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Entrepreneur Network

From a Simple Networking Dinner to a World-Class Conference, Event Planning Takes Time

Guest Writer
Founder and co-host of re_define work
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hosting an event, can be a blast or a huge pain in the, well, you get it. The entire situation depends on how you plan, prepare and manage expectations. So, once you’ve decided that you want to host an event -- how long do you need to pull everything together?

Depending on the type of event you’re hosting (see this article to help you decide what type of event to host) you can use the details below as a general guideline.

1. One month: Networking, client appreciation, client acquisition, or a launch party

Let’s say you’re planning a networking event, a client appreciation / acquisition event or a Launch Party. You’re likely targeting 50 to 150 people at a local bar or well-known venue in the area, and your goal is to engage and enjoy the guests with minimal presentation.

Here’s a guide for the four weeks leading up to the event.

Four weeks to go:

  • Secure the venue.

  • Ask the venue about digital signage opportunities on site and determine and order all printed signage needed.

  • Ensure the date doesn’t compete with other local events that attract your same audience (you can check local calendars for this).

  • Book your photographer / videographer.

  • Send the initial invite to get on your target attendees calendars.

  • Begin to draft your social-media postings.

Three weeks away:

  • Ensure all invites and event registration pages are live.

  • Begin social-media push about the event.

  • Determine your food / beverage menu (let your venue know your expected attendance but ask about flexibility on numbers as the date gets closer).

  • Follow up with invited guests to provide event updates.

  • Connect with any event partners to make sure that have all the details and are promoting as needed.

Week two:

Keep it light -- continue promotion and check in with venue on layout of the space to make sure it fits the flow of the event you are looking to create.

Week one: Get ready to party!

  • Send final push for RSVP’s.

  • Make sure attendees have all relevant information.

  • Add your social-media handles and be ready to display prominently.

  • Pick up all signage, build digital signage if you can use.

  • Prepare your check-in process.

  • Print photography notice.

  • Make sure you have a way to collect cards onsite.

And have fun!

2. Two to three months: Fireside chat / speaker series

For a fireside chat or speaker series, you can follow the four-week checklist from above, but add on an additional month prior to secure your featured speakers. This event will likely target a smaller number of  25 to 75 people to keep a more intimate setting and allow for Q&A and discussion between the presenters and guests.

3. 10 to 12 months: Conference or summit

The best conference planning checklist I’ve come across was published by Brown University and can be found here. Although these lists are specific to Brown University, I found the timeline and main points can be applied across general conference planning with some adjustment. 

From experience, 12 months is ideal, and that list will give you a play-by-play guide of what you need to accomplish and when. In a pinch, conferences can be planned in a few months, but you’ll need a killer team who can engage on the fly if you want to get traction and get return on investment from you time and monetary investment.

Events are a wonderful way to connect with your clients, and there are all different sizes and types to choose from. The more you can prepare ahead of time, the more fun you’ll have during the event itself!

Related: 5 Essential Questions to Ask to Get the Most Out of Your Live Event

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