All of the stuff above is essential prep. Only after you have at least started to think about this stuff can you approach potential hosts with a proposal. When you are ready to do that (and this can be anywhere from 6 months to 1 month ahead of your first date), send out a mass email to anyone in your projected area, giving a little update and asking if they are interested in hosting. I have a form letter for this initial correspondence, as well as correspondence for steps #5 and #7, which you can adapt, HERE.
Who do you send it to? Any contacts you have been collecting, and any recent contacts from the Presentation Request Spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is very useful in the coming steps, I will get into it more below. But get yourself familiarized with it – if you cant access it please let me know. Also ask other bees if they have any good contacts and put a shout-out on facebook. Be sure to cast a wide net, because its likely that only a fraction of the people you reach out to will be interested.
You will probably receive a bunch of immediate responses and then a smattering stretched out over the next week or two. I recommend sending folks a nice acknowledgement that you received their request, and maybe a date proposal if you are really excited about it – if they are also excited they will probably say “yes!” or “not a chance, the venue is only open on weekends” and then you can have a few solid points in the tour route right away. But try to keep the dates tentative at first, and stay mostly just watching and waiting for a week (if you are not crunched for time), and then using the map/calendar tools together to refine your route and settle in on the best dates.
This is where the color-coding really comes in handy. You may need to rearrange dates somewhat, you may need to back-track some, you may have to make some long drives. All of these things should be avoided, but some venues only have limited dates available, or you will get a surprise request that convinces you to make a detour. So you can use the map to plan out the route, while also looking at the calendar to ensure you are getting the right shows on the right nights. In general colleges are best Tuesday-Thursday, community shows Friday-Sunday, and Monday is a good day to visit a school. If you can finagle your tour route so that you are hitting each venue at the best time, getting the best turn-outs, you will keep energy high. If you want some easy gigs at the end, maybe you can get a friendly student organizer to book you a token honorarium talk on a Friday evening at a state university (avg audience size = 5).
If you are planning a big tour, this can be one of the most difficult challenges. Making it all fit is some serious mental exercise. But be patient and try to figure it out as best as you can. Dont be afraid to say no to some hosts, even if you said yes to them at first. Make sure you are leaving space to do fun stuff. This work establishes the backbone of the tour experience, the consecutive places and spaces that you and your tour partners will be travelling through together. Theres lots more work to do after this point, but above all else tour is a big journey, so take your time to make sure you will be going on a journey you are excited about – that can mean adventurous, fast-paced, laid-back, focused. Its also important to talk to potential tour-mates when doing this planning – everyone has a different pace!