We’ve all heard that old adage: failing to plan is planning to fail.  So trite it almost makes one pucker from hearing it, but all the more so because it’s true!  (Yes, mom, you were right.)  My team and I utilize Google Drive to keep all data, forms, contracts, invoices, spreadsheets and documents in one centralized location, accessible by all.  But as the planning stage nears execution, I often find myself buried in folders and files, some of which repeat the same information.

It’s great to document everything, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and unorganized.  So, a trusted practice of mine to achieve peace of mind is creating a Run of Show (ROS) document just before a big event.  I keep this file front and center in our shared folder and make sure everyone touching any part of the event has access to it.

Additionally, you can refer back to this document for any events that happen on an annual or regular basis to cut down on planning time in the future.

Here’s my method for creating a great Run of Show document filled with all the important info you need.

What is a Run of Show document?

First thing’s first – what the heck is a ROS?  Basically, it’s your game plan – you’re the football coach drawing circles and lines on a chalkboard, but then you export it as a PDF and upload it to the cloud.  It is meant to detail each part of your event, from start to finish, and include anything you might need at the tip of your fingers at any given moment for the duration of the big day (or in some cases, days).

I’ll pause here and note that a ROS is not only beneficial for corporate event planning and marketing.  When I went to Mexico a few months ago, I produced one and printed a few copies for my group.  I knew our phones wouldn’t be as reliable as usual in a foreign country, so I made sure we had anything we needed just in case we couldn’t access our various reservations or contact info using data or internet.

Basically, a Run of Show document can take the form of any kind of tangible preparation for a huge event.  You’ll be happy you put in the effort to make one.

Now, on to the ingredients of a stellar ROS:

Important Contacts

I begin by mentally going through the event in its entirety and noting each person, vendor or company that is involved along the way.  I list out each company or description of service, a point of contact name, email and phone number.  This goes on the very front of my Run of Show document so I can access it quickly and easily.

An example of an Important Contacts page of a Run of Show document I made for SXSW.
An example of an Important Contacts page of a Run of Show document I made for SXSW.

 

In addition to your external vendor contacts, I keep a list of people from my company who are attending.  For SXSW, we had many people flying in from around the country, so I included each person’s travel dates and times, their contact info, and where they were staying.

Event Breakdown

It’s not a shocker that a Run of Show should include the actual schedule of events.  You may want to also create one of these detailing the setup day before a large event, like I did for our company’s huge annual event, Native.

This should be easy to produce for your ROS document as it’s typically (hopefully!) been built out at this point.  It’s as easy as opening the previously created Google Doc, setting it to print, and selecting “save as PDF.”  Then you can just add it into your larger Run of Show document.  Easy as pie!

The important data points you want to hit for each line item are:

  • Description/name of task or event
  • Start and end times
  • Date: needed if the event is happening over the course of two or more days.
  • Venue/location: needed if the event takes place in different locations, or a conference with multiple rooms.
  • Owner or assignee: important to know who to turn to when you need a status update.
  • Notes: here you can put contact info, a further description, or instructions for your team.
Run of Show document
The schedule breakdown page of the Run of Show for our SXSW event.

Floorplans

Even if you’re familiar with or have visited the event venue a few times, this is an extremely helpful article to include, if only to actually point out to someone where something goes or is happening.

Further, if you’re having furniture delivered, it’s a huge time saver to prepare a floorplan for the delivery persons with locations of each item.  This way you don’t need to spend time overseeing this part of the setup, or can delegate to someone else.

Floorplan with furniture locations for delivery persons to set up.
Floorplan with furniture locations for delivery persons to set up at an event.

Contracts & Paperwork

Much like the important contacts, I go through each part of the event in chronological order and make sure I print out all paperwork from each part of it.  This can include:

  • Signed contracts: these have all the information needed from a vendor you’ve hired, from the cost, to pickup/delivery/service times, to point of contact.
  • Rentals: I booked multiple housing arrangements for people during SXSW, as well as a rental car, so this was much easier to print than have to dig through my email.
  • Catering menus: make sure everything came that was supposed to!  Don’t let those guests go hungry.
  • Maps: mostly helpful when you don’t think you’ll have good internet access, since our phones can retrieve directions pretty quickly.  This was especially helpful in Mexico.

 

Ultimately, your Run of Show document will look different for each and every event you plan.  The best way to go about this is to close your eyes and run through the entire event in your mind, taking note of everything that could happen and information you’ll need to mitigate any risks and keep your whole team accountable and informed.