Short Lead Time? Three Things You Need to Know

We are seeing a new trend in the events industry: very short lead times!  Sure, we have some clients that typically have 12-18 month planning cycles (we love that!), but we are now seeing most events with a 90 to 120 day lead time.  Every meeting planner we know will freely admit to loving the long planning cycles and loathing the short lead times, but we know (secretly, of course!) that most of us also thrive on the intensity and challenge of planning those quick-turn events too.

Faced with planning a fall event now? Here are three things to keep you on track (we could give you a lot more than three, but you have an event to plan … quickly … you don’t have time to read more than three!):

Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Being clear on who is doing what is always important in the event planning cycle, but with short lead times, it is absolutely essential that this is defined AND managed.  With long planning cycles, there can be room for error in the case of misunderstandings, but there is no time for this with a short planning window. 

When planning an event with a short lead time, the entire team must be identified before your first planning meeting so that at that first planning meeting, you can clearly define the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of each person.  Following the meeting, make sure that this is documented in writing and sent to every team member. 

Bonus Tip: design your planning meeting agendas to follow the roles/responsibilities outline to keep this top-of-mind throughout the process.

Prepare to Compromise



We know planners don’t like this word.  Compromise. If we say it enough times, it will lose the shock value and you’ll be able to get through a sentence that includes that forbidden word without the world spinning off of the axis.

With a short planning window, it’s best to accept up-front that you may not be able to have absolutely everything you want in this event. 

We’ll let that sink in for a moment.

A strong process is critical to successfully managing events with short lead times and you need to move fast, and make quick decisions.  Start out by making a list of must-haves versus nice-to-haves.  Never compromise on your must-haves, but learn to compromise on the nice-to-haves.  If you are clear on both of these lists, decisions will come easily and you can quickly move on to the next item on the to-do list. 

Now Is Not the Time for Blush versus Bashful

We know that it’s is so easy to get up in the tangents and twisty paths that some logistical decisions allow us to take.  Who doesn’t love pouring over menus, floral choices, linen colors and textures … for many, that’s the best part of the process and we certainly understand why.  But you’ll have to get your fix of those items on events with the luxury of time. 

Time is a precious commodity when planning with a short window, so spend your time wisely: don’t take the twisty paths and spend hours debating the merits of blush versus bashful linens. Stay focused on your must-have list, be nimble, move quickly.


Yes, we said it again. Shorter lead times are all about compromise, but the things that should never be compromised are a strong process, clear responsibilities, and your must-have priorities.  If something doesn’t fall into one of these areas, be prepared to compromise to keep the process moving and keep your focus clear. Oh, and keep your sanity too.

Your Turn

Any other advice or best-practices you have to manage short lead times?