For years, planning timelines for annual events were 364 days long. As soon as this year’s event ended, the event planner could let everyone begin working on next year’s event.

Corporate event planning has changed. Timelines have been sliced by 1/3rd. Decision-makers make decisions later and later. How do you stay calm when you have 1/3rd of the time? What about 1/3 of the necessary budget with 3x the work in detail changes or additions?

By the end of this article, you will have a better idea of the details you need to execute and the distractions you need to avoid. Let’s discuss how you can get 3x the work done in 1/3rd the time.

Stuck With a Short Event Planning Timeline? Here’s What To Do

If you’re reading this in the heat of a compressed timeline, immediately begin fleshing out your checklist using the guidance below.

First things first…

The best way to tackle a giant problem is to take it one detail at a time, starting with the highest priority items. For events, here are the details to get figured out the right way:

  1. When and where is the event (get exact times and addresses)?
  2. What is your budget? (Your production provider should be able to explain how you can best utilize every budget dollar.)
  3. Who is available (on your team, production-tech partners, venues, caterers, etc.)?

Now that your biggest details are figured out let’s work our way down to the checklist. When it comes to events, the next most important details are:

  1. How many attendees will be there? (Not sure? Put a rough estimate.)
  2. Will the event be in-person, virtual event, or hybrid event?
  3. Will the venue be outdoor or indoor?

Now that the broad details are noted, it is time to assemble a team. Decisions can’t be made without decision-makers. When your planning timeline gets compressed, you need power in numbers. The most efficient task force will consist of:

  • Decision makers from your organization. When working on a short planning timeline, it saves time to have decision-makers directly involved.
  • A quality production provider. The technical details of your event (audio, video, and lighting) are the most complex and time intensive, so let the experts take care of this. Since events are their expertise, a quality production provider can help with much more than the nerdy stuff. This is one of the most valuable details to get right when planning.
  • Other event planners. Someone has dealt with your situation before, so let them walk you through it and give advice. This will cut back on dead ends and save time.

Now that your high-level details are decided and your task force is assembled, you probably feel a lot less stress., But we are not at the finish line yet. Now let’s take care of the fine details.

Don’t Forget About These Two Important Details.

  1. Get on people’s calendars. What’s the first thing you ask when someone inquires about you planning an event for them? What’s the date? The best professionals in the world can’t help you if they’re unavailable. Get on people’s calendars early and often. Don’t allow yourself to spiral out of control with every meeting becoming a fire drill. Set an early, middle, and late overall meeting during your three days, three weeks, or three months of planning. Get that on their calendars. Establish now that you need to place holds on presenter calendars for the day before dress rehearsal, the week before offline rehearsal, or the month before content reviews. Don’t be caught by surprise when you get declines the day before if you haven’t sent calendar invite planner requests further than the week before.
  2. Communicate to your audience ahead of time. How will they know if someone doesn’t tell them? Don’t make the mistake of doing all this work behind the scenes only to realize that attendees have been left in the dark. Make sure you are communicating with your internal leadership stakeholders and external vendors, but most importantly, with the audience you’re doing all of this work for in the first place. Do they know what to expect? Are you inspiring them by getting their wheels turning and thinking about the biggest day of the year?

Recognize Which Elements of Event Planning You Can Not Control

Plan B Versus “Let It Go”

Some variables are just out of your control. These things need to be listed, thought over, and then ultimately decided on whether to make a Plan B or just let go. Don’t be blindsided when these things pop up halfway through your tight timeline. Give them thought early on and either have alternatives or let them roll off your back. For example, what if a presenter gets sick? Audiences and vendors can get sick, but with presenters, the show must go on. So, decide early which presenters you need a Plan B substitute alternative for to still cover the content and which presenters can’t be replaced. So you know which ones you’d just have to let it go for.

Plan for Snowplows

What could snowplow your entire planning timeline? “Snowplow” means push, postpone, or delay, causing things to pile up.

For example, you may have your creative team draft an event logo and send it to your leader’s desk. If they don’t respond within 24hrs, every step downstream (RSVP design, print, on-screen graphics) begins to pile up. Your vendors who had 72hrs to turn around their iterations of that logo now have 48hrs. Plan for these snowplows and set expectations with the highest urgency only where needed, or risk being the boy who cried wolf. Build trust with your leadership that you need certain things quickly. Otherwise, the snowplow alternative comes into play.

