Event Planner Making a Checklist
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Corporate Events

The Event Planning Checklist: A Comprehensive Guide to Planning an Event

The Ultimate Event Planning Checklist to Ensure a Successful Event

With 20 years experience heading an events team responsible for running a range of events for one of Australia's best known companies, these are my tips on how to manage a truly memorable event. I also detail a timeline of when each element of your event should happen.

The key to staging an amazing event is the attention you give to every detail. No matter, how large or small the event, a well thought out event plan will give you the control you need over every aspect to make sure you stage a truly memorable occasion. 

The key elements to a well planned event will have, as a minimum are:

  1. A detailed event checklist
  2. A thorough run sheet
  3. A budget that is practical and reviewed often

In his article, we will cover why a checklist is the foundation for great events.

Do I need an event planning checklist?

All types of events can benefit from a checklist - the level of detail and sub-lists will vary depending on the duration and complexity of the events. Typically, events fall into the following categories with some examples listed:

  1. Function : Birthday celebration, baby shower, corporate training session
  2. Half day event : Seminar, product launch
  3. Full day event : Wedding, corporate training symposium, charity golf day, board meeting
  4. Multi day event, including functions : Festival, conference, destination celebration (wedding, birthday) etc

Does an event checklist make planning an event easier?

It is a fact that the event planner's role is one of the most stressful careers there is. But it doesn't have to be that way. A detailed and effective checklist can decrease your stress level and keep you on track by ensuring all of the aspects of the event have been thought through, assigned to team members and ticked off as they are completed. It won't take away all of the stress because last minute changes are inherent in the world of events, but a well documented, implemented and updated checklist will ensure you have all the finer details covered to deliver an outstanding event. Attention to detail is the key! 

The importance of an event planning checklist

A successful event will involve a great deal of detail. It is important, particularly if you are working with a team, to ensure all areas are covered and that tasks are assigned so that nothing is missed. Planning ahead is the key to a great event. Since COVID-19, it is more important than ever to be well prepared. Things such as ordering merchandise and collateral for a corporate event or party favours or a wedding cake need to be actioned well ahead of time to ensure timely delivery.  

The more detailed your checklist, the less likely that anything is missed. This may mean running secondary lists under major headings to cover everything. Changes will always happen. And for large events, aspects may be added as the event draws nearer so it is critical to stay ahead of the detail.

A good checklist minimises error and allows flexibility for those responsible for delivering the event to have capacity for these changes.

When do I start an event checklist?  

Typically, your event dates should be set 12-18 months ahead of time. A shorter time frame may be more suitable for smaller events, such as birthday celebrations, baby showers or corporate training days, but large corporate events and special occasions such as weddings should be confirmed well ahead. If you have several events to plan, it may be worth preparing an events calendar for the forthcoming year. Once the dates are confirmed, start your checklist.

The typical event planning checklist timeline

Whether a personal celebration, a festival or a corporate event, the timeline below lists the activities to consider when preparing your event checklist.


12-18 months from the event

Brief prepared

Program outline agreed

Venue quotes received

Supplier requirements identified

Entertainer | speaker shortlist prepared & quotes requested

Sponsorship "hit list" determined & marketing pack prepared

9-12 months from the event

Budget prepared & approved

Event theme confirmed

Initial run sheet prepared with timings

Suppliers briefed with quotes requested

Sponsorship packs distributed to targets

List of printing and merchandise requirements agreed

6-9 months from the event

Contract suppliers such as your AV team and decor

Entertainers | guest speakers | breakout session presenters contracted

Set up & test registration | RSVP software

Launch event website

Implement marketing and communication timeline, including social media

4-6 months from the event

Send formal invitations to collect RSVPs and dietary requirements

Update run sheet with specific details

Initiate contact with the venue to determine their requirements

Publish full program on website

Finalise production | audio visual suppliers | hire companies' deliverables

Finalise and order “at event” print requirements and merchandise

2-4 months from the event

Advise menu selections

Finalise supplier arrangements and floor plan/s

Arrange any entertainer | speaker travel requirements

Assign sponsor trade display locations

30 days prior to the event

Supply venue with run sheet including initial attendance numbers

Advise dietary requirements

Prepare seating chart

Finalise any travel requirements

Arrange entertainer | speaker | celebrant | MC briefings

2 weeks prior to the event

Finalise attendance numbers

Send a pre-event email to attendees reminding them of the details

- timings, parking, weather etc

Confirm rehearsal times with MC | speakers | celebrant

Confirm timings with suppliers

1 week prior to the event

Thorough check and return of the venue's event orders

Gather any visual presentations for loading and checking

Confirm all ordered printing and/or merchandise has been delivered

Finalise seating plan

Advise venue of location of guests with dietary requirements on seating plan

Day prior to event

Re-check every single detail

Print any documentation including run sheets for suppliers, guests lists etc

Final check of name tags | place cards etc for any last minute changes

Check any deliveries to venue have arrived

Day of event - Game Day!

Arrive early to check set up & presentations

Meet venue onsite contact and confirm timings

Set up name tags | place cards and any other "at event" collateral

Liaise with supplier and sponsor representatives for set up & distribute run sheet

Brief MC on final changes

Review run sheet after each session to ensure timing is on track

Post event

Approve the highlight video

Store photos in an accessible location (usually online)

Circulate an event wrap up with links to share photos and videos (and if a recurring event, announce details for the next event)

Gather feedback from attendees and sponsors


Review budget to check financials are controlled

Review attendance numbers and revise room layouts and seating plans if necessary

Add any new requirements that may arise as the event draws nearer

How do I access an event checklist template?

Event Checklist with Red Checks

Many templates are available to download. But they should only be used as a guide to get you started. Your checklist should be tailored to the specific event and its requirements. Take your time in considering every aspect of the event and what can be finalised well ahead of time to ensure a great experience. 

An example checklist can be viewed here. This list is designed just to get you started on the process and should be amended to suit your particular event. You should expand on headings such as entertainers and speakers or printing requirements so that you have each requirement listed separately to check off in order to give a true indication of what is still to be confirmed.

What is the difference between an event checklist and a run sheet?

The events checklist will keep the planning of the event on track with a detailed list of elements to be confirmed and checked off as they are actioned. It will usually be accessed only by the events organiser. A run sheet covers detail of a different kind. The run sheet will include every single thing that has to happen at the event, in chronological order, and who is responsible for it. The runsheet will be a valuable tool to communicate with suppliers as to what is happening and when their involvement is required.

Should I use a professional event planner?

An event planner can be a very useful resource, particularly if :

  1. You do not have the time for planning a detailed event
  2. You have no experience in event planning
  3. The budget allows

Even though there is a cost, it is often more economical to invest in a professional event planner. They will have established contacts in the industry and can often negotiate better rates through their relationships. Their experience means they will spend less time than you researching suppliers. The investment is quite often worth the savings in your time and budget.