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Planning and hosting a great event


I’ve been working on a few events with a well-known charity recently and it made me realise what a specific science event planning and hosting is.  Having organised event for years, I almost take for granted the various stages which are critical to ensuring success but meeting with less experienced folks was a wake up call.  We often invest significant sums of money and time in events programmes so getting it right is crucial.  I found a very useful article written by Emily Cubitt on “The marketer” website which includes some good examples of how charities and event management companies approach their event programmes.

Adding my own experience to Emily’s views, here are some of the main considerations to make your events effective (as that’s what we’re after, right?  It’s not just about fun):

  • Keep your objectives and target audience at the heart of discussions, planning and implementation. Never lose sight of what and who the event is for. This is your baseline for checking whether you are doing the right thing or not and for evaluation after the event.
  • That means forgetting what you like about events and putting yourself in the shoes of your audience.  Then link what your audience wants to your organisation’s objectives and start planning from there.
  • If possible, give yourself time to plan the event well.  This isn’t always realistic but the more time you have, the better your choice of venues and suppliers will be as well as maximising your chances of attracting busy celebrities and getting into your target audience’s diaries.
  • Plan, plan, plan and plan. Obsession with detail is key to running successful events; from allocating specific responsibilities and deadlines to creating a list of partners and suppliers who can help you if you encounter a problem.
  • Create a proforma plan so that you can do this quickly when time is tight or a great opportunity presents itself on short notice.
  • Create a contingency plan, especially if the event is outdoors, high profile or important to your organisation. This includes contingency budgets and any other emergency resources you might need to mobilise.
  • Integrate your event with other activities to ensure maximum impact, both in advance of the event and as part of your follow-up activity eg; newsletters, campaigns, social media conversations, awareