Master Conference Planning With These Pre-event Checklist Templates
Planning an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event is a significant undertaking with countless moving parts. Achieving conference success ultimately requires careful orchestration between the event team, partnering agencies, and other departments, which is where a pre-event checklist template comes into play.
Why use a pre-event checklist to plan your next event?
At a time when the average employee wastes more than 21 days each year doing menial or repetitive tasks at work, a pre-event checklist can save your team priceless time and headaches. Once you have a reliable pre-event checklist template in hand, you also make scaling your event strategy from event to event more effortless than ever. You can add and take away items from your checklist template as you learn what works and doesn’t.
The benefits of using checklists for event planning speak for themselves. But how do you make a checklist for an event? We did the work for you! Keep reading for our pre-event checklists that will help you optimize conference and event planning.
In-person Conference Planning: Pre-event Checklist Template
An in-person conference can be extremely valuable because it can bring key decision-makers and influencers from different industries and backgrounds together under one roof.
According to Bizzabo research, 85% of business leaders — including senior managers, executives, and board members — think in-person events are critical to their company’s overall success. What’s more, 95% of marketers believe in-person events have a significant impact on achieving primary business goals.
On top of that, providing an in-person conference can look great for your company by positioning it as a key industry player with deep connections to other organizations and business leaders. It’s also an excellent way to generate business leads. And as every marketer knows, leads are as good as gold.
Ensuring an event is successful starts with preparation — and a lot of it. In-person events often take months or even years of careful planning to execute correctly. If you botch the event, your company’s reputation will take a big hit, you will likely lose money, and you may even jeopardize your chances of hosting another event.
Successful in-person events require accounting for various needs, ranging from critical infrastructure to hospitality to security. If you miss an important detail, it can be difficult or even impossible to correct the situation once participants arrive. As such, it pays to lay everything out well in advance.
With all this in mind, let’s look at a few can’t-miss items on your pre-event checklist template for an in-person conference.
Event Brief/Management Checklist
☐ Set the event date and name. Your goal should be to create a name that’s catchy and in line with your target audience.
☐ Check for competitor/industry events occurring on the same day or during the same week. It may be impossible to avoid conflicts, but you should try to avoid competing with other events.
☐ Determine an appropriate event length.
☐ Set an event plan with tracks, sessions, and keynotes.
☐ Work with copywriters to create a catchy and impactful event description.
☐ Determine who your target audience is (e.g., their demographics, business level, interests, and needs). Create event attendee personas to better understand them.
☐ Set audience goals for attendees.
☐ Determine engagement and networking tools you can use to enhance the event, like polls, Q&A, chat, 1:1 meetings, and live giveaways.
☐ Outline appropriate event goals and KPIs.
☐ Set a budget for your event. If possible, have stakeholders share expenses to avoid going over budget.
☐ Set ticket prices for virtual vs. in-person attendees. Do some research to find out what competitors are charging for similar events.
☐ Settle on an event theme and vision that offers value and generates interest.
☐ Fill out an event plan.
☐ Create internal and external Slack channels to enhance collaboration and teamwork before, during, and after the event.
☐ Build a show agenda. You can always modify it as planning moves forward.
☐ Send invitations and calendar blocks for event rehearsals.
☐ Create a contingency plan in case something goes awry.
Venue and Onsite Planning Checklist
☐ Secure a venue early on. Ensure the venue is clean, appealing, and in a great location.
☐ Determine all catering and food needs (e.g., onsite, catered, individual lunch breaks, allergies, etc.).
☐ Determine your technology needs (e.g., Wi-Fi, microphones, lighting, audio/visual equipment, and cybersecurity).
☐ Determine seating and room sets for each room.
☐ Outline a clear agenda with an onsite planner. Make sure to account for arrival, sessions, meal breaks, wellness breaks, and end times.
☐ Determine any additional onsite needs that you may require. For example, you may need a room for breastfeeding.
☐ Create a sustainability plan to optimize waste management and power consumption.
☐ Go through the necessary steps to achieve ADA compliance for your event. For example, you may need a sign language interpreter, wheelchair ramps, and accessible bathrooms. Remember, diversity and inclusion have a critical impact on event success.
☐ Assign onsite sponsor meeting rooms if you need to.
☐ Determine what health and safety measures are needed to meet local regulatory requirements and make participants feel comfortable.
☐ Determine all fabrication and branding needs.
☐ Secure a printing and promotional vendor.
☐ Establish and secure additional vendors (e.g., photo booth, food or drink, rentals, etc.).
☐ Outline any freight, load-in, and load-out needs with your venue ahead of time.
☐ Determine all venue access time for staff and exhibit sponsors.
☐ Define an appropriate deliverables timeline for all of the above materials.
