How To Organize a Public Event
You are at work and taking part in the mid-week staff meeting when the boss brings up the topic of this year’s Christmas party. Your mind has already begun to drift towards your mid-morning break when you hear your name and it suddenly dawns on you that this year it is your turn to organize the event.
No need to panic, even if you never organized so much as a small potluck dinner, there are a few simple steps you can take that will help ensure the event is a success.
The ability to organize special events can place you in good standing, not only at work but in other aspects of yoru life. In fact, if you are good at event planning you will soon need to employ that all important word, No, as you turn down requests.
The first step is to have the answers to the following:
- What, what are you organizing; know exactly what the event is.
- Why, why are you doing this event, fundraising, workshop, guest lecturer, celebration, why?
- Who do you want to attend?
- Where will the event be held?
- When will it be held? Be sure to include time.
- How will you let people know the event is taking place?
Now that you have a clear and complete understanding of the who, what, when, where, why and how of the event you are ready to begin, well almost.
A few tips:
Be sure to allow sufficient lead time: email allows us to share information fast but just because you can spread the word quickly does not mean you can make a real world event happen that fast.
If you want a few people to get together for a beer at yoru favourite pub, a text message can get the job, but if you want 100 people to show up at a local community centre for a film and discussion night with an out of town speaker, you may want a somewhat longer lead time.
One reason is you need to book space and it is always possible that the night you really really want is taken so you may need to find an alternative venue. Get this sorted out first.
Book the room as soon as you have answered the six questions and make it for at least eight weeks from that date. This gives you time to get the word out. Now the bigger and more important the event is the longer lead time you will need.
A potluck with friends can be set up within a week or two, a community meeting about starting a community garden, six weeks minimum, a 100 dollar a plate dinner four months is cutting it close.
Okay now you are ready to rock; you know what you are doing and so on so what resources do you need to make it happen?
- Do you need to book a room?
- Are you serving food?
- Are you serving alcohol?
- Will there be live music?
- Do you need an master of ceremonies?
- How will waste be handled?
- What will you do with food that is not eaten?
- How are you planning to promote the event?
- Are you selling tickets or is admission free?
- Child care is that a concern?
- What if it rains and the event is outdoors?
The office Christmas party will need little promotion outside the company, your potluck with a few friend no problem but the guest speaker and video night demands more.
If you are planning a major social event, you most likely have a budget and a committee to help the event unfold but if you are doing this voluntarily for your local horticultural society the budget may be thin. So how do you run an effective promotional campaign on a very tiny budget? This brings us back to lead time; a long lead time allows that wonderful free advertising technique to work, word of mouth: people telling other people about the event.
Email can be a big help and if you have an email list put it to work.
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Now that you understand the basics and know what it is you are organizing it is time to give some thought as to how you are going to get an audience.
The Christmas office party is nor problem, you have a built in audience who are easy to reach, just be sure to let people know six weeks in advance and all should be fine.
However, if you have a guest speaker coming who will show a short film on climate change, hold a discussion and you want the general public to attend then you need promotion.
You can make some posters, easy enough to do but unless you know a good location to put them up, don't bother. If you have places to hang posters do so, some local businesses wiill let you use a window or door space if the event is a community one.
Keep the poster simple, be sure the date, time and place are visible.
One problem you may have is giving out a contact number for those who seek more information.
Do not use your personal phone.
If there is no available phone line, get a free email and use that for contact purposes.
There are two tools that can draw attention to the evening; one is the media or press release, the other is the public service announcement or psa.
The media release is a one pager that informs the local media what is taking place and why it is newsworthy. they may run the release as is; they may send a reporter for a photo op and/or story, they may call or email for more information, or they may ignore the whole thing.
If you want their attention; send the release one week before the event and follow up with a phone call the day before.
The psa is a free announcement that TV, radio and newspapers offer to community organizations. It is short and gives the basics, date, time,place and what's happening.
If your event is free your odds of having the psa run are higher; it is okay to have a donation box at the door.
Tell everyone you know about the event, after all if your are putting it on, it should be something you are excited about and want to share.