Meeting and Tradeshow production schedules are built backwards. At the start there are a lot of unknowns – theme, graphics, content, presenters, staging design, guest speakers, breakouts and so much more.
One thing that is known for sure is that 200 or 500 or 5000 attendees are showing up at a certain place on a certain date, and you better be ready to say “Doors Open.”
In the beginning, creating a spreadsheet that shows deliverables, schedule, and budget is basic and crucial. The spreadsheet should assign responsibility for each deliverable, and include a deadline date for completion. As the event planning moves forward, and one line item changes, others do too.
Time is your friend in the beginning as you can chart out what needs to be done by whom, and by what date. At this time you can build buffer time into the schedule to accommodate for minor delays.
But time becomes your greatest enemy when the schedule is thrown off and suddenly there are too many items to execute in too little time without the adequate resources. Pile on labor, prioritize needs, eliminate wants. Profit margins erode, budgets soar.
The process can be as memorable as the final event. You are expected to have the event up and running – that’s why you were hired. You had a plan to accommodate changes along the way. But, by missing a few critical deadlines, 18hr. pre-event workdays turn into misery and exhaustion on-site. Processes devolve into a frantic dash rather than a smooth, meeting planning machine.
The End Comes First. From the very first kick-off meeting, attendee experience and engagement should be forefront. Keep focus on the day and time, and plan backwards to achieve every meeting element. Be sure to build in time to deal with change, take on additional elements, and fix the inevitable problems.