Back to Blog Home

Your Six-Month Event Planning Timeline

Your guide to planning a big event

Engaging digital events don’t just appear. Effective event planning takes a great deal of time and resources. And depending on the nature of the event, the process can start months in advance.

In our recent blog, we shared an event planning checklist to help you identify and manage all the important tasks right up to kick-off.

Here, we’ve put deadlines to each of your main responsibilities over the course of a six-month period, so you’ve got a comprehensive timeline you can follow from day one.

Now, we’re not saying for one minute that you’ll need to follow these event planning guidelines for every event. Smaller, more intimate meetups may only take a few weeks to organize, while larger in-person, hybrid or digital events with thousands of attendees may require a yearlong runway.

Our biggest piece of advice? Have a target date in mind, and work backward. And as you develop your schedule, figure out how much time it will take to complete each step in the process (and add in a little leeway, too). You’ll soon understand how much time it will take to get it right.

Why do you need these event planning guidelines?

Working to an event planning timeline makes it so mch easier to:

    • Meet the deadlines for bringing suppliers, partners, and sponsors on board (they will need plenty of advance notice, after all)
    • Create clear schedules for your staff and all third parties so they know what they need to do, where they need to go, and when they need to be available
    • Better manage your own teams, as everyone will know what’s expected of them
    • Adapt to any last-minute changes or challenges without derailing the event completely
    • Stay on budget!

How to prepare for your event: Your key tasks in chronological order

Two people looking at a laptop and making plans.

Months 1-2

Dedicate the first few weeks to making all the big decisions that will impact your event.

Decide on your event management team and delegate roles and tasks to everyone involved

Do these staff have the skills they need to project manage your event? Think about how you can make sure your employees play to their strengths throughout the planning process.

Establish your goals for your event

Is the aim to raise awareness of your brand, launch a new product or service, or establish a strong partnership with another business? Either way, you’ll need to decide on your event objectives and the KPIs you will use to measure your event’s success.

Define your target audience

Who are you talking to? What do they want, need, and expect from your brand? Knowing who you want the event to appeal to will help you create a clear theme and a winning agenda.

Set a date

Make sure it doesn’t clash with any public holidays or other high-profile company or industry events.

Choose a venue

It’s vital to confirm a venue ASAP if you’re planning a physical event — but you’ll also need to consider where you’ll host your digital event from, too. If you don’t have a digital event platform on hand, review your options. And, if you are looking, make sure you find a solution that collects in depth attendee engagement data and integrates deeply with your tech stack.

Bring Sales Into the Loop

Connect with your sales leaders to make sure they’re aware of your upcoming event. Your initial focus with sales should be to lockdown event-related commitments and establish guidelines for tracking and qualifying any leads generated from the event.

This is also a good opportunity to review how marketing and sales approach virtual selling.

Add in your anchor points

Write a list of all the tasks that must happen by a certain date, like paying the deposit for the venue, for example

Speak to your third parties

Now is the time to talk to suppliers, partners, and even potential sponsors about how they might be able to contribute to your event. Find out how to get sponsorship for an event.

Start developing your event marketing strategy

From setting up landing pages to planning blogs, creating e-shots and filming behind-the-scenes footage, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to raise awareness of your event using all the channels available to you.

Month 3

Two people looking at a tablet.

The midpoint of your event planning timeline usually involves crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s.

Send out save-the-date invitations

Emails or in-mails will usually do the trick — but you might want to also consider sending physical save-the-date cards or welcome packs to get your guests excited about what’s to come.

Agree terms with your suppliers, speakers and sponsors

Now is the time to lock in agreements and fees with anyone central to your event — helping you to kepp third parties from backing out at short notice.

Settle on your tech

If you’re running a digital or hybrid event, you’ll need to decide which digital event platform you will use to deliver your content and manage your attendees. If you’re planning a physical conference or seminar, you’ll need to consider your full production setup, and bring in contractors to handle this if it’s outside your team’s skillset.

Month 4

Man looking at tablet.

It’s time to start bringing the finer details of your event together.

Review the fallback procedures at your event

Make sure you and your team know what to do if something goes wrong at your event. This is only usually necessary if you’re running an in-person or hybrid experience.

If you’re going fully digital, you could use this time to train your staff and speakers on the event platform you’re using and put together a Plan B in case you come across any technical issues.

Get the final versions of your speakers’ presentations

Ask your speakers to send you their final presentation slides. You can use this content to finalize the timings for your agenda and steer any last-minute marketing materials.

Review Follow-up Program With Sales

Sit down with your sales team to make sure they know the program for connecting and following up with attendees. Make sure your marketing and sales teams have aligned on MQL and SQL qualifications from the event for any virtual or hybrid elements.

Explore features to make your event more immersive

ON24 offers an impressive selection of personalization tools to help you maximize engagement and collect valuable behavioral data from attendees’ interactions with your content.

Month 5

People looking at a laptop.

Your event is getting closer – so let’s focus on some logistics.

Start building your guest list

Look at the sign-ups you’ve had so far so you build a picture of who’s attending the event. You might want to consider drafting a seating plan for physical meet-ups at this stage.

Collect and distribute your swag

Get a hold of any gifts, merchandise or prizes that will be handed out (or mailed out) to your attendees.

Confirm your catering menus

If you’re supplying food and drinks for your event, you should always ask attendees if they have any specific dietary requirements.

Book event security

It’s not always necessary — but if you’re running a large or sensitive event, you may want to consider having security staff on hand to keep things running smoothly.

Month 6

A woman gives a presentation to a packed room.

Get ready to see all your hard work pay off!

Confirm event timings and send out the final agenda

Get clear on what’s going to happen, and when — and let everyone know what to expect from your event. Send out a mailshot with the event’s date, time, and program, all in one place. If you’re hosting an in-person event, make sure you include details on the venue’s address and parking or public transport information.

Finalize scripts and cue sheets for your hosts

These will be vital to prevent any mistakes and hiccups that might interrupt the flow of your event.

Double-check your audiovisual and/or event-hosting setup

Test, test, and test again!

Rehearse the full event

If possible, run through the entire agenda in their respective domains (physical, digital or hybrid) so everyone can get comfortable with how things will run.

It’s a lot.

Our handy event planning guide will help you keep your teams on schedule and deliver more value from your event overall.

But as you can see, there’s so much to consider – especially if you’re organizing an in-person conference, seminar, launch, or networking session. If you’re working to a smaller budget or haven’t got six months to plan your event, running a hybrid experience could be a smarter option.

Take a look at our recent webinar on planning and running a hybrid event.