An Executive Assistant Event Planning Resource For You
As an executive assistant tasked with planning an event, organization and communication are key. Your role in the event planning process is to be the energy supplier and internal gears pushing the process along. If you forget to oil the gears or if something unexpected falls into the machine, things can take a turn for the worst.
Fortunately, there are wonderful free digital resources to help you prepare, plan, and execute an event as smoothly as possible–this is one of them!
With so many moving parts, we highly recommend leaving event planning in the hands of an event planner. Good events take time. Coordinating with various internal and external contacts to pull the strings together and check off every detail from the to-do list is best given to one key point of contact. But, when that doesn’t work for your business, an executive assistant can typically take on the role.
We’ve put together an executive assistant event planning timeline that you can utilize to keep you on track and paying attention to every detail along the way.
Confirm The Date
One of the first steps you should take when planning an event is scheduling it on the calendar, or at least get a general idea of when the event will take place. Anticipate some back and forth here, as finding a date that works for everyone involved can take some time. Ultimately, it’s best to have a specific date in mind. This comes especially handy when reaching out to and booking a venue and catering service, but if you haven’t solidified one yet, ask your boss for a general estimate of the date, month, or time of year for the event.
From networking events to holiday parties to company-wide retreats, the energy of the event is always influenced by the time of year it falls into. As an event planner, you’re potentially choosing a theme, shopping for decorations, booking a venue, speaker, music, etc.—which can all be different based on the time of year. For example, you probably want to steer clear of an outdoor venue in the middle of December. Food is another thing that is very weather and season-dependent. Not only are some ingredients seasonal, but what we eat at events in October looks different from that of June.
Now that you’ve figured out your date, here’s a timeline of when to get started on various event planning details. It’s never too early to start the planning process. In fact, if you know a year ahead of time, start planning! It will only make things easier as you go along.
12 Months Out
We call this the brainstorming stage. This is when you’ll want to build out your dream event. In order to know what your dream event looks like, it’s a good idea to ask your management team what they envision. How do they want attendees to feel? What are the key points this event should touch on? Is this a black-tie event or are we going business casual? How many people will be invited? Will there be kids?
Once you’ve answered these questions, build out a mood board. Pinterest, magazines, and a simple Google search are great places to source inspiration. Creating something visual will help you figure out what aesthetic you’re after and may highlight certain features that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
From the mood board, you can then decide which type of venue would work best for the given event. A mood board helps you narrow down your search so that can have an easier time later on along the process.
Develop Your Budget
Every event has a budget, and knowing yours from the get-go helps keep reality in check and sets boundaries that make the process flow in a responsible manner. Make sure your budget receives approval before making big financial decisions, and go into your event and catering meetings with that budget in mind so that you are not grasping for unrealistic straws.
Pull A Guest List Together
Depending on the event, you may be sending out invitations to guests. For instance, if you’re facilitating a networking event, you’ll want to gain a general idea of how many attendees to expect. When it comes time to book a venue and hire a catering service, having this information is necessary.
While you’re at it, make sure you’re checking that everyone on your list has proper contact information. Are you sending invites via email? Or will you need their physical address for letter invitations?
Develop Event Goals and a General Outline
As far in advance as twelve months sounds, it’s funny how events feel like they sneak up on you. To proactively avoid last-minute surprises, work with your team to build out event goals and create some structure to the event’s agenda. While it’s good to remain flexible, building some structure ensures that your whole team will be on the same page rather than thrown off by something they weren’t anticipating.
With this information, jot down any special equipment you’ll want on the day of your event. Are you in need of microphones and speakers so that all of your guests can hear you? Will you want music in the background? Are you planning on projecting a slideshow or sharing a video? Use your outline to help you figure out what amenities your event will benefit from.
Six to Eleven Months Out
This next phase of event planning is when the gears really start to churn. The good news is that you’re well on your way to a successful event. With a solid foundation laid out beneath you, your brainstorming and early planning have already lifted some weight from your shoulders.
Book Your Venue
While the best venues ask the right questions, it’s helpful to know most of what you want from a venue going into the conversation. Since you’ve already figured out how many guests you plan on hosting, which amenities you’re looking for, and how much flexibility you have financially, you’re well equipped.
Here at The Centre Escondido, our conference room and venue spaces can accommodate groups both big and small and can be set up to fit your needs. We offer amenities like drop-down screens with Apple TV, AV capabilities, a virtual golf simulator for breakout sessions, and the opportunity to grab coffee or lunch at Culture Craft Coffee & Espresso and Vintana Wine + Dine. Not all venues are the same though. Ask about amenities upfront and be clear about the objectives of your corporate event so that the venue team can make custom suggestions for you.
Source and Book Vendors
Great vendors tend to book out months in advance. If you have a specific catering service, invitation company, video or photography production studio, speakers, or entertainment in mind, reach out to them as soon as you can. Booking them far in advance allows you to check off another item on your to-do list and gives you extra time to work with them on curating the best experience possible.
And, if you think you can hold off ’til last minute, we are going to ask you to rethink that. Not every DJ, photobooth, etc. are created equal, and the great ones get booked up quickly. If you are not sure who to work with, your venue team should have some great suggestions for you to check out!
Finalize Your Guest List
Since sending out invitations is just around the corner, now is the time to triple-check your guest list and make sure you have the right contact information. Before you press Send All, make sure you first run the list by anyone on your team who may first want to look it over and approve of everyone.
