Clever Carly: Planning on a Tight Turnaround

Five tips for planning an event on an accelerated timeline that won’t make you lose your sanity

Hello, dear planners!

After a jam-packed few weeks, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about time. Not existentially, but the time it takes to organize and plan an event. 

Traditionally, most events require about three to six months of planning time. But as many planners, including yourself, have probably noticed, that’s an ideal scenario—not a reality. More often than not, meetings are being planned only a month ahead of time.

That’s a lot of work and stress crammed into four short weeks, but we’ve got to make it work. So, should you find yourself on a similar fast-paced timeline, try these hacks to get the job done and keep your sanity

Write It Out

With so many tasks to handle in such a short time, you need an immediate grasp on what you should be doing and when. Start the planning process by writing out every item that needs to be completed from Day 1 to Day of the Event. Understanding the bigger picture will help you prioritize to-do items, especially as the meeting gets closer. 

Look into Off-Peak Times

Speaking of priorities, a meeting without a location isn’t a meeting at all, so you’ll want to book your venue first, which is often the hardest part. It doesn’t hurt to call your dream venue and ask about availability, but many locations book up months in advance, especially on weekends. Miracles in the form of last-minute cancellations do happen, but they aren’t likely.

To secure a location fast, try throwing your event at an off-peak time, such as weeknights or Sunday afternoons. A Wednesday night gala might not have the same ring to it as a Saturday night soirée, but moods tend to be lower midweek, and your event might be just the thing to cure attendees of their weekday woes. 

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Location done, everything else to go—am I right? Remember that you have a team for a reason, and one planner shouldn’t bear the burden of throwing an event on a truncated timeline alone. So, delegate! Then, set up weekly check-in calls to ensure that everyone, and every task, stays on track. Not able to get the vendor you were hoping for? Should problems like this arise, you can also use this time to troubleshoot and brainstorm solutions. 

Emphasize Multiuse

Planning on a tight turnaround often means you don’t have time for the nonessential particulars. If you can swing it, sure, an ice sculpture centerpiece might be nice—but will it make or break your meeting? Probably not. 

Instead, strategize ways essential event items can serve a double purpose. That is, you know you need to serve food and make it attractive and entertaining—so, is there a way you can do both in one? Maybe you try unconventional plating techniques that mix mealtime and décor or an interactive chef experience that ranks high in entertainment value.  

To be clear, I’m not saying you should skirt the details or limit your creativity; it’s a matter of efficiency. Taking a multiuse approach might not be appropriate for every meeting, but it can help create space in an otherwise crowded timeline. 

Know Your Boundaries

As much as we want to do it all, it’s not always possible. Coming to that realization can feel defeating, but it shouldn’t. You’re only human, after all! The important part is understanding your limits and when it’s OK to say no. For example, working on a tight schedule means that you might not have room to accommodate constant client changes. Respectfully remind clients of the schedule and what’s at stake—the success of your event—if they don’t stick to it.

Planning meetings on a tight turnaround can feel like one mad dash to the finish line, and in many situations, that might be the case. Stay organized from the get-go, and you’ll be much better equipped to handle all of the details. And when it does get stressful, remember: It’ll be over before you know it. 

Plan well (and swiftly!),
Clever Carly