Most not-for-profit organizations host events; these can be in the form of a fundraising activity, a board meeting or a myriad of situations where individuals are brought together to further the mission of the organization. This article offers tools and tips around effective event planning.
Tools for effective event planning:
1. Follow a Critical Path document
A Critical Path document lists the step by step activities that are required to successfully implement you event plan. The focus is on the milestone dates - what has to be accomplished when and by whom. This is your event roadmap. An essential part of this strategy is to incorporate a back-up plan, in the event that the people, places or things you are relying on are not available. It is imperative that you include and respect the dates by which the venue and involved suppliers need confirmation of details.
2. Offer an interactive event program
Whatever purpose your event has, participants want to participate. Ensure that they can. If yours is a fundraising event, give participants something to do (e.g. silent auction, meet a celebrity, bring something or someone). If it is a meeting, allow two-way dialogue between the convenors and the audience. Whatever type of event you host, invite feedback. This can be an evaluation exercise at the end (e.g. hard copy or online survey).
3. Evaluate and debrief as a team
In order to learn from our experiences, it is important to plan to have the team that put the event on debrief and record “what happened and what we learned”. How did our result match our plans; what can we do better next time?
Tips for successful event planning:
1. Events have reputations
People will remember their experience of attending your events. Start and end on time, as promised in your program/agenda. Deliver what you promised.
2. Offer food and beverage
Sharing food and beverage can be a bonding experience. Even the most restrictive budget can handle water and celery sticks.
3. Coach event leaders
Provide the people who will be speaking or leading aspects of your event with a detailed script to follow. Instruct them not to deviate from that script if your timeframes are tight.
4. Know your audience
When planning your event, research who is likely to attend and why and address those needs. Understand your competition for dollars and heads. Keep records for the next time.
5. Rethink your promotion strategy
The tendency today is to promote event attendance by e-mail. Perhaps sending a hard copy invitation piece will generate more attention. What about a telephone follow-up? Get creative. What is old can be new again and give you that competitive edge. And think twice about sending e-reminders; if someone decided not to attend your event, do you really think they will appreciate the intrusion of a follow-up reminder?
6. Be realistic with your expectations
Base your event projections on reliable data. The venue and the budget will appreciate a reasoned estimate.
Paulette in President of Solution Studio Inc., a consulting practice that serves the not-for-profit association community. She can be reached at 1-877-787-7714 or Paulette@solutionstudioinc.com.