A decision has been made to host a conference or an event; what do you do and when?
You’ve been asked to help organize your association or charities’ upcoming event and the easiest way to keep track of all that needs to be done is to create a timeline. This is a checklist (that can become very large) that lists what you need to do when organizing your event.

There is some good news: each event will have a similar list of major components:

  • Budget
  • Registration
  • Venue
  • Sponsorship
  • Print material for delegates
  • Online materials
  • Signage
  • Technical Requirements (AV, lighting, sound)
  • Speakers/Presenters/Entertainers
  • Menus/Onsite details (trust me, food is always a big thing)

Once your list of items is complete you can begin to break each component down even more. This gives you a great idea (and makes you start to see the event as pieces of a whole) of what steps are associated with each major event component.

Here’s an example of one component to give you a sense of how this works – signage:

  • When do you need signage in place? (Not sure, but the event starts at noon on Wednesday).
  • Are there any external factors that will influence getting the signs in place? (Yes, there will be signs to hang both sides of the stage with lighting focused on them.)
  • Does this require time? (Yes, we have the venue the day before for set up. They will probably be hung then.)

Now that you’ve determined you need the signage delivered to the venue at least the day before the event, decide what steps need to be considered to get the signage created (working backwards): delivery time, print time, sponsor review/approval, edits, committee review and design.

Remember some of these steps rely on someone else’s decisions or schedule and you’ll want to make note of that.

Do this for each of the major components listed above and for any other piece you don’t want to forget or that has hard deadlines.

When you’ve got most of the components broken into their respective sub-categories, assign a person to each listed item. If possible use names or committee titles. This is a great way to show a committee or person that the work they do is not only integral to the event but that each piece relies on the other.

Lastly, add a column to keep track of what has been completed. It’s a great feeling to mark something as complete and cross it off.

Don’t be daunted by a large list. If it suddenly becomes overwhelming, step back for an hour or a day. You’re creating a living document and when you create a complete event timeline everything will feel more manageable. You’ll be able to manage your progress AND demonstrate all that was involved in the planning of the event.