Corporate Incentives, Meetings & Charters

The Ultimate Event Planning Timeline for Meetings, Conferences, & Events

The first step in planning a successful corporate event is to come up with a detailed event planning timeline that will ensure that you stay within your budget and meet your deadlines throughout the process. After all, planning an event includes many revolving parts, and the best way to guard against any last-minute surprises is to think ahead and prepare.

The easiest way to do so is to follow an event timeline that begins at least one year prior to your event. A detailed timeline will help smooth out any issues that might come up along the way, while also guaranteeing all of your vendors get paid on time.

Here are some of the key dates to incorporate into your event planning timeline, whether you’re planning a large-scale conference or an intimate meeting for a few select guests.

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One Year Prior to the Event

Pick Your Date

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning an event is choosing the date. By locking in a date, you have a concrete goal to work towards, and a set date will allow you to start talking to potential vendors about the next steps.

There are some important aspects that you should keep in mind when picking your date. First, make sure your event doesn’t overlap with any important holidays. Also, take into consideration the weather. For example, if you’re planning on an outdoor gathering, make sure to avoid scheduling it during chilly months or in the middle of summer, when high temperatures can also cause problems.

Have a back-up date in mind, too. By doing so, you’ll add some flexibility to your event timeline and ensure you’ll be able to choose your preferred venue and vendors in case they’re not available on the initial date you chose for your event.

Organize Your Team

If you’re planning an event with the help of others, it’s important to assign responsibilities to each person on your team. Make sure everyone is clear on their individual responsibilities and deadlines. Also, it’s a good idea to establish a recurring meeting, either monthly or bi-monthly, where everyone can discuss their progress and any issues that might spring up.

Settle on a Budget

Once you’ve established your date, the next key step is to determine your event budget. After the budget is settled, you’ll be able to start narrowing down options for vendors, location, and accommodations that fit your estimated costs.

Choose a Venue

The next big decision you’ll make is deciding on your event’s location. After you’ve found the one that will suit your needs, find out if the event venue allows outside vendors or if the location already has a list of preferred partners they work with. Choosing from their list of vendors will always make the planning process easier.

Research Speakers

If you’re hosting a series of talks or panels at a company conference, start researching potential speakers and participants that you’d like to invite to your event. Make sure to get the list of potential speakers approved before reaching out to them.

Choose Accommodations

While it’s still too early to start making accommodation reservations, you should start planning on having at least one or two options for lodging for your guests. Keep in mind that many lodging locations offer group discounts, so try to find a vendor that will accommodate your guests at a competitive rate.

Narrow Down Your Guest List

The scope of your event is determined by the number of people you plan on inviting. Whether you’re hosting a small gathering of 20 VIPs or a corporate retreat with the entire office, you’ll need to know how many people are expected to attend in order to adjust your budget and needs to fit the guest list.

9 Months Prior to the Event

Plan Your Schedule of Events

Now that you have your date, guest list, and venue, you can start focusing on your event’s activities. As you work on your event planning timeline, organize a mix of speeches, team-building workshops, and informative panels. Be sure to factor in meals and a few breaks, especially if your event is set to last a full day or multiple days.

Reserve Food and Beverage Options

If you’re working with a venue’s caterer, you’ll most likely decide on food and beverage options early on. If you’re working with an independent caterer, put them in touch with the venue and make sure they have all of the necessary materials and equipment on site.

When thinking of food and beverage options, one size rarely fits all. Therefore, send out a survey beforehand asking your guests to share any dietary restrictions they might have so your caterers know in advance about any special accommodations that need to be addressed.

Book Photographers and Videographers

You’ll want to capture all of the highlights of your event, so book a photographer and videographer for your event date. Nine months prior is usually more than enough time to book your event’s photography and video services.

Millennium Conference Room - The Meeting Place

6 Months Prior to the Event

Book The Entertainment

Whether you’re hiring a popular musician or a local band, you’ll want to make sure you book your event’s entertainers well in advance, especially if they are in high demand. Make sure that the entertainment options you’re considering will appeal to your event’s audience.

Settle on Event Sponsors

If you’re interested in corporate sponsors for your event, start reaching out to them around six months prior to the big day. Corporate sponsors not only help cut costs, they can also help bring in important speakers and networking opportunities for your company’s employees.

Figure Out Event Design and Florals

A well-designed event always elevates your guests’ overall experience. If you want to work with an event design team or florist, book them around six months before your event. They’ll use that time to become acquainted with the event space and iron out final designs.

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3 Months Prior to the Event

Order Promotional Supplies

Whether you plan on handing out branded T-shirts, notebooks with your company’s logo, or a fun tote bag, order these promotional materials for your event at least three months in advance. By doing so, you’ll have enough time to see sample designs and make any changes before the final product is ready, if necessary.

Confirm Guests and Their Accommodations

One of the most important steps of an event planning timeline is to make sure all guests have RSVP’d. With a set number of people attending your event, you’ll be able to finalize catering details and finish making reservations for everyone’s accommodations.

Determine Transportation Needs

If your event is taking place somewhere nearby, then your transportation planning will be minimal. But if your event is in another city or country, you’ll need to start finalizing flights and other transportation needs like airport-to-hotel shuttles and transfer from the event to their lodging.

Millennium Main Restaurant 1

One Month Prior to the Event

Print Paper Materials

Once your event program has been finalized and approved, you can send it out to the printers, along with all other paper materials you’ll be giving out during your event, including speaker bios, name cards, and menus.

Confirm All Reservations

Cross your t’s and dot your i’s by confirming all of your guests’ accommodations, transportation, and dietary restrictions. It’s always better to double-check than to run into any last-minute surprises the day of your event.

Send Out the Agenda

A great way to get people excited about your event is to send them a preview of the upcoming activities and special guests ahead of time. Send an email blast with the event’s agenda and include short biographies for each of the speakers. If your event is taking place in another city, distribute a travel guide of the event’s destination.

Finalize Payments

Go through your list of vendors and make sure all of the final payments have been submitted. Also, reacquaint yourself with the terms and deadlines of any post-event payments you may need to deal with, so you’re prepared to do so in a timely manner once your company’s event has wrapped up.


When you host a corporate event on one of Celebrity Cruises’ luxury cruise ships, our expert team of event planners will handle everything from accommodations to food and drinks and entertainment options to help you create the event you’ve envisioned.
Our Always Included program helps make event planning even more convenient and cost effective, as it includes unlimited entertainment options and comprehensive dining and beverage packages for all of our guests. Planning an event on board also eliminates the need for transportation costs and logistics, as guests will simply need to walk from one venue of the ship to the other.

Plus, our cruise ships travel to over 300 destinations worldwide, so your event attendees can discover new cities around the world during your company event.

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.