How to Plan and Organize a Big Event

Event planning and scheduling can be made simple by using a simple spreadsheet. Get-It-Done Guy has the steps you need to make planning your event a breeze.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #159

Event Planning Should Use a Timeline to Sort Everything Out

What event organizers really want to know is what to do next.

What we want isn’t a grid; it’s a timeline. What people really want to know at any given moment is “What do I do next?” They just want to know what they should do and where. A timeline is easier to set up than a grid, and it’s more powerful. Here’s how to set up your own event timeline with a spreadsheet.

A Simple Spreadsheet Tip for Organizing Big Events

You need three columns. In the very first row of your spreadsheet, type in column titles: WHO in column one, ACTIVITY in column two, and DETAILS in column three. You’ll enter the actual timeline items in the rest of the rows. The first column is the person or people who have to do something. The second column is what they have to do. The third column is what they have to do it to. If Melvin is supposed to put complimentary clip-on neckties on all the chairs in the Rainbow Room, column one is MELVIN, column two is SET UP, and column three is NECKTIES IN RAINBOW ROOM.

Some items you want in everyone’s schedule. Things everyone does should show up on everyone’s schedule. Some events provide a roadmap for the event. At a conference, the roadmap could be plenary sessions or keynote speeches. For those items, put an asterisk in the WHO column. In Guys and Dolls, the scene title and songs were in everyone’s schedule, since they are the roadmap everyone uses to know where we are in the show.

Now Filter the Spreadsheet

Now comes the fun part! You’ll filter the spreadsheet and show only the rows where the Who column matches the name of the person whose activities you want to see. Use the spreadsheet’s filtering function to show only those rows. Voila! A completely customized schedule.

If Melvin has someone in charge of room setup, instead of filtering the Who column, that person can filter the Activity column to see all SETUP ROOM activities. They will then have a list of all room setups and who is supposed to be doing each setup.

All modern spreadsheet programs let you filter a spreadsheet and show only rows that match certain values. Use you spreadsheet program to filter the schedule only for rows that match the name of the person whose schedule you want to see. Use the filter function to show all rows with that person’s name, or with an asterisk in the Who column. That way, the schedule shows the event roadmap with the personalized schedule included at the right places.

How to Filter Spreadsheets

Here’s how to do it in popular spreadsheet programs:


  1. Click in the table

  2. Click Reorganize

  3. Click choose the Who column from the drop-down list under Show Rows that Match the Following

  4. Tell Numbers to match the name of the person whose schedule you want to see.

Excel or OpenOffice:

  1. Click the upper left cell to select the whole table

  2. Choose Data | Filter | Autofilter

  3. Click the down-arrow by the Who column and tell Excel to show all rows matching the person whose schedule you want to see

Using a spreadsheet’s filter function to maintain your timeline is a super-simple way to get customized timelines that can be used to give participants and planners alike an overview of the entire event showing only the items they need.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Conference image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.