This timeline was developed for a strategic planning meeting of about 100 people. Six months' lead time in today's on-demand meeting market is often a luxury; the timeline can be compressed into three months.

6 months out

  • Establish meeting objective(s), subjects to be covered, and theme, if any.
  • Determine who is to attend, including local guests and other VIPs, if necessary.
  • Create checklist for all meeting segments; assign responsibility and completion dates.
  • Select several possible meeting dates and sites, keeping in mind local holidays.
  • Contact convention and visitors bureaus, tourist offices, hotel/conference centers, and representative sales offices (on-site, regional, or national), and visit Web sites.
  • For international meetings, consider local holidays and events. Contact the local U.S. embassy or consulate and make arrangements for banking needs, select a receiving agent for shipments needing customs clearance, and determine and contract for other third-party vendors.
  • Check references from other meeting planners of recent and comparable meetings.
  • Select facility/destination.

4 to 6 months out

  • Inform potential attendees of date and place of meeting.
  • Issue media release, if desired.
  • Refine program and agenda.
  • Select speakers and topics, and determine speaker audiovisual requirements.
  • Negotiate and sign facility contracts, including food and beverage agreements, meeting room use, other necessary clauses (attrition, indemnification, arbitration, etc.), and display or use of competitive goods and services, if appropriate.
  • Contract with airlines, ground transportation, and a destination management company, as necessary.
  • Order and confirm delivery date of giveaways.
  • Determine and set up the arrangements for shipping materials.
  • Select photographer, entertainment, and security vendor.
  • Arrange for on-site office and communications needs, including Internet provider.

3 months out

  • Obtain rights and permission for any material you intend to reproduce.
  • Plan and arrange airport arrival needs for meet-and-greet, particularly if security clearance and passes are needed.

2 months out

  • Determine meeting room setups.
  • Order signage.

4 to 6 weeks out

  • Reproduce materials for distribution.
  • Reconfirm arrangements with all suppliers.
  • Send attendees information on meeting participation requirements, and hotel/conference center facilities.

2 weeks out

  • Ship materials in numbered containers (via air express) to meeting site and confirm acceptance and location of materials.
  • Prepare name badges for all attendees.

3 days out through post-meeting

  • Conduct a briefing meeting for your own staff about on-site administration and responsibilities. Review last-minute changes to conference résumé, including guarantees.
  • Check inventory of materials and supplies shipped in advance, including handouts.
  • Meet with facility accounting department to confirm procedures for daily review of charges to master account, and prepare final accounting and auditing report of all charges.
  • Confirm information to be posted on reader boards.
  • Meet with telephone operators and provide list of attendees, highlighting VIPs.
  • Meet with the facility security to review procedures (also meet with local security, if necessary).
  • Review rooming list with front desk and confirm all preregistered attendees and procedure for check-in. Inspect rooms assigned to VIPs and to attendees requiring rooms meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
  • Check weather reports for arrival delays and review alternate plans. Coordinate airport meet-and-greet plans.
  • Coordinate specific times for guest room delivery of any meeting materials and/or gifts for VIPs.
  • Set up private office space and separate registration area.
  • Run separate post-meeting follow-ups with your own staff and the facility, and issue specific gratuities where deserved.
  • Send thank-you letter to facility.