Corporate Incentives, Meetings & Charters

The Ultimate Conference Planning Checklist

Planning a corporate event or conference requires a great deal of organization and coordination with others. One of the keys to planning a successful company event is to work off of a detailed conference planning checklist in the lead-up to your company’s event.

Crossing off items from a conference planning guide will not only ensure you hit your deadlines and stay on track with your budget, but it also minimizes the number of last-minute surprises you might encounter along the way.

If you’re tasked with planning your company’s next conference, take a look at this conference planning checklist and start organizing your next unforgettable corporate event.

Establish Event Goals and Objectives

The most important question to answer before you begin to make your way down your conference planning checklist is what is the goal of your event? Do you want this conference to boost employee satisfaction? Is this conference a way to educate and inform your company’s employees about potential trends and insights in the industry? Or is the goal to prepare the company for a new product launch or company initiative?

Answering this question before you begin planning your conference will help narrow down your event’s milestones and will help you narrow down the exact needs of your conference.

Book the Basics

Now that you’ve figured out your conference goals, it’s time to check off the most important choices on your checklist: date, time, location, and guest list.

Date and Time

When thinking about the date and time of your conference, make sure to keep in mind holidays and seasonal weather. After all, you don’t want to host an outdoor conference in the middle of the summer, nor do you want to plan an event that might coincide with a popular travel holiday like Memorial Day Weekend.

Also, if you plan on live-streaming your conference as part of a hybrid event, pick a time that would be convenient for attendees based in different time zones.

Finally, it’s never a bad idea to have a backup date in mind, in case one of your preferred venues isn’t available during that particular time frame.

Conference Size

Once you’ve established the date, it’s time to narrow down the size of your guest list. The number of conference attendees you plan on inviting will have a direct impact on your budget and choice of venue. Therefore, it’s important to narrow down your guest list to an approximate number of attendees before securing a venue, as you’ll want to make sure you choose a place where everyone can fit comfortably.


Finally, picking the destination and venue for your upcoming conference is a big decision. Depending on the goals of your conference, you might want to choose a local venue close to your company’s headquarters or a luxurious international destination, where your employees can have the opportunity to discover a new place while attending the event.

Once you’ve settled on a place, it’s time to find the perfect venue. After you’ve narrowed it down to one that meets your needs and number of attendees, find out if the venue allows outside vendors (such as caterers and decorators) or if you can only work with vendors from their on-site team.

Establish the Budget

Early on, write down a detailed budget that includes all of the foreseeable expenses of your conference. By keeping an organized budget at hand, you’re more likely to keep your event spending on a cost-effective track throughout the planning process.

Choose Food and Drink

Your conference planning checklist should include several items categorized under food and beverage.

First, start by researching different caterers and vendors for your event. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, pick the one that best suits your needs.

During the research process, you’ll also have to decide what kind of food and drink options you plan on offering during your conference, such as buffet-style catering, sit-down meal, or passed canapés. As for drinks, choose whether you want the event to be an open bar conference or if drinks will only be offered during a networking happy hour.

Also keep in mind that there will be attendees with special dietary restrictions. Make sure to reach out to all attendees and ask them to specify whether they have any special food needs or restrictions that you’ll need to consider during the conference.

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Scout and Book Entertainment

Start off by researching different entertainment options for your conference. You can book anything from live bands and solo singers to magicians and motivational speakers.

Once you’ve decided on what kind of entertainment you’d like to include in your event, add to your conference planning checklist all of the required items when dealing with talent such as signing contracts, securing riders, setting up lodging and transportation, and promotional needs.

If you plan on hosting Q&A panels or want to book a keynote speaker for your conference, you’ll also need to put together a short bio of your speakers and interviewers to include in your conference’s program and website.

Finalize Accommodations and Travel

If your conference is taking place in another city or over the course of a few days, it’s important to figure out accommodations and travel needs for all of your attendees.

On your conference planning guide make sure to include flight bookings, setting up transportation to and from the airport to your conference destination, making lodging reservations for your guests, speakers, and entertainers (try and book vendors that offer group discounts), and confirming final travel and accommodations the week before the event.

Design Event Branding and Logos

The branding of your conference will help set the tone for the entire event. A good branding strategy will also help spread the word and provide free marketing through the use of products labeled with your event’s logo and branding.

When drafting your conference planning checklist, make sure to include designing an event logo, ordering branded merchandise, decoration items such as banners, gift items, and paper supplies such as programs, invitations, and stationery.

Also add to your list other decoration needs such as ambiance lighting, centerpieces, and floral decorations you wish to include.

Web and Technology Needs

An important step when planning a conference is setting up the event’s website. A user-friendly website that makes it easy for guests to register online can work wonders in helping to plan out individual details, such as lodging needs, transportation options, and food restrictions.

Once you have your website up and running, it’s important to start figuring out all of your conference’s technology needs, such as AV equipment, live streaming platforms, on-site WiFi, cable connections, and electrical outlets.

Draft a Marketing Plan

Every conference planning guide should include a detailed marketing strategy in order to maximize brand recognition and buzz around your event.

Develop a wide-ranging social media campaign across several platforms to promote your conference speakers, talks, and goals. Ask your conference attendees to help spread the word through their own social channels and platforms, as well.

Find and pair up with different sponsors in order to collaborate on event expenses and marketing strategy.

Finalize Schedule and Event Layout

As your conference date nears, start checking off final event details such as printing out programs and name badges, securing software/hardware to check-in attendees, figuring out the layout of the conference events, and finalizing event decorations.

Schedule a Rehearsal

Every conference planning guide should include a rehearsal or walkthrough of the venue the week prior to the event. You’ll want to make sure all of your event speakers, hosts, and staff attend the walkthrough so they become familiar with the layout of the venue as well as their roles and responsibilities throughout the conference.

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Finalize Staffing Needs

Once all of the final details have been sorted, don’t forget to make sure your staffing needs are taken care of.

A few days before the event, meet with all of the conference’s staff, including everyone from food and beverage servers to on-site tech support, to go over all of the event details and leave room to answer any final questions.

Provide staff members with a detailed list of day-of instructions including call time, dress code, and individual responsibilities.

Write Up a Run of Show

The best way to ensure everything goes smoothly the day of the conference is to have a detailed hour-by-hour run of show to work off of.

Follow Up with Guests Post-Event

It’s always a good idea to gather feedback from your guests after your conference. By doing so, you’ll find out what worked well and what areas could be improved by the time you start planning your next conference.

Plan Your Next Conference with Celebrity Cruises

Consider hosting your next company conference aboard one of Celebrity Cruises’ award-winning ships. Our team of expert event coordinators will help you handle everything on your conference planning checklist, from accommodations to catering.

Our Always Included program makes conference planning easy, as it includes comprehensive dining and beverage packages for guests, as well as unlimited entertainment options on board such as theater shows and live music.

We have a selection of corporate event venues that make for the perfect location for your next conference and can easily accommodate small or large groups of guests on board.

Even better, when planning your next conference with Celebrity, you can eliminate a number of transportation costs and logistics as all of your conference events will take place on board, allowing your event attendees to walk from their spacious staterooms to the event venues.

Learn more about our corporate event venues at sea on our website. For more information about planning your next event at sea, contact us at 1-800-722-5934 or request a quote on our website.