Simple Steps for Event Planning
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
We have all heard the phrase “I hope this email finds you well,” and no one likes it. Why you may ask? Perhaps it was a less-than-happy expression, an extra task, or perhaps it is just wishful thinking.
You see, no matter how small an event may be, all events must consider as many outcomes as possible or risk failure as you are making a request of people for their time. The following are a few simple tips to get started.
Is there a need: What is the point of the gathering? We all know why we attend weddings, or assemblies. When telling someone about a club though it is important to be very specific. Book clubs are self-explanatory. With many tasks to complete and many expectations to fill, the question of utmost importance is whether will people attend.
Pick a day and time: Look to see what competing organizations are doing on the same day or ask around to see if anyone else on your team or in your family has already planned something. Not being mindful of other events can lead to low turnout. Organizations tend to use a public calendar or an events page. As an individual, a card with a ‘save the date’ or a direct invitation is used. While email invitations are a quick and easy way to get people to attend a lecture, a gala is expected to have a more formal cardstock invitation.
Pick a space: After the when has been settled, the where is secondary. It does not make sense to have a tough mudder competition in a mall. It does make sense to have an outdoor wedding in the warm months of the year. There are many places willing to host your event for a fee, but I like that the library offers a safe and clean space with filtered air conditioning.
Have a checklist: Projectors, microphones, check. Check that everything is working before the day of the event and not on the day of the event itself. Make a list of the furniture, materials and audiovisual equipment you have and then build from those assets to host your group.
Let people know: You can have the biggest author visit your space and if no one knows about it, your event could still fail. In this unlikely occurrence, there are typically people you can wrangle into your meeting space, but a successful event draws people from the day your post first hits the internet. One caveat is if you advertise too early, people will be keen on signing up and then forget all about it. Two to three weeks out though is usually a good time to hit the networks or make reminder calls.
Be understanding: There will always be occurrences that do not fit in with the day. There will be presenters with attitudes or correspondents that disappear from your email thread. The sound may cut out on the audio system or the technology that was working the day before suddenly needs an update. It happens and people who are keen eventgoers know that most of the time things go better and definitely better with experienced planners.
Follow-up: Asking for feedback is tough. No one wants to know if their event was a disaster even if they know from attendance numbers it could have been better. Not all circumstances are within a planner’s control. Weather happens and climates change. The best feedback is when a curious person approaches and asks for something specific like ‘can you show this movie’ or ‘can you do another excel class?’ Planners want to hear from their audience about what they DO want because it answers the first question, will anyone come?
In Any Event by Simon Maier
The Community Planning Event Manual by Nick Wates
Event Marketing by C.A. Preston
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
Once you have a few events to compare against then you can reasonably anticipate what works best for the future without merely wishing for a good turnout.
For specific types of events see below:
Arty Parties: an entertaining cookbook by Julia Sherman
50 Ways to Kickstart your Meetings by Sivasailam Thiagarajan