plan your conference with excel

Create a Schedule with Excel

Having a schedule is an indispensable way to make sure that everyone at the conference is on the same page. There are lots of tools out there to help you create a schedule, but we’ll step you through how to create a conference schedule with Excel. (These steps will work for almost any spreadsheet program like Google Sheets or Apple Numbers, but just to make things simple, we’ll just be addressing Microsoft Excel.) We actually provide a finished schedule for you to edit in our Launch Pack! Feel free to sign-up for our update list and check it out!

Excel, the Ultimate Paint-By-Number

You probably think of Excel as a mean, green, business machine for churning out spreadsheets, charts, graphs, and other businessy gobbledy-gook – and that’s true. But it’s also a great tool to create a conference schedule! Think of Excel as a giant canvas of paint-by-number blocks. We’re just going to put text in different blocks, frame them with borders, and color them. If you’re from the 80’s like me, then it’s just a Lite Brite for your computer.

We’re going to walk through 4 steps together by asking 4 questions:

  1. For a single day of my conference, what times am I interested in? (Time column)
  2. How many days are in my conference? (Day row)
  3. What events are going to occur during my conference? (Event blocks)
  4. How am I going to share this schedule? (Sharing)

The screenshots here are from Excel 2011 for Macintosh, but these steps will work for almost any version of Excel.

Time column

As you think about what times you’re interested in, consider when your events will occur:

  • When does the day start for your conference? Do your guests need to know when breakfast starts?
  • Do your conference events start on the hour? The half hour? This will affect how your time column looks.
  • When does the day end for your conference?

For this example, we’ll assume that a conference day starts at 6 AM and ends at 10 PM. We’ll set up our conference schedule to display every half hour. Now would be a good time to open up Excel with a new document.

  1. In the cell, A5, type: ‘6:00 AM’.
  2. In the cell below that, A6, type: ‘6:30 AM’.
  3. Select both A5 and A6 with your mouse pointer.
  4. With both cells selected, the highlight box around both cells has a small handle at the bottom. Mouse over that handle until your mouse cursor turns into a black cross. Click and drag the highlight box with the black cross.
  5. As you do that, Excel will display a little tooltip that shows you the time. You can stop release your drag motion when it says 10:30 PM.

Now, we want to format our time column to look a little nicer:

  1. Click on the ‘A’ column at the top; this will select the entire column. Now click on the ‘center’ button in the formatting toolbar.
  2. Select the cells with the times and click on the ‘italic’ button in the formatting toolbar.

Day row

The day row is similar to the time column except it goes horizontally. If your conference is relatively short, it’ll be quicker just to select the appropriate cell and fill out the name of the day and/or date.

  1. Click on the cell, B4, and type the date of the first date of the conference. For our example, we’ll use 6/4.
  2. Select the cell.
  3. On the highlight box, find the handle at the bottom. Drag across.
  4. As you do that, Excel will display a little tool-tip with the date that it is filling the cell with. Stop when you reach the conference ending date. For our example, we’ll use 6/11.

Again, let’s format the row to look a little nicer:

  1. Click on the ‘4’ row on the left side. This will select the entire row. Now click on the ‘center’ button in the formatting toolbar.
  2. With the row still selected, click on the ‘bold’ button in the formatting toolbar.

Events blocks

With your time column and day row set, now comes the fun part of creating your events. Remember how we said that Excel is just paint by number? Here are the steps to create your events! We’ll start with an example, but you’ll be able to do the rest of your schedule the same as this one event. We’re going to say that breakfast is from 6 AM – 8 AM.

  1. Select the cells from 6 AM to 8 AM under the date ‘6/4’.
  2. Click the Format menu and select ‘Cells’.
  3. Select the ‘Borders’ pane in the dialog.
  4. Click ‘Outline’ and then the ‘OK’ button at the bottom.
  5. Click on the ‘Paint fill’ button and select a color you like; we’ll use teal.
  6. Select one of the middle cells in your newly formatted block of cells. Type ‘Breakfast’. We’ll use B7.
  7. Select that cell and click the ‘Center text’ button in the formatting bar.

If this is an event that repeats day after day, you can select that event block and drag across that row, similar to what you did with your date row. This will copy across your week.

Now just repeat this with the other parts of your schedule.

Sharing

Now that you’ve created your schedule, you’ll want to distribute it to your conference guests.

Printing

If you print this out, you’ll probably want the schedule printed in landscape orientation on one page. Even if you don’t print, you can use these instructions to save as a PDF. Just follow these instructions and save as a PDF instead of printing out.

  1. Select ‘Page setup’ from the File menu.
  2. Select ‘Landscape’.
  3. When printing, select ‘Scaling’ where the scale is set to one page wide by one page tall. This will make sure all your events are one page.

You may have to toggle ‘Landscape’ and ‘Portrait’ to see what gives you the best result.

Title

It can help to have a title, so that your guests know what this schedule is for. We left some space at the top in case we wanted to put a title.

  1. In cell B1 type your conference title – we’ll use ‘Family Conference’.
  2. Select the cell and change the font-size to 48 in the formatting toolbar.

If you don’t need this, you can delete these rows by selecting the row numbers and selecting ‘Delete’ from the Edit menu.

Conclusion

That was a lot but you’ve finished learning how to create a conference schedule! If you’d like a completed conference schedule template that you can tweak to make it your own, download our Launch Pack and use the one that we’ve created for you!

Finished with your conference schedule? Launch it with Conference Joy!