Source and Book Hotel Accommodations
If guests are taking the time to travel far to attend your event, organizing hotel accommodations is the courteous thing to do. Talk to potential venues to see if they have partnerships with hotels in the area. Hotel accommodations can be a great selling point for venues, and they’ll often take much of the organization off your hands.
Even if paying for and booking out rooms for all of your guests is not realistic, most hotels offer room blocks that will allow your guests to stay in close proximity at a discounted rate.
Three to Six Months Out
While you haven’t quite picked up enough speed for liftoff, the gears are certainly in motion by now. There’s still work to be done, but take a moment to breathe – most of the big-ticket to-dos are behind you. Now is the time to focus on details and smooth out the kinks.
Pull Together Presentation Materials
By now you’ve booked any speakers or entertainment and have had time to create an agenda and game plan for the event, but it’s also important to make these pieces look as good as they can. This means designing programs for guests, crafting creative copy to send out with the invites, and beginning to build out any presentations or other materials attendees will be looking at on the day of.
Order Invitations and Decorations
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: it’s so much better being overprepared than cramming everything in last minute–this is the whole reason why your team has given you the event planning reigns and left you to it anyway, right?
So, while some supplies may arrive a bit early, you never know when something will become back-ordered. Make sure you’re ordering your invitations and decorations within this window of time.
Finalize the Catering Menu
There’s nothing worse than a room of hangry people with no food in sight. Prevent this by confirming your catering menu well in advance. Think about the needs of your specific group. Will there be a set eating time? Will people be coming in and out? Do you have any severe allergies to think about? What about dietary restrictions? While it’s impossible to think through every scenario, asking guests to put dietary restrictions on their RSVPs and having a delicious option for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free guests is always a good idea. And, straying away from common allergens like nuts, milk, and soy, can be a smart move.
One to Two Months Out
Roll up your sleeves because things in the event planning world are about to heat up. With the big day fast approaching, your role will become more client-facing (clients as in attendees). Invitations are going out, so prepare for some customer-service-related inquiries and interactions.
Send Out Invites
Signed, sealed, and soon-to-be-delivered, make sure that you’re sending out event invitations with enough cushion time for guests to RSVP and book any accommodations necessary. This cushion time is subjective to the event you’re putting on and the people you’re inviting. Take another look at your guest list contact information to see where guests are coming from to help you better assess the situation.
Venue Walk Through
If you’re hosting a large event, or maybe are planning to bring in a lot of decorations, tables, and other moving parts, consider setting up a time to walk through the venue to help visualize what goes where. While there, ask the team for a space layout so that you can see how the room will be set up, and assess if there is enough space for all of your goals. You would be surprised by how much the seating style impacts the guest experience.
One Month Out
With four weeks left to go, you’ll want to leave no details behind or forgotten. Use these hours to sort out the details.
Send Out The Schedule
To give any participants or stakeholders in this event some time to prepare, make sure you’re finalizing the agenda and letting them know the official game plan. Speakers should know when they’re going to be called up to the front of the room, and your team should know how they can play a part in helping you the day of.
While letting go of control can be hard for some, delegating tasks is a great way to utilize your team. What are some needs you’ll have the day of? How can others help you stay organized and on track? Figure out what you need and be transparent about how others can help you.
Organize Seating Arrangements
Not all events require this step, but if you’re planning breakout sessions or are trying to introduce people to new faces, pulling together a seating chart is a good idea. Now that you know who’s attending, consider using a seating chart to ensure that everybody will feel comfortable and welcome at their table.
Re-Confirm Vendors, Speakers, Entertainment, and Catering
Not everyone is thinking about your event as much as you are, so it’s always a good idea to re-confirm your status and orders with various vendors, speakers, entertainment, and catering companies. If you haven’t touched base in a while, reach out to them and make sure that they have their dates, times, and orders correct.
While we’re on the topic of reconfirming orders and statuses, follow up with your venue to ensure that they’ve reserved the AV equipment and other amenities that you had wanted.
Wahoo! You’ve nearly made it to the finish line, but your job is not done yet. Today may feel like a whirlwind, but take pride in your ability to successfully pull everything off, and leave room for forgiveness and understanding when things may not go as planned. A lot of what happens today is out of your control, so take some deep breaths and accept whatever comes your way.
Here are a few tips to help the day run smoothly.
Did you tell your team to show up early to help set up the event? Arrive earlier than they do. Give yourself as much time as you can to set up and feel prepared for attendees. This will also give you a good cushion for troubleshooting any technical challenges and frees you up to think on your feet to pivot if needed.
Check In With Your Team
If you’ve handed some jobs off to others, make sure you’re carving out time to check in with them and answer any questions they may have. Your job is to let them know how they can make the biggest positive impact and be of assistance to you, but don’t assume they’ll know what they need to do without you telling them first.
By this point, consider your vendors, catering service, speakers, and any other event stakeholders a part of your team, too. Check in with them to make sure they feel comfortable, informed, and prepared to play out their role.
Enjoy The Day
And finally, don’t forget to take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Hard work pays off, and with so much pre-production work behind you, the day should run smoothly. Don’t forget to give yourself time to experience the event for yourself, connect with others, and celebrate a job well done.
The Centre truly is a remarkable venue for gathering, connecting, and creating. Our team of event coordinators are ready to help you roll out the red carpet and put on an unforgettable event, reach out to us here to get started.