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Dec 10

Trello for Event Planning. How would a pro do it?

Trello event planningAre you an event manager? Whether you plan birthday parties, weddings, concerts or conventions, Trello is an excellent tool. Amateur and professional event planners use three proven approaches to Trello boards, and we showcase them directly below this intro. But here’s the catch: for the plenty-of-deadlines event planning business you need one more tool, that – sadly – Trello lacks, namely a timeline. How about adding a timeline power-up on top of the event manager’s Trello board(s), so that everyone in your team can see what happens when? Read our 10-minute step-by-step tutorial.

A rule of thumb: use one Trello board per event. If you manage seven events at a time, then have seven Trello boards active. Let’s begin with how to set them up…

Approach 1: Small private event, such as a party

The ‘To do – In progress – Done’ approach is the simplest and suits small projects, such as when you plan for your own birthday party or wedding.

Trello board for planning a small private event, party


Approach 2: You work for a client. A moderately complex event

When event management becomes your business and you were hired to plan an event for a client, you may find the below approach helpful. You sort of decompose the project into three to five manageable ‘areas’, such as the headers of the pictured Trello lists. This Trello board is by no means an industry standard; other possible columns include: ‘Ideas’, ‘Musicians’, ‘Catering’, ‘Costumes’, ‘Administration’, ‘Updates to the website’, ‘POS materials’, ‘Contact the Media’, ‘Post event’, ‘In progress’, ‘Completed’ and so on.

Trello for event planning, management


Approach 3: A ‘timeline’ approach: large, complex, belated projects

We haven’t touched Deadlines so far and for a reason. While you can obviously set a deadline for each Trello card/task, things get messy when you face 20 deadlines that are about to turn red within a week. Aren’t your clients always late with their decisions, orders and approvals?

When you’re on a tight schedule the below Trello board set-up may prove the only viable one. Can you tell what’s missing though?

Belated event management Trello, timeline


Solution: Timeline / Bar chart

Ready? Whichever of the above boards you’ve chosen for your event planning, and especially Approach 3, you may need a single extra on top – the timeline. Or, more properly, a Gantt chart.

How does an event manager benefit from the timeline/Gantt chart power-up?

  • Imagine a day-long task, such as ‘Decide on the party style’ on the timeline. It’s going to be a relatively ‘short’ bar.
  • Now add a massive task, such as ‘Market the event’ or ‘Inivite guests and have them RSVP’, represented by very ‘long’ bars on the chart.
  • Change the Zoom of the timeline: zoom in to see the tasks for the upcoming week. Then zoom out to get a bird’s eye view of the next couple of weeks or even months.

This is how BigPicture power-up works. It’s simply a bar chart overlay on your Trello board, or several boards.

Project management in Trello


Do you find EVENT PLANNING a competitive industry?

Even if you say ‘Yes’, here is the good news: you often need to be merely 10 percent better than others to win. Why not get the edge by just planning things precisely, rather than wasting an hour or two here an there? Let’s go through five event planner-friendly features of BigPicture power-up for Trello

1. Keep up with deadlines

Obviously you could set the ‘Due date’ on a Trello card, but why not ‘draw’ a red vertical line on a timeline (Time marker) to make the date of the event obvious to everyone in your team. Think of such a marker drawn for a date the guests registration closes.

2. Decompose complex tasks

‘Marketing’ can be a massive ‘story’. Why not divide this huge thing by channel, such as ‘e-mail’, ‘sms’ and ‘social media’. Project managers say ‘decompose a project’ or ‘create a work breakdown structure (WBS)‘ to make the project manageable.

Now, is the work breakdown structure available in plain Trello? Sure, there are lists available within Trello cards, but these are somewhat ‘hidden’ and limited, as items in those lists are not tasks per se. Therefore why not go for two, three or in fact unlimited levels of hierarchy with BigPicture’s WBS, so that you can schedule this 2nd- 3rd- or 4th-level tasks on the timeline. Check the above animation and the tutorial video below…

3. Track dependencies

Can you see these dashed arrows that link one task to another on the Gantt chart? These are dependencies and you have plenty of them in the event management business. For instance an event manager can choose a venue only after the number of guests was determined. But… use dependencies sparingly.

4. Milestones

Milestones are there to motivate your event managers ;) Take notice of the diamond-shaped ‘tasks’ on the above BigPicture animation. A milestone is not a real task, rather it depicts a ‘substantial completion’. You could set a milestone at the end of your ‘Create a website for the event’ process.

5. Critical path

It you’re serious about avoiding delays, you are going to utilize this feature heavily. You can hit View > Show > Critical path from the main menu to highlight tasks that, if delayed by a single day, would delay the end date of a project. With the remaining, unhighlighted tasks, on the other hand, you’ve got room for rescheduling.


Trello BigPicture logo


Add Timeline & Gantt chart on top of your Trello boards.

About The Author

With his automotive background Marcin goes beyond the 'Jira + software development' standard. He likes simple, up-to-five-sentence answers to complex questions.