Step 6: Outline Your Project Plan & Event Timeline

Two (of the many) factors to consider when planning an event, but specific to this step are:
1. Holding your team members accountable
2. Keeping things moving forward

How do you do this when all you see is a mountain of to-do’s and no idea where to start? You break things down into smaller, more manageable tasks by creating a project plan and event timeline. 

Here’s how I do it:

1. Select Your Project Management Software 
Just like I outlined in Step 5: Create & Manage A Budget, while there are many project management software options on the market, I rely on the simple, yet effective, Google Sheets for every event I produce. Why do I choose Google Sheets over a purpose-built software program? In case you missed Step 5, here are just a few of the reasons:

- GSuite is a one-stop-shop for my entire team - including our clients and vendors - and the fact that it’s a live document ensures everyone is well-informed and up to date on how we’re tracking in real time.
- I can manage individual access rights for each person between viewing, editing and commenting. I can also lock tabs and set permissions so only those who need to edit specific tabs can do so. 
- It’s easily accessible no matter where we are around the globe. #cloudbasedforthewin
- It’s 100% customizable! You can create a million tabs, set up all your formulas and color code to your heart's content. 
- It allows you to tag someone, ask a question, send a quick update or task reminder and track conversations, without having to leave the document or rely on any project management or chat software program.

2. Create Your Templates
One of the many benefits of Google Sheets is that you can literally design your Project Plan and Event Timeline any which way you like. 

Project Plan (aka My Master Doc)
When setting up my templates, I create a separate tab for every aspect of the event and several additional tabs attributed to marketing, operations and logistics. They act as a one-stop-shop for anyone needing to track, coordinate or work on any element of the event. 

Here are the tabs I use for a standard large-scale multi-day conference.

Tab 1: Program Overview
Tab 2: Detailed Program
Tab 3: Space Allocation & Setup Requirements
Tab 4: Sponsor Management
Tab 5: Speaker Management
Tab 6: Sales Meeting Room Schedule
Tab 7: Executive Schedule
Tab 8: Ancillary Meetings
Tab 9: Dinners & Special Events
Tab 10: Registration List
Tab 11: Attendee Tracking
Tab 12: Promotion Code Analysis
Tab 13: Marketing Plan
Tab 14: Mobile App Push Notifications
Tab 15: Signage Plan
Tab 16: Crew Roster
Tab 17: Event Timeline
Tab 18: Contact List
Tab 19: Quick Links 

Event Timeline
When creating Tab 17, my event timeline, I use the below column headers:

Column 1: Target Date
Column 2: Category
Column 3: Description
Column 4: Owner
Column 5: Status
Column 6: Notes

Once your template has been created, ask each of your event (task) leads including your main vendors to input each of the individual tasks associated with their areas of responsibility, allocate the tasks to relevant team members and assign deadlines. 

Once all parties have entered their tasks, sort the sheet by column 1: target date, and then ensure tasks and timing do not contradict one another. Flag any concerns, tweak any necessary deadlines, and once you’re comfortable with the overall timeline, lock the tab so you’re the only person who can edit it. 

Use this timeline as a guide during your weekly work in progress (WIP) meetings. Update tasks in real time so you can identify areas that require additional attention to stay (or get back) on track.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the 7 Steps to Event Success!
Step 7: Market Your Event.

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