Watch for Wrecking Balls

Snowplows you can plan for, wrecking balls you cannot. You can’t have a plan for everything, but you need to keep an eye out. If you’re planning an in-person event and some national news shifts travelers’ ability to come and go, that’s a wrecking ball. Moments like these are when Hybrid Events are the best. Being able to flip between 90% in-person and 10% online to vice versa is really helpful for wrecking ball situations. The same goes for date changes and postponing. It’s much simpler to adjust travel coordination for a small group of in-person live studio audience members than for the entire meeting’s attendance registration list to get rebooked on flights.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Speaking of letting go, you aren’t going to be able to hold onto everything. It’s not practical or healthy, and your people need you healthy for the big day. You might have to let go of some details, like the exact color of the balloons or the font of the invite. Otherwise, you risk taking your eye off the prize. Keep your eyes on the overall goal, a great event for attendees and/or vendors/sponsors.

You have to define and get alignment from leadership on what the prize is, and in some cases, that might mean exact colors or serifs. But in most cases, the main thing is keeping “the main thing” the main thing.

Planning Ahead is the Key to Staying Calm

The event industry is full of incredible stories of crews overcoming the unfathomable in the name of “the show must go on.” In our industry, there is a universal appreciation for those who can stay calm under pressure. Hopefully, these concepts have inspired you to remain calm and use checklists to plan more efficiently. When time is ticking, nothing can be done to gain more of it, but strategizing and taking action on checklist items can help bring peace to your future self. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do what could be done today.

It’s 10 minutes until the start of your organization’s biggest event of the year. The pressure is on. You feel the rush of adrenaline knowing that months of planning and preparation have led up to this moment. Looking around, what is it that you want to see? You have planned and accounted for every detail – that’s what you want to see.. You want to feel confident in knowing your presenter(s) and show flow have been tested and that they are ready and prepared. The mics are working clearly, the lights are perfectly placed, the cameras are in their proper position and your AV production team is primed, organized, and in equal anticipation of the event kick-off.

The opposite side of that scenario doesn’t sound quite as sweet. It only adds to your nervousness if you see the AV team running around in distress trying to make last-minute improvements or adjustments. The mics squeal consistently with feedback. The lights are super bright in some places, and completely dark in other spots. The cameras recording your show are shaky and just barely out of focus. These impressions matter. They matter to everyone involved.

How did you choose your AV team? In-House? Budget? Quality? Reputation? Referral? Or did you Google “production company near me”? What matters in the moment your show begins is that your vision and your message is portrayed with detail-oriented precision for a flawless experience for both you, your team, and your participants.

Your primary criteria when vetting a production company should never be about proximity to your event. The best, most experienced production partners you can find are used to traveling their teams to wherever they need to be — and staying within budget.

The Top 3 Reasons Why Your Production Company Partner’s Location Does Not Matter

  1. Production Companies who travel are often more experienced. Your event will be top-notch, every time.
  2. It’s one of your team’s most important days, don’t hold back on partnering with an A.V. team that best fits your needs.
  3. It takes roughly the same amount of time to set up, tear down, and complete your event. Hiring the right team will ensure this process is effortless and efficient.

There is an immense amount of detail that goes into making an event flawless. If even a small portion of those technicalities go wrong, it negatively affects the participant’s experience. To get these details right, you need a production company with a proven track record of excellence. A team that pays close attention to detail and has experience navigating and preparing for every scenario. For example, let’s say your show is in a local arena. You don’t need a production team that knows that specific arena your event is in, you need a production team that has deep experience with arenas. This also takes an immense amount of pressure off you and your team.

Your show took a lot of effort to make happen. No element should be spared in creating a flawless event experience for your audience. Similar to a photographer on your wedding day, you’re not just going to hire one who is close to the venue. It’s your big day! You’re going to hire one that matches your vibe, one you trust, and one that knows what they’re doing so you don’t have to worry about a thing when it comes to capturing the moments you want to remember. Hiring your production company with this same mindset can enhance your event and ensure it’s everything you’ve dreamed it could be.

You took our advice on the first two points (Nice job!). You hired a production team, regardless of location, with the highest standards of excellence in service and skill for your event. When you hire a production team with additional experience, setting up and tearing down events becomes effortless. Time is money. Teams who consistently produce events of similar scope are able to keep costs manageable even if they have to travel. Having an experienced production team that can optimize their time and effort is a great advantage and extra insurance for an impeccable show.

Your event is your biggest day of the year. Treat it as such. Don’t hold back on hiring a production team that fits your needs. Search nationwide for the right team instead of one who is close to your venue.

If cost is a worry for your event, rest assured that our team at avad3 has a system in place to keep traveling for events extremely cost-effective. Our team runs an analysis nationally to keep our costs extremely competitive.

