A timeline is a key tool in planning a conference, as it provides all those involved (event planner, client, planning committee and others) with information about the key tasks. The timeline is your master “to-do list”. Building a timeline for an event, for the first time, can be time consuming, but it is essential. On the plus side, once you create a timeline for an event it can be reused from year to year with just a few tweaks.

Before you start writing your list of tasks on paper, reflect on those who will be using this document. Ensure that your document is presented in a way that is relevant and easy to use for all. For tips on how to create a timeline (or critical path), read our blog post: Creating a Timeline for Your Event.

In this particular post, we are focussing on how to manage a timeline leading up to your conference.

Once your timeline is ready and you truly believe that all tasks have been accounted for; SHARE IT. This very important document should be shared with your co-workers (anyone in your office who is helping with the planning and execution of this event), the planning committee and your client; it can also be shared with suppliers if you feel that this information would be relevant.

The timeline has been shared and all those involved have a copy, but you can’t leave it at that. This document must be referred to on a regular basis. You may choose to review the timeline and its status at each committee meeting or send everyone an update on progress and which deadlines are fast approaching bi-weekly. Decide how you want to keep everyone informed – and do it.

Events happen in real time so your timeline should be a living document.  Update it when circumstances change and tasks are completed so you are prepared if (and when) something doesn’t go as expected. This is your document and if dates or assigned tasks need to be changed, that is not a problem, but adjust the timeline accordingly to ensure that you are still meeting the important, non-negotiable deadlines.

At our office, we have traditionally been preparing our timelines using excel and with some clients we share it via Dropbox, but there are many project management or event planning programs online that allow you to create this document, update it on a regular basis and share it with your peers. Options are a plenty and easily accessible. Do a quick google search and you will find information about various programs as well as reviews from their users. Typically these programs will require you to pay a monthly/yearly fee for usage.

In the end it is still your responsibility, as the event manager, to review and execute the timeline. You are responsible for meeting deadlines, payment dates and calling in guarantees. Do not look to your supplier to remind you that deadlines are approaching and do not expect your committee of volunteers to remember that their deadline to submit educational content is approaching. The timeline is a useful tool and should definitely be shared, but you are still the OWNER.

Read: Managing Your Critical Path: Communicating and Giving Feedback to your Team for a more in-depth look at how to manage the document with your planning committee.