June 28, 2023
By Mike Fletcher

The return of in-person events has, unfortunately brought with it the return of the dreaded short lead-time.

Those planners attempting to shoe-horn postponed activity into the current financial year, or those reacting to C-suite demands for meetings, conferences or training events at short-notice, are finding that venue space is limited and suppliers are now booked-up months in advance.

It’s almost as if event teams have gotten so used to turning around quick virtual events and webinars that they’ve forgotten the time required for in-person planning.

The length of time required to properly plan, design, produce and execute face-to-face or hybrid events will vary depending on the nature of the activity and its size.

For a small event, the timeline may only need to be a couple of months. Whereas for larger conferences with thousands of delegates, the event timeline could run for up to a year, with multiple planning phases and deadlines.

By creating an accurate timeline of every stage and step of planning, event teams can not only ensure that suppliers are onboarded and venues secured well in advance, but there’s also a visible checklist - providing transparency to senior leadership on the planning process so that everyone is aware of what needs to happen and when.

However, before you go rummaging around to dig-out that timeline spreadsheet from 2019, stop to ask yourself what, if anything has changed?

Are you planning to maintain the extended audience reach enjoyed when events went fully-virtual? If so, you’ll need to build-in additional digital elements to your in-person planning.

If your speakers are now requesting to be dialled-in remotely or even pre-recorded, extra rehearsal and recording time will be required, along with longer set-up times for broadcast and production teams.

Then there’s the question of attendee engagement, not to mention lead generation and audience insights.

Having a mobile event app will let you achieve these objectives but again, app development and publishing needs to form part of your timeline.

App push notifications can be used to manage overflow rooms for popular sessions and keep attendees informed, plus a dynamic event guide can deliver updated alerts related to changes to the schedule or onsite issues.

Overall, technology now plays a much greater role in how your event should look and feel. It therefore needs to be designed into timelines before and after the event so that data on how attendees have engaged with your content can be acted upon swiftly, and sponsors are kept satisfied that your offer has provided them with real value for money.

Here’s an example of where technology planning fits into today’s event timeline:

Six to 12 months out

  • Set the event date and understand the objectives
  • Assign roles and tasks to event team members. One of these tasks should be to contact technology suppliers and to understand how their products and solutions can help meet your event objectives.
  • Determine the event budget, allowing for additional or alternative spend to cover hybrid elements.
  • Speak to shortlisted venues following RFPs to assess their technology support, supplier recommendations and whether or not a venue’s connectivity will allow for your proposed event design.
  • Identify suitable keynote speakers, moderators, panellists and other presenters. Discuss with them whether they’ll be in the room, dialled in, speaking from a studio or pre-recorded. Considerations may include the cost and climate impact of having them attend in-person.
  • Develop ideas for the mobile event app. What’s the app’s purpose? Will it facilitate networking, speaker Q&A, session feedback, delegate tracking or everything and more?

Nine to 12 weeks out

  • Aim to sign contracts with your chosen technology provider 12 weeks out from your event. After signing a contract with Cvent, you’ll have a kick-off call with your account team, who will run you through the next steps.
  • Book and confirm all other suppliers along with hotel room allocations.
  • For speakers, moderators and presenters, confirm all AV/equipment required.

Eight weeks out

  • Aim to have your mobile event app designed and built eight weeks prior to your event. You can host it on the Cvent Events App or self-publish to the Google Play or Apple App Store. If you choose to self-publish, you’ll need to factor in Apple and Google’s application windows (up to four weeks) to set-up a developer account.
  • Do a venue walkthrough to discuss camera sight-lines, stage set-ups, production logistics and event flow.
  • Approve programme and content and begin marketing and promotion.

Six to eight weeks out

  • You’re now ready to get stuck into the logistics for the scanners and badge designs for your check-in, and the set-up for lead capture. Allow ample time for printing, testing and shipping.
  • Assess in-person registrations. Hold-off on promoting virtual access to your event if in-person sign-ups are slow. If you’re nearing in-room capacity however, start planning how you’ll offer a different event experience for attendees joining online.
  • Talk to sponsors and stakeholders about how the technology you’ve secured will provide rich data to improve the attendee experience and generate leads.

Two weeks out

  • Final prep calls. Cvent will go over final details, delivery dates, badge layout and onsite support.
  • Launch the event app and begin promoting it to registrants.
  • Collate all pre-recorded content and add to event production.

Event day and beyond

It’s show time! Maximise your investment in technology by using it to communicate with attendees, gather feedback, track engagement and facilitate Q&A and networking.

Cvent offers full event support and will help you to analyse post event feedback and data for more effective reporting.

Don't forget to use your event content to grow community and attract interest in your other event offers by making it available on-demand and promoting it to both those delegates who attended (either online or in-person) plus those who showed an interest but didn't convert as a registrant. 

For a handy timeline to remind yourself of some of the points covered above, download our infographic here

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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