If you’ve ever planned a large event before (or even your own wedding!), you know that the to-do list is very long! When you are organizing a public, ticketed event, the list gets even bigger and more complex.

It can feel overwhelming … where do you even start? What needs to get done when, and how do you make sure you don’t forget something important? Some things, like permits or insurance, need to be done by a certain deadline. Other things can’t be done until the final stretch.

From our years of planning events (previously the concerts at the campground, and now the rodeo weekend on our ranch), we found that making an event to-do list that was broken into mini-deadlines was very helpful. This is so helpful to stay organized and on track. Also, if you’re anything like me, I get great satisfaction in crossing things off my lists!

Another thing that may be helpful when making your event planning timeline (AKA “to-do list”) is to delegate who will do what. This helps every member of the planning committee know what their responsibilities are, ensures nothing gets forgotten, and allows you to delegate tasks to the people best suited to them.

For example, when we make up our event planning timeline, we generally delegate which things Mike will take care of, which I will take care of, and what we can give to other people to help with. Think of how you can best use people’s strengths. Anything that has to do with spatial sense, electrical needs etc. is all Mike’s, because I am totally useless with that kind of stuff, and putting me in charge of those tasks would be a horrible idea. All the tedious paperwork is mine, because Mike uses a whole bottle of white-out before he has a form filled out properly!

We make our event planning timeline like this:

  • 6 months + before the event
    • Includes things like: confirming event dates, booking venue, hiring entertainment, looking for a title (main) sponsor, booking seating (if you require a large number of seats, request a quote as early as possible – large events generally book their bleachers up to a year in advance! If you are in Ontario, Florida or anywhere in between contact us for a free quote!)
  • 3 months + before the event
    • Includes things like: getting permits, applying for insurance, applying for liquor permit, book security, book vendors, approaching businesses for sponsorship, designing and ordering flyers, posters, etc., ordering tickets and setting up sales outlets, creating event on social media, etc.
  • 2-3 months before the event
    • Includes things like: ordering wristbands, sending out a press release, start distributing posters and flyers, start online ads, etc.
  • 1 month before the event
    • Includes things like: confirm all vendors and sponsors (order banners if needed), confirm insurance, order liquor & ice, make/ order signs for around event grounds, etc.
  • 2 weeks before the event
    • Includes things like: print programs, organize volunteer/staff schedule, buy garbage bags, cups, etc. , confirming layout of event grounds, etc.
  • 1 week-3 days before the event
    • Pickup drinks, mow lawn, weed gardens, prepare cashboxes with floats, etc.
  • Day before the event:
    • Put up signs & sponsor banners around grounds, setup bleachers and tents, vendors set up, garbage cans in place, etc.
  • Day of the event:
    • Bring cashboxes to front gate and bar, hold a volunteer/staff meeting, run around and do everything that you realize you forgot to do yesterday… breathe!
  • Post-event:
    • Cleanup, signs down, return everything borrowed, collect ticket money from sales outlets, send out survey, meet with organizers and write down your reflections (what went well, what could be improved), send a thank you to all your sponsors, etc.

Of course, this is going to be a document that is added to all the time. We type ours and then print it out so we can write all over it, and then edit the typed version for next year.

Don’t overlook the post-event reflections… this is crucial to helping your event get better each year. After the event is over, we talk to volunteers from different areas and each other, and then write down everything that went well, things that didn’t work out well and what we could change or improve in the future. Then, we put this list in a file and don’t look at it for 6 months. When we start planning our next year’s event, we pull it out and go over it… this has proven to be a very helpful practice!

Good luck with your planning, and please feel free to comment on this post if you have any suggestions or questions! 😊