Build a Task List

Are you planning an event or celebration and don’t know where to start? Do you need help with improving your processes on developing an event? Roll up, roll up, you’re in for a surprise… Creating a task list is essential to ensure all processes and design is in place, before digging into the nitty gritty. I’ve found out the hard way in the early days of birthday party planning – getting stuck after buying decorations because they fit the theme, without consideration of catering! Safe to say, finding the money for essentials was much harder than writing a task list – if only I had known then what I do now!

The following insights will give you a great starting point to begin your event planning. It’s going to take some time, organisation and creativity, but by the end of creating a task list you will have built the foundation to designing a truly remarkable event. Like baking a cake, you need to gather the ingredients, measuring cups, mixing bowls and utensils before you have a warm, sweet, spongy treat to enjoy. Consider this as step one – task lists are a complimentary mixture of preheating the oven and gathering the event ingredients. Without it the right mixture, it won’t rise and you’ll end up with a hot mess (or in my teenage birthday party planning days, no budget)!

I wanted to share some best practices on building a task list, to help you avoid pocket money disasters and get you started with the best approach. Sounds boring, you should’ve stuck to the cake talk! Maybe, but it doesn’t have to be boring. This is where you get to be your most creative, dig deep into past experiences where the fun never ended, and really show who you are as an event planner. It’s exciting, nostalgic and full of hope! Convinced yet? Then read on…

  1. Decide your objectives and goals – this will help you stay aligned to your events purpose throughout all stages of the planning process. Having clearly defined goals of the event will ensure you stay on track, you deliver a clear message and it all gels! Write one sentence
  2. Decide your event theme(s) – this could be anywhere from the colours, flowers and lighting you want to see, all the way to the costumes and ornaments that build the fun atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be one theme on it’s own – you could choose to match multiple. For example, pirates in space or black and white horror ball… Granted, these may not be what YOU want as a theme, so get thinking! What do you want to experience or dress up like? If it’s not an occasion for dressing up, how will the decorations look? Write it all down and match what makes sense. Really visualise how you imagine the room, people and food looking under the scenario you build and if you like it, full steam ahead!
  3. Write down EVERYTHING you need – it doesn’t have to be perfect at this stage, just a list of ramblings of things you would liketo see. All your ideas may not make the final list, but you would rather have more ideas to make an impact than too few. Take a small notepad and pen wherever you go. Make sure your phone is fully charged and able to take photos before you leave the house. You never know when inspiration will strike, and you want to have a way to record everything relevant to your event.
  4. Stay organized! – this one’s important. Make sure you collect all your notes and photos at the end of each day in one place. Usually in mobile phones you can allocate your images to special albums. Transfer everything you have photographed into this album, or print them all off to keep with your notes. Buy a ring binder and plastic wallets to contain all your notes and photos at the end of the day.
  5. Spend a good deal of time on writing your task list – it’s not as simple as writing down ‘venue’, ‘vendors’ or ‘decorations’. These are very important categories, and will help you shape the task list, but what you want to record are the smaller details. What type of venue? What location are you looking at? Do you want food and drinks trucks? Do you want a sit down meal? Are you decorating with flowers or lighting, etc.? Once you have your main categories written, you need to spend time looking at the next level. If you don’t do this before researching potential vendors, you won’t know what to ask or how to get the best deal. Trust me, the time you spend on writing your task list will be the difference between smooth(er) sailing and a last minute dash to the finish line. Sail through my friend, don’t sprint!
  6. Be Creative – think outside the box or draw on inspiration from previous events and celebrations you’ve really enjoyed. What would you like to see, and how would you have fun? You need to consider your audience and guests, but if you think an element of your event can sap the energy out of everyone there, counteract it with a fun idea on how to boost it. I mean, make sure it’s relevant to the task, but make it fun!
  7. Plan your team – you may wish to do all the planning and management of the event yourself, but as you build your list you will find that some tasks cannot be completed by a one man show. When it comes to the day, if you are hosting, managing and celebrating an occasion, it’s just too much to handle. You will likely build an idea of team players after finalising the task list, but don’t leave it too late. If you’re anything like me (a control freak), you may find it difficult to cut the chord and trust others to take responsibility for an element of the event. That’s natural, and in no way are you losing control by building a team of support. You can still manage and make sure tasks are being completed, but you just may not have the time you wish to dedicate making it 100% perfect. Delegating the task list to friends, family, colleagues and vendors will alleviate the stress in the run up to and delivery of the event.
  8. Finalise your list – once you have a well organised binder filled with notes, photos and everything else you’ve picked up along the way – start to cull! Realistically, you won’t have time or the money to achieve everything in your binder. What you have written down may not even be relevant to the theme or activity you have planned. If you’re heartbroken to let it go, hoard it away for a future event. It’s not about taking the fun away, it’s about staying focused on your objectives, goals and themes. Fill your boots when you’re writing down all your ideas of entertainment, the food, drinks, decorations… But when you have to finalise details, narrow your search. You’re going to need to spend your time wisely on organising this event, dont waste it trying to arrange irrelevant activities and find vendors who dont match your needs.
  9. Get to work on finding the best contacts and highly recommended vendors!

Your completed task list will give you a temperature for the team you will need to hire and the time needed when planning every element of the event. Your oven is now preheated and you have a list of ingredients to bake that golden brown, gluten free if that’s your thing, warm and fragrant Victoria sponge. Roll up your sleeves and get to mixing… Metaphorically, obviously.

Are there any best practices, templates or critical items you include in a task list? Share your experiences in the comments and help your fellow planners develop bigger and better events!

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