The events industry has been hard hit by COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions, and today’s conferences and corporate gatherings may still look different from pre-2020 events. However, this adaptable industry has been able to adjust, offering virtual or hybrid formats as event-goers’ demands change.

Fortunately, hybrid formats offer organizers like you plenty of flexibility in how you plan and deliver your event. Plus, streaming opportunities allow you to potentially expand your conference’s reach. As a result, now is a great time to get creative and boost engagement as the demand for hybrid and virtual events soars. Use this conference planning checklist to get organized and maximize your event’s success.

Getting started: 8 – 12 months out

In this phase of the event planning process, you’ll generate ideas and lay the foundation for success. In-person events require early planning so that you can secure your location and vendors before they’re booked up. If you’re also planning to offer a hybrid option, preparing for the hybrid part of your corporate event might not take as long, so focus on the in-person elements of your event first. Keep in mind, however, that special considerations must be made for a hybrid event, including setting up technology for streaming and selling tickets, so don’t wait until the last minute to plan that side of your event. Your organizing corporate events checklist should consider both sides of your hybrid event.

1. Establish your goals and objectives

  • What is your conference or corporate event’s purpose?
  • How many people do you want to attend in person? Watch your livestream?
  • If your event must turn a profit, how much do you want to make?
  • How much will tickets cost?
  • Where will you host your event?
  • Will your company event be in person or hybrid?
  • What are the pros and cons of each type of event?

2. Put together a rough budget

3. Choose a format and theme

  • Brainstorm formats that will fit your goals. This is when your event objectives come in. There are different types of corporate events, and you must consider the best framework to achieve your event’s purpose. Would a tradeshow be too big for the number of intended attendants? Could you convey your ideas in a smaller conference or dinner setting?
  • Outline who’s attending your conference or corporate event and select a theme that resonates with your audience. Your theme sets the tone and will drive all your planning decisions. The right theme attracts attendees and builds your business’s brand.

4. Choose a location, a venue, and vendors

  • What geographic area is best for your event?
  • How many people will be attending your event?
  • Do you need to provide WiFi?
  • Does the venue have the infrastructure you need?
  • Are there local vendors you can rely on?
  • Can you set up the venue to allow attendees to maintain a safe social distance?
  • Can the venue accommodate safety protocols like one-way foot traffic and large rooms that minimize overcrowding?

5. Select a date

  • Choose an optimal date and a second-best for backup when getting sign-off, and maybe even a third date — just in case.

6. Research speakers

  • Research speakers who have spoken at company events similar to yours.
  • Compile a list of your ideal speakers.
  • Determine your value proposition to potential speakers before reaching out.
  • Contact your ideal speakers and invite them.
  • Identify any other entertainment ideas you can add.

7. Start your sponsor search

  • Determine what kind of activations you can offer. Will you have livestreaming or VR at your event? Can you incorporate an interactive component? Keep those ideas in mind when researching sponsors.
  • Look at similar events, luncheons, and banquets to yours and see who sponsored them.
  • Compile a list of your ideal sponsors.
  • Segment attendees to understand their value to sponsors.
  • Determine the market rate of your sponsorship packages.

Getting granular: 3 – 4 months out

With the foundation built, the next phase in your planning process puts the final touches on your conference, banquet, or company event before registrations open.

8. Finalize speakers

  • Sign your speakers, panelists, and any other planned entertainment.
  • Balance your agenda to keep attendees engaged. You don’t want to front-load speeches or have one panel after the next. Think about flow, and what times of day people tend to get tired or want to take a break.
  • Get bio information and photos.
  • Arrange travel and accommodation.

9. Organize your financials

10. Build your branded website

  • Update your site (if it’s a recurring event) or build your new event’s site. Craft copy and images that faithfully communicate the attendee experience.
  • Make sure your website infrastructure can handle the increased traffic during peak times.
  • Make sure your website is mobile-optimized.

11. Begin to promote your event

  • Develop a messaging doc aligned with your event brand.
  • Spark early interest with email and social media.
  • Reach new event-goers with paid advertising and event distribution.
  • Distribute your event via online event calendars.
  • Write blog posts about your event.
  • Create a promo video.

12. Finalize venue details

  • Work with the caterer on approving the menu.
  • Secure A/V equipment and WiFi.
  • Review security needs and plans with your team.
  • Make sure you have special permits, licenses, and insurance.
  • Determine event signage and attendee communication plans.
  • Review your safety protocols so that the venue can accommodate social distancing.
  • Secure signage that highlights these safety protocols to minimize attendees’ fears.

13. Draft a schedule

  • Put together a working draft of your event’s schedule.

Finalizing details: 2 months out

With only months before the big event, you have an opportunity to build excitement and (if you haven’t sold out yet) urge interested attendees to register before it’s too late.

14. Send reminders

  • Engage attendees on email and social media; find creative ways to tease what they can expect.
  • Reach out to speakers, panelists, and sponsors to make sure they’re taken care of.
  • Contact vendors to confirm their commitments.

15. Push promotions to meet your attendance goals

  • Rekindle interest with retargeting, a technique that serves relevant ads to past visitors.
  • Encourage last-minute buyers to register on email and social media.

16. Prepare for last-minute changes

  • Design a backup plan should your in-person event need to shift to a virtual format if required by new mandates.
  • Keep attendees updated on any change in plans due to new restrictions.

The week before your corporate event

Your event is a week away, but there are still a few important details that need your close attention. Use this checklist to stay on track.

17. Finalize the event schedule & scripts

  • Make sure everyone has the same schedule.
  • Get sign-off on any speech scripts.
  • Stay up-to-date with guidelines in case any last-minute changes are needed.

18. Communicate final details with your partners

  • Update the caterer and venue with final registration numbers.
  • Confirm your schedule with vendors, including when to arrive and set up.
  • Double check the A/V equipment and WiFi.

19. Stay in touch with attendees

  • Share detailed information about safety measures to reassure attendees that precautions are in place.
  • Keep attendees informed of any changes in event delivery caused by changing restrictions.

Stay competitive with event planning industry trends

Conference planning checklists can help you stay organized from the early stages of planning, up through the event itself. Smart planning can help you navigate the increasingly competitive landscape of conferences and corporate events — see how Eventbrite can help.