How to Create a Checklist for Planning Your Next Meeting
By Beth Buehler
When planning a meeting, it’s helpful to have a document that outlines what needs to be done and when; a meeting planning checklist. There is comfort in checking off boxes, knowing that various items of importance and deadlines have been taken care of, such as confirming client needs with the A/V supplier and finalizing numbers with a transportation provider. Plus, checklists keep teams all on the same page and help train new staff members.
“We have checklists in place for various phases of our meeting and event planning processes. Some are more traditional (in Excel) while others are automated within a proprietary online CRM/database that we use,” says Nicole Marsh, a partner at Denver-based Imprint Events Group.
Jordyn Valentine, account executive, and Katie Nord, senior event manager, from CSI DMC joined Marsh in providing valuable suggestions for preparing and using checklists for planning meetings and events.
What are some key items on your meeting planning checklist?
Jordyn Valentine and Katie Nord:
- Determine the goals/purpose of the meeting or event.
- Set a budget with client.
- Develop communication plans with clients, venues and vendors.
- Research any special requirements (permits, insurance, transportation, etc.).
- Check COVID protocols in city, venue and within client company.
- Set deadlines for guest count with tours, venues, and food and beverage team during program.
- Secure payment and signed contracts with all parties (client, vendors, venues) prior to event.
- Hire staff (if applicable) to cover transportation or other parts of events so you can manage the event at a high level.
- Create schedule of services for your internal team and client, which includes all details of the event from start to finish (point of contact, timeline, pictures of all items/food during program, etc.).
- Pre-conference with client at venue/hotel for any last-minute changes and meeting the team.
- Have a successful event.
How has your meeting planning checklist changed over the years?
JV & KN:
- COVID procedures and protocols.
- Adapting to change.
- Extensive and more in-depth research when sourcing venues, hotels, tours, etc.
- Adding in more detail to adapt to each specific client. Some events are straightforward, and some events are more intricate.
- Some of the key checklist items are always completed, but the order in which they are listed might change, depending on the client and the type of event.
NM: Our checklists are always evolving and being updated to adjust to trends and new best practices. As we have new employees and fresh eyes on them regularly, we add or tweak elements to continue to make them more comprehensive and an even better guide throughout the planning process.
What are the different sections of your checklist?
JV & KN:
- Overview of event with internal team.
- Overview of event with client and expectations.
- Communication with vendors, venues, transportation and staff.
- Securing payment with client, vendors and venue.
- Schedule of services. Create a detailed document with a timeline of the entire program.
Nicole Marsh: Our master checklist is broken out in sections from initial event/meeting concept all the way through on-site logistics and ending with post-event wrap up processes. It is essential to note whom the responsibilities lies with for each item, as well as if it is time sensitive within the process. We also have a place to note who completed it and the date.
Why is it important to have a checklist?
JV & KN: When you are dealing with companies that are trusting you with planning programs or events that happen for them once a year, you have to make sure that everything is white glove service. They need to feel that this is your top priority and in order to do so, nothing should be falling through the cracks. There are a lot of moving pieces that take place at the same time throughout the planning process, and it is important that you have a checklist to make sure you can double- and triple-check your work.
NM: We’ve found that checklists are essential for training new employees as well as creating consistency in our services from one program to the next. For training, they act as our guide to walk new employees through the life of a meeting or event and how we approach it the Imprint way. For consistency, the checklists make sure that from sales to operations, our team is following the same processes and checking off the same tasks each and every time.
Does your checklist end up being a working document for your team?
JV & KN: The schedule of services document that is created throughout the program for our team internally and the client is the working document. This allows everyone to have a very detailed timeline and contact list of everyone involved and their roles throughout the program. Since so much communication goes on between so many different groups, this document houses all information.
Do you have any tips for developing a meeting checklist?
JV & KN:
- Each client is different and has different expectations and different needs. Adjust the checklist to fit your client’s expectations.
- Organize events and communications.
- Talk with employees in different departments to find what works for everyone.
NM: We developed our years ago and started with an internal task force to brainstorm on the inclusions. We then started documenting our workflow from start to finish, adding in those steps to the master checklist, and have continued to add to and tweak it over the years to make it a very comprehensive tool for our team.
Do you have any good resources on the web to suggest for developing a checklist?
Top Photo: Checklists are a team planning effort. Photo from Imprint Events Group’s planning retreat.
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.