Meeting and event planning is a highly stressful, fast-paced occupation. No part of the process is easy. But in order to really understand it, the ebbs and flows must be examined. Be forewarned, though—you might feel your shoulders tense just from reading about the frenzy.
When does crunch time begin? The general rule of thumb is there is an eight-week time frame for a small event (200–400 attendees), around a four-month frame for a medium-size event (400–800) and six months to a year for a large-scale event (800 or more). Here is a small-scale example.
1. Build a Blueprint
Time frame: eight weeks prior to event
Stress level: ???
Incoming—you’ve got a meeting or an event to plan! It’s time to jump right in, because the race against your calendar has begun. The amount of items you’ll be juggling becomes clear at this point. And you’ll find yourself compelled to answer the most crucial, fundamental questions: why and how.
It’s also time to set up those goals and objectives, identify your attendees and draw up a budget. It’ll be busy, but least the stress-o-meter isn’t too high yet; it’s more about big pictures, lists and plenty of excel sheets.
2. Make It Sparkle
Time frame: six to seven weeks prior to event
Stress level: ??
This is perhaps the most fun and creative part. It’s time to embody your inner artist for the relentless pursuit of inspiration. Flipping through options and forming a general itinerary will pump up the serotonin. You’ll also conjure up ways to truly stand out and align your vision with the client’s. It’s early enough that no major problems have reared their ugly head yet. But don’t get lost in the daydream.
3. Get Down to the Nitty-Gritty
Time frame: four to six weeks prior to event
Stress level: ????
It’s time to buckle down and crank out the details. Timeline, budget, specific venue, caterer, schedule, speakers, entertainment, risk management, marketing and promotion should be moving along. Specific goals and timelines need to be drawn up—and met. Right now, your hands are tied and your crazy busy. The last thing you want is to hear even a peep from the client.
Exactly how will you manage the balancing act? Cue the event binder.
4. Cover Your Bases
Time frame: one to four weeks prior to event
Stress level: ?????
Try not to let the stress entirely consume you. No matter how much you prepared, time seems to be slipping away, fast. It all needs to be wrapped up, but a 24-hour day no longer feels sufficient. Production coordination, contracts, logistics, personnel and a detailed site plan are expected to be tweaked to perfection—but we all know that can never be done.
Aren’t you glad you made a plan B? If you made a plan C, you’ll be even happier. Kudos to any planner rock stars who find time to sleep, eat and stay calm during this time.
5. Reflect and Evaluate
Time frame: one to two weeks after event
Stress level: ?
Ah, take a deep breath, the storm has passed. However, in a big way, the cycle still lingers through this stage. Fortunately, it’s the least stressful of all. You’re tasked with collecting feedback from both your client and attendees. Also, take some quality time to review your performance and end product. You’re gearing up for the next battle, and it will probably arrive sooner than you think!