☐ Secure a certificate of insurance (COI).
Virtual Conference Planning: Pre-event Checklist Template
Although it may seem like virtual events are winding down, many brands still hold onto the power of virtual events. Virtual events often provide more rich analytics and attendee engagement data while broadening the audience to include those who can’t or don’t want to travel, individuals with disabilities, caregivers, parents, and others who benefit from a virtual experience.
That said, virtual conferences have their challenges. According to Markletic, the average no-show percentage for virtual events is now 35% — a no-show rate higher than for in-person events. Once people engage with the virtual experience, you may need to fight to hold their attention. If you don’t engage and interact with your audience, you’ll risk losing their attention to other websites and applications. Additionally, according to Markletic’s report, 38% of marketers encounter technical problems during virtual events. As such, ensuring your platform and network can support a virtual event before the big day is vital.
Learn How To Choose the Best Video Tools and Strategy for Your Virtual or Hybrid Event
Virtual Planning Checklist
☐ Secure a reliable hybrid or virtual platform. Survey the market and demo different platforms to find one that is a solid fit.
☐ Determine any virtual technology needs you may require.
☐ Create a backup technology plan for video, streaming, and speakers.
Event Assets Checklist
☐ Work with your designers to create a high-resolution event logo.
☐ Design and launch an event website. Most likely, you won’t have to create a mobile application for a virtual event.
☐ Create an event favicon for your website.
☐ Create impactful email banners, social media banners, and paid ads to promote your event.
Event Presentations Checklist
☐ Create a slide deck template for all presentations.
☐ Design virtual production slides.
Roles and Responsibilities Checklist
☐ Fill out a responsibility assignment matrix, or RACI matrix, to outline roles and responsibilities.
☐ Find and appoint a charismatic and knowledgeable emcee.
☐ Appoint session moderators. These folks should ideally be subject matter experts who are comfortable talking in front of crowds.
☐ Appoint Q&A moderators to help manage requests during the event.
Attendee, Speaker, Sponsors, and Partner Prep Checklist
☐ Determine sponsorship opportunities for your event.
☐ Create a list of potential sponsors that you want to include and send proposals.
☐ Create a list of potential speakers.
☐ Reach out to potential speakers and confirm their participation.
☐ Collect speaker/sponsor assets, including logos, biographies, and headshots. Double-check name spellings and pronouns for accuracy.
☐ Build speaker portals with key tasks and resources.
☐ Provide speaker management training and tools.
☐ Onboard speakers, sponsors, and partners to the virtual platform.
☐ Provide speaker management training and tools for the virtual platform.
☐ Draft and finalize copy for all sessions and keynotes in advance.
☐ Design slide decks for each session/event.
☐ Design virtual production backgrounds and frames.
Event Promotion Checklist
☐ Build out a promotion campaign plan.
☐ Create UTM links for social tracking, emails, and go-to-market teams to promote in 1:1 emails.
☐ Design and draft copy for social media. Determine which channels you want to use.
☐ Promote the event on owned, paid, and other marketing channels.
☐ Create event pages on LinkedIn and Facebook.
☐ Draft event emails.
☐ Schedule all event emails.
Hybrid Conference Planning: Pre-event Checklist Template
We know what you’re thinking: I can mash up the virtual and in-person pre-event checklists for my hybrid conference! And you definitely can, but there are some unique challenges that come with a hybrid event, particularly around engagement and creating equitable experiences for your in-person and virtual audiences.
You’ll need the pre-event in-person and virtual checklists, without a doubt, but you’ll also want to add some additional items to your checklist.
For example, you’ll need to ensure that your event management software offers networking and 1:1 meeting scheduling between audiences. You’ll also want to ensure your event platform allows virtual and in-person attendees to engage with one another in chats, breakout rooms, and so on.
Additionally, you’ll need to segment your pre-event marketing communications to cater to your different audiences. You don’t want to tell your virtual attendees that you can’t wait to see them at the conference center when they’ll be attending in your virtual venue, right? Be sure you’ve set up smart automations to ensure a fully personalized experience for each attendee group.
Lastly, if you’re planning on virtual speakers, start booking meetings for walk-throughs to ensure a seamless experience for all attendees and speakers — no matter where they’re tuning in from.
Get Started With In-person, Virtual, and Hybrid Conference and Event Planning Kits
Now that you have some solid pre-event checklist templates, you’re probably wondering where the day-of-event and post-event checklists are, right? We’ve built comprehensive conference planning kits, each featuring fully loaded and customizable checklists to help you before, during, and after your event. Download them now:
- In-person Event Production Kit
- Hybrid Event Production Kit
- Virtual Event Production Kit
- BONUS: Webinar Production Kit
For even more event planning guides, kits, and templates, check out our resource library.