Pre-Production: Setting Your Event Up for Success

Event planning processes and procedures – why they exist and how they help your event succeed.

Regardless of the size of the event, where it takes place, or even if it’s in-person or virtual, every event includes one thing crucial to its success – the pre-production process and schedule.

For Encompass, the specifics of the pre-production schedule can vary greatly depending on a number of factors – the size of the event, the amount of planning time available, complexity of different elements, and the client’s needs or expectations.

Of course, regardless of the scale, budget, and needs of the event, there are certain milestones that every event planning process includes …

Event Planning Milestones

In order to stay organized and productive throughout the event planning process, we split our events into six milestones, beginning from the first call with the client (Discovery), and ending with post-event communications and debriefs (Thank You). These milestones are: Discovery, Development, Preparation, Event, Review, and Thank You.

During each milestone (some of which may take place simultaneously), there are several checklists and steps that need to be completed. Based on the specific needs of the event, the Project Coordinator determines which checklists are relevant for the event and develops deadlines for each step.

We’ve found that these milestones are the key to a well-organized pre-production and production process. They take into account when steps reasonably need to be completed by and the order in which decisions need to be made (logistics can’t be quoted until we know how much equipment is being transported – and that can’t be determined until a stage set-up is confirmed!)

These milestones are also great check-in points to ensure that decisions are being made in a timely manner and everybody is delivering on schedule. If any delays do take place, it is easy to troubleshoot the cause and make adjustments as needed, before it causes a ripple effect.

Pro Tip: If you’re using a Scheduled Payments model (which we highly recommend), it should align fairly closely with event planning milestones.

Building the Event Production Schedule

The pre-production process begins right from the very first email, phone call, or submitted web form – so when is the event production schedule built?

Realistically, the schedule should be built and agreed upon from the moment a contract is signed and before any work begins. The exact steps needed and timeline will depend on not only the scope and scale of the show, but also the amount of lead time until the event. A meeting being planned in 8 months will have a much different pre-production process than one being planned in 6 weeks!

At the very beginning of the pre-production process, the production agency or technical partner will provide a detailed schedule to all members of the production team – including clients and vendors. The production agency is not only responsible for creating the schedule, but explaining what takes place at each step, ensuring everybody knows what they are responsible for, and holding each member of the team accountable for hitting their deadlines and making decisions.

This information can also be communicated and readily available through a project management tool. This keeps all deadlines in one, easy to access space, and allows all team members to see progress as it is taking place. 

A project management tool will also make it extremely easy to identify what deadlines are approaching, or if anything is being delayed. Whether a team needs additional assistance or outside forces (such as venue response times) are causing delays, full transparency allows the project coordinator to address challenges early on.

A Need for Flexibility

Just as all event professionals are used to working with deadlines, anybody who has worked on an event will preach the need for flexibility. Organizational, industry, and even budget changes may make it necessary to change or adjust current event plans, which may seem challenging when working with set deadlines and sticking to strict milestones.

Luckily, in our experience, the opposite is true! Our 2021 blog post “An Organized Organization” discussed how extreme structure leads to increased flexibility. It may seem counterintuitive, but when all team members are aligned on the big picture in advance, it becomes much easier to modify smaller elements along the way. 

As an added bonus, with so much structure in place, it will be easy to identify exactly what changes need to be made to accommodate changing needs or circumstances.

The Role of Change Orders

We’re going to make a bold statement – nobody likes change orders. They can be stressful, result in back and forth communications, and feel disruptive to the event planning schedule. That being said, they are often necessary, and keep everybody on the same page about both expectations and budget.

A great practice is to pre-define the margin in which changes are acceptable, and what necessitates a change order. For example, an event with a $100,000 budget needs to add a rehearsal room – which has a $5,000 price tag. Don’t go ripping up the old agreement and starting over just yet! Instead, ensure there is language in the original agreement stating that changes of this size are acceptable, and make sure the cost has been communicated and agreed upon.

However, if the event adds a full extra day of sessions, estimated to cost more than $20,000, a change order detailing the additional amount, what is included in the budget, and the scope of the changes is completely reasonable and keeps anybody from feeling blindsided.


Creating a pre-production schedule with detailed milestones and checklists may seem unnecessary, but in the long run, it will benefit the entire team.

First, by saving time in team meetings, allowing for less calls, which will cover more productive topics. Second, by ensuring all decisions are made in a timely manner, reducing rush fees or lack of availability from preferred vendors. 

More than anything, it will save everybody’s sanity! Having a set schedule will save energy – not only by ensuring that everybody is onboard with the scope and design of an event before investing weeks of planning, but by reducing stress – allowing the clients to get more sleep leading up to the event!

At Encompass, we have unique backgrounds that situate us perfectly to produce high end and complex offerings. We’ve worked in broadcast television, touring entertainment, live sporting events, and countless convention facilities across the country.

We have technical design experience and a disciplined process in place that allows us to easily scale events and shift from in-person to virtual without angst. There isn’t much that’s beyond our scope and we love the intensity of putting on events!

If you’re a planner working to create an event, seeking help with virtual event technology, or simply want to learn more … we can help! Sign up below to receive our updates (we promise to keep your contact information secure and won’t “overshare”).

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