I’ve met a lot of event planners over my career. If there’s one constant, regardless of the TYPE of event they plan (conferences, concerts, corporate gatherings) it’s that they are, well, planner people. They love to plan! Other industries may have more creative types, free-spirited folks drifting through the year from one interest to the next, but event planners love to make a plan, run the plan, and stick to the plan, with lists.

What’s curious then is how there is such a lack of a standard when it comes to event planning project timelines. How soon is too soon? How late is too late? And when is it time to engage in which stage of planning? We’re not florists, caterers or interior designers, but we can definitely help establish a bit of a planning timeline when it comes to thinking about A/V and event production for your upcoming event. 

The Top 3 Considerations When Planning Your Event

  • It’s never too soon
    1. 30 days, 90 days, 11 months, 3 years, it’s never too soon to have an initial discussion with your A/V and event production vendor.
    2. Nothing is final until the day after the event. If you wait until you “have all your ducks in a row” to reach out to someone, you’re missing out on including them in the collaboration.

  • Are you Planning an Annual Event or a One-Time Event?
    1. Annual Events that happen on the “second Saturday in May” for instance need to be on the calendar of vendors a year in advance. If that date is a constant in your attendees’ eyes, it’s not something that can be flexible and moved if there’s a logistical conflict. Make sure your providers’ calendars are in-sync with yours.
    2. Annual Events also can take less coordination than one-time events. For a recurring event like the Groundhog Day ceremony, everyone knows their role – the Parks and Recreation department likely runs the exact same playbook every year and is on auto-pilot. That makes your coordination simpler because it’s in a groove. One-time events take more coordination because for everyone involved, it is likely their first time working together. 
  • Budget Matters: Talk Money Early
    1. Make sure you have your big rocks in the jar. Budget items like event production can be a major percentage of the budget. These numbers should be set before incidental expenses pop-up in the days leading up-to your event.
    2. Attendees’ perception of the event is often tied indirectly to production value. Knowing at the outset what you can spend on production sets the tone for the entire event experience budget. For instance, if you plan to bring in top-level presenters or A-level entertainment talent, there are unique production requirements that need to be supported by your provider.

It’s Not Just Early Event Planning, It’s Smart Early Event Planning

Whether you’re 30 days out or 30 months out, we encourage you to engage your production provider as early as possible. Any hesitation around specifics, not being clear on needs, or waiting for a formal bid process are far outweighed by the value you gain by engaging professional expertise on day one.

It’s far better to start with a Plan A, a v1 draft of a plan, and modify it with all parties involved than to hold your cards close to your chest and wait for a formal RFP process to engage others. The perceived cost savings can be tempting to pursue, but the greater indirect costs come from last-minute rushed planning and early decisions being made without regard for how it might affect production budgets. Event Production is expensive, we get it! We’re on a mission to make flawless production scalable, serving event planners on their biggest days of their year by managing production.

Holding an event out in the elements has a great way of immersing the audience in the experience. The outdoors also allows for a higher capacity of people. After all, your capacity is only limited to how big the plot of land is. So why is the production price tag typically more expensive?

Unpredictable Conditions Raises the Cost of Outdoor Events

Weather. It’s either your best friend or worst enemy while planning an event. The unpredictability of weather causes a lot of extra planning. Holding an event outside with no plan B could result in it being completely canceled by a pop-up rain shower. Most production gear cannot get wet at all. This causes a lot of extra planning to ensure everyone and everything will stay safe. This increases the hours spent on the project, and therefore adds dollar signs to the overall cost.

Temperature could Impact Certain Equipment

Any equipment involving technology has its limitations. Rain is the biggest factor in safely running an outdoor event, but another thing to consider is cold/heat. For our recent event for UCI Cyclocross, it was cold. Very cold. While planning for the event we noticed the temperature would fall below 20 degrees. Most cost-friendly LED lights actually do not operate below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. After notifying the client, they agreed to use more expensive lights that could handle the conditions. Once again, another addition to the production bill.

The Small Details Add Up

Tents, heaters/fans, chairs, restrooms, power, and even parking are all things to consider when staging an event outdoors. All of these things are included when you have an event inside. Outside, these things are just as essential. They will also add to the total cost.

Generally, people associate outdoor events with a cheap overhead. After all, there is nothing above your head. Essentials that are a given with indoor venues are somewhat expensive to bring outside. Things are also unpredictable. Holding events outdoors can be exciting, but you need to plan ahead and budget accordingly. Need help planning your next outdoor event? Let’s talk.