The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist for 2021

Thomas Paris
May 5, 2021
The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist for 2021 | Hoppier

Organizing an event is a complex undertaking. Whether you're planning a small-scale event like a webinar or a large-scale event like a trade show, there are multiple moving parts.

Event planning requires a great deal of strategizing, finance management, sales, marketing, and community management and support, among a host of other capabilities. Keeping track of all these functions is difficult if you don’t have a detailed checklist that you can use as you progress.

Our ultimate event planning checklist will allow you to stay on top of the event planning process. This article explores the essentials of event planning to help you ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Let’s dive in!

1. Start Your Event Planning Checklist With the Basics

Note book, pencils, keyboard, clock, and other item you need to make an event planning checklist

This section works as the guiding light for your event. Having clarity over these fundamentals will help you seamlessly navigate the event lifecycle.

✓ Purpose and Goals

Why are you organizing the event? Do you want to drive awareness for a new product, build a community or drive revenue?

Get granular over the goal. For instance, if you’re looking to generate revenue, do you want to do it through ticket sales or product sales? Answering these questions will determine your approach toward planning.

✓ Target Audience

Decide who would benefit the most from the event. Define the demographic, geographic, and psychographic (interests, attitudes, opinions, etc.) characteristics of the attendees. Categorize attendees into target personas to personalize the sales and marketing approach.

✓ Format

Are you hosting an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event? Once you've finalized the delivery method, decide if the event is going to be a webinar, workshop, lunch and learn, trade show, or anything in between.

✓ Concept

Study market and industry events to find the missing piece the event will fill. Combine it with event goals and target personas to come up with an event theme or concept.

✓ Timeline

Decide how you'll roll out event activities. The timeline should include dates and deadlines for venue closing, speaker and sponsor onboarding, marketing activities, vendor management, and so on. Have a backup plan in case a task isn’t completed within the stipulated time.

✓ Budget

Factor in all expenses including, venue, merchandise, marketing, advertising, and technology, to decide on the event budget. The budget helps you determine the breakeven point, which can help you plan when to start approaching sponsors and getting attendee registration so you can allocate the revenue accordingly.

✓ Dates

Research the dates of other industry events so that there is no overlap. Also, consider the holidays your audience celebrates to ensure they don’t have to pass on the opportunity to attend your event.

2. Assemble the Team

An event management team will ideally have people dedicated to the following functions:

✓ Event Managers

The number of event managers will depend on the comprehensiveness of the event. A mid-size B2B conference might need only one event manager to look after the event theme, agenda, and speaker onboarding, whereas a trade show will require multiple managers to manage various areas of the show.

✓ Marketing

The marketing team looks after the online and offline marketing activities and interacts with vendors for the website, advertising, and other marketing requirements.

✓ Sales

The sales team looks onboards sponsors and high-ticket attendees.

✓ Coordination

The coordination team deals with finalizing the venue, looking after the logistics for speakers, working with merchandisers, caterers, photographers and videographers, etc.

3. Create Your Promotional Material

The following are the must-have promotional materials you need for your event marketing.

✓ Event Name and Messaging

The event name is a part of the brand identity, and the messaging helps you position the event. For instance, if your event is focused on promoting your core product or driving customer awareness for your latest features and offerings, your messaging would reflect why your offerings are relevant to customers.

For its Dreamforce 2020 event, Salesforce addressed how the event is relevant to every organization grappling with change. Its messaging was simple — reimagining Dreamforce for the world we live in today. Similarly, CES 2021, focused its messaging on how technology is helping build a “Better Normal” by leveraging virtual trade show software to host the event online.

Your messaging is central to your event identity and would ideally provide a glimpse into the experience that attendees can look forward to.

✓ Logo and Event Identity

The logo strengthens the brand recall. Other elements of event identity include fonts, colors, and design.

✓ Promotional Graphics and Content

Create customizable graphic templates and content copies that sponsors, speakers, and influencers can edit and share through their marketing channels.

✓ Speaker Background

For virtual events, a clean Zoom background for presenters reduces distraction.

✓ Promo Material

This includes commonly used promotional material like name tags or wristbands, passes, banners, brochures, swag bags, stickers, media walls, and so on.

4. Finalize the Venue

Consider the following questions when booking your venue:

✓ Vicinity

How close is the venue to the airport and city sights? What are some good nearby hotels for speakers and attendees to stay in?

✓ Accessibility

What facilities does the venue provide for people with disabilities? Do you need to rent wheelchairs and charging ports for medical devices?

✓ Transportation

What are the convenient transportation and parking facilities? Can you arrange shuttle cabs or buses for nearby hotels to pick up and drop off speakers and attendees?

✓ Deals

Can you connect with hotels and transportation providers to offer exclusive discounts to attendees?

5. Choose Your Event Technology

To a large extent, the event format will determine the technology you need. For example, an intimate venue may not require mics and audio equipment, but a large venue will. You may also need tech to promote your event, register guests, and increase engagement.

✓ Website or Landing Page

Depending on the scope of the event, you'll need either a landing page or a dedicated website. It should act as the repository for all information related to the event. It should provide details including the date and venue, registration information, FAQs, and itinerary.

✓ Registration Platform

You may have to go for an independent registration platform if your event platform doesn’t have one. You can customize and automate the registration process so that attendees get confirmation and reminder emails without you having to remind everyone manually.

✓ Event App

An event app lets marketers and onsite event personnel engage attendees through polls, Q&A, and feedback sessions. Attendees can ask questions and post live updates on their social media accounts through the app itself.

✓ Hardware

There are practically endless options when it comes to hardware. A good starting point is to have a laptop, high-quality webcam, microphone, headphones, projector, screen, and AV equipment.

6. Finalizing Vendors

Having third-party vendors work on some of your event requirements will allow you to offload a lot of work. You may need to outsource some work in the following areas:

✓ Marketing

You may decide not to outsource the entire marketing function, but having a marketing agency can help you immensely with website development, advertising, designing, and other digital and offline services.

✓ Setup

A vendor that deals in event setup can help you with booths, presentation rooms, and other event decor. The vendor should take care of transporting, installing, and dismantling the setup without any hiccups.

✓ Food and Beverages

Consider the number of attendees and their potential dietary restrictions when deciding on the food and beverage (F&B) menu. Working with a vendor that offers flexible F&B arrangements — branded lunches, cocktail dinners, and in-event snacks will be critical to your event experience.

Hoppier’s personalized F&B cards allow you to limit purchasing to a specific list of approved vendors such as DoorDash, Dunkin', Starbucks, Uber Eats, and more. Or, you can allow attendees to purchase anything with the allowance by leaving their vendor options open.

Vendors that Hoppier covers to help you check food and beverages off your event planning checklist

Schedule a demo to check out our extensive event offerings and decide how you want to shape your event experience.

✓ Entertainment

Get in touch with local event management agencies to scout entertainers such as an MC, standup comedian, or live band. Ensure that your entertainment aligns with your event theme.

✓ Merchandise

Pick a merchandising partner who deals with event swag, gifts, and other material. The more offerings they provide, the better because it makes the process more efficient.

Hoppier’s customized merchandise options allow you to choose from a wide range of branded productivity, entertainment, health and wellbeing, beauty, and learning and development experiences.  

Vendors that Hoppier covers to help you check merchandise off your event planning checklist

7. Speaker Acquisition

Here are the three things to do when choosing speakers for the events:

✓ Speaker Wishlist

When researching and curating topics for the event, make a list of speakers that your attendees would be delighted to hear from. These can be industry experts, influencers, or practitioners.

✓ Approaching Speakers

Reach out to speakers and ask them to discuss their respective topics at your event. Keep in touch with the ones that have confirmed, and ask for their bio and headshot. Promptly discuss concerns or queries you or the speaker may have. Share guidelines, if any, regarding fonts and color themes for their presentation.

✓ Stand-In Speaker List

In case a speaker drops out, have a list of potential stand-ins with expertise in the same topics that you can reach out to.

8. Driving Sales

It helps to have separate sales teams to drive sponsorship and handle ticket sales. Here is how you can go about generating revenue for the event in both areas.

✓ Sponsorship and Delegate Tiers

Tiered sponsorship packages let you offer exclusive interviews, pre-event ads, onsite promotion, and better networking opportunities.

Similarly, with tiered ticketing, attendees can avail of a VIP networking lounge and other exclusive benefits.

✓ Sponsor Wishlist

List the sponsors that you would love to have at the event. Research the events in your niche to curate a list of sponsors along with their typical sponsorship tier to pitch accordingly.

✓ Approaching Sponsors

Explain the tiers and their benefits to potential sponsors. It helps to have an email and a cold call template or script to convey the right message. Identify organizations with an upcoming product release and offer them an exclusive deal to schedule the product launch at your event.

Don’t hesitate to customize the sponsorship package to facilitate a win-win deal.

✓ Ticket Sales

Along with a sophisticated registration process, it helps to have a dedicated sales team for high-ticket events or to close group deals.

9. Running the Marketing Machine

A woman holds a megaphone to symbolize event marketing initiatives

Below, we’ve outlined the seven pillars of event marketing that are crucial in creating event buzz and driving registrations.

✓ Website

Host all essential information on the website or landing page for the event. The website’s purpose should ultimately be to drive more sign-ups.

✓ Social Media

Use social media to announce new speakers and sponsors. Work with speakers, sponsors, and influencers to spread the word via their social media presence. Create a dedicated hashtag to centralize all conversations around the event.

Track the hashtag and direct mentions so you can respond to audience questions and queries.

✓ Email Marketing

Send an automated email every time someone completes the registration. Use emails to send speaker interviews, announcements, and new content.

Create drip email sequences to keep the audience engaged.

✓ Community Building

Use social media groups and messenger apps to build a community. Engage the community by sharing exclusive content, offers, and discounts. Providing exclusive benefits will make the community your biggest promoter.

✓ Advertising

Run online and offline advertising campaigns to drive registrations.

Use social media, search engine marketing, and programmatic ads to make yourself seen across the internet. Couple these efforts with remarketing and lookalike audience campaigns to expand your reach.

✓ Partner and Influencer Marketing

Collaborate with sponsors, speakers, and influencers to create content. Cross share the content across various marketing channels and media.

✓ PR

Working with a PR agency can get you event coverage across relevant media publications. Features could include a column, interview, or press release.

10. Before the Event

Staying on top of the following six activities can help you manage the pre-event hecticness.

✓ Follow-Up With Speakers

Get final confirmation from the speakers. Request them to share their presentations. Testing the font and design of the presentation during the dry run will allow you to make any necessary changes.

✓ Update Sponsors

Seek details of individuals who will be attending on behalf of sponsors.

You may get asked a lot of queries about booth setup, networking, and sponsored sessions. Keep the responses to these FAQs handy.

✓ Share the Production Schedule

Share the conference schedule (the list of tasks that run-up to the event) with the event management team, speakers, vendors, and venue personnel.

✓ Coordinate With Vendors

Finalize the deliverables with vendors. Proofread the designs of the merchandise, brochures, and event setup items before they go to print. Assign dates and arrival times to each vendor to complete the event setup without hassles. Brief the photographer and videographer on the type of media you would like to have for social media, PR, and content.

✓ Perform a Dry Run

Test if everything is working the day before the event. See if the hardware devices are working properly. For virtual events, test the livestream and resolve lags.

✓ Send the Final Reminder

Email attendees about the event schedule and last-minute changes, share event and live stream links, directions to the venue, and any pertinent information.

11. During the Event

A woman holds an event planning checklist on a clipboard

These five activities will ensure that the event runs smoothly.

✓ Troubleshoot Onsite Glitches

Check everything is working before sessions. If you run into some technical difficulties like internet issues or hardware failure, have a workaround in place so that you can resume the session quickly.

✓ Help Everyone

Answer any questions that come your way at the venue. In case you’re occupied with a task, assign a team member to help others.

Guide speakers to the presentation hall. Help them mic up and set up their laptop.

✓ Facilitate Networking Opportunities

Host icebreakers before networking sessions to get attendees acquainted with each other. You can also host an exclusive networking session before the event for first-time participants.

✓ Share Live Updates

Share social media updates in the form of speaker photos, presentation slides, quotes, live updates, and videos, along with the event hashtag.

✓ Engage Attendees

Encourage attendees to send out live tweets. Ask questions or run polls or surveys to get attendee feedback. You can also include some form of gamification to increase audience engagement.

12. After the Event

These post-event activities allow you to express gratitude, analyze the event performance, and prepare for the next edition.

✓ Event Roundup Blog

Write a blog post to cover key highlights, event photos, and videos. If it was a multi-day event, you can write individual blog posts for each day.

✓ Express Gratitude

Thank everyone via email for making the event a success. Share your event roundup blog posts in the email.

Thank speakers and sponsors personally.

✓ Post-Event Survey

Send an email to attendees, sponsors, and speakers to gain feedback on the event. Ask questions that will help you understand what they liked and how you can make future events better.

✓ Analysis

Measure how the KPIs fare against your goals. Calculate the revenue, profit, and ROI of marketing activities. Analyze surveys to make better decisions.

✓ Update Event Properties

Update the website and social media channels with a thank you note and a word from you, the organizer. Create a separate section for attendees to access sessions, workshops, speaker presentations, industry reports, and survey analysis.

If you’ve planned the next edition, highlight the new dates on the website.

Closing Thoughts

Organizing events is a challenge, but by using this checklist for each activity you'll be able to get through it effectively. You can narrow down specific activities you want to focus on — such as drip email campaigns or sponsor acquisition — and create additional checklists to streamline each step. Treat this checklist as a starting point and tweak it to fit your event requirements.

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