail.  Plan the day the way you envision it to go. Always be realistic with times and expectations. Anyone in the event industry knows an event rarely goes exactly as planned. There are always unexpected situations that pop up, sometimes speakers go overtime, maybe your caterer decides to show up late, whatever it may be allowed time for the unexpected.

Once you have your day of timeline completed share it with your team. They will be able to help make sure each part has realistic time estimates. Always be sure to include time for guests to get from one portion of your event to the next. If you have a keynote speaker followed by dinner in another location plan for the time it takes to get from one place to the next.

Creating Your Day of Event Timeline

While timelines leading up to events have similar markers, the day of event timeline is going to be very unique to your event. There are a few items likely to pop up on all agendas and events which I will address but be sure to create your own based on your own unique events elements.

event timeline

Suggestions To Include in Day of Timeline 

Setup time  – Make sure every person involved in your event set up knows when they are expected to arrive, and what they are expected to do.

Event Start Time – Have a clear time your event starts so you know when to anticipate guest arrivals.

Speakers – This one is very important! Make sure you have not only speakers start times, but the estimated length of their presentations in your timeline. If you have multiple speakers add a bit of buffer time between the presentations to allow smooth transitions and your attendees a moment to stretch their legs.

Meals – Communicate times with your catering staff! Add any meals, arrival times, and other catering events such as coffee bars will take place.

Breaks – If you have planned breaks during your event add them into your timeline.

Raffles – You want all of your attendees to stick around and be present when giveaways occur, so be sure to add them to your timeline!

Event End Time – Events can’t last forever! Know when your event needs to end. Keep in mind that most venues require cleanup to be done prior to the end of the venue rental. Allow for enough time between guests leaving and the rental being over to clean up to avoid any unwanted fees!

Breakdown/ Clean Up – After everyone is out it’s time to clean up! Make sure the staff knows what their duties are during the breakdown. Let vendors that will be part know when they are needed to start and complete teardown.

After the Event

event timeline

Hold event debrief meeting

Meet with your staff after your event for feedback. Ask what they think went well and what needs to be improved upon for next time! It is best to do this meeting as close to the event as possible so it is fresh in everyone’s mind.

Complete comparison of actual versus budgeted costs

Now that the event is over you have all the information you need to compare the actual costs of your event vs the budget. This is also a great time to be critical and see what can be improved upon in the future.

event timeline

Store all materials and Data to assist with planning of future event(s) 

After you have completed the above steps you are on the last step for completing your event timeline. Store away the feedback you have collected and data. At this time decide what worked and what needs changing for your next event. Finally, calculate your ROI.

Go For It!

Now that you know how to make your event timeline you will be much better prepared for your next event. By creating a comprehensive timeline you will be creating a guide to enable you to plan efficiently. Expectations will be very clear as they are listed on your timeline.

Keep in mind this is a general guide. For the best results, I recommend you customize your timeline as much as possible. If you have specific entertainment to book like a live band, add it into your timeline! If you need book a photographer and are doing a red carpet add ordering a step in repeat. Maybe you have a convention booth and need to get logoed swag, put it on your list. The more information the better on your event timeline. No matter the event and the size of your event it is crucial to creating an event timeline for a smooth sailing planning process!

Avatar for Kaitlin Colston

Author Kaitlin Colston

The fun loving, energetic Marketing Manager from Kansas City, MO, Kaitlin is the one who makes sure the office is always running smoothly. Her positive attitude and constant smile is shining example of our core value of fun! When she isn’t in the office you can find her behind her camera creating epic photographs.

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  • Peter Zawistowski

    Was wondering if you have tried using PERT, Program Evaluation Review techniques. PERT uses tasks, milestones, and GANTT charts. Milestone shows achievements, goals and tasks but does not show the inter-relationships between activities. I teach PERT along with Project Management for live video & broadcast events and I find a great help in the “big picture” as well as the final countdown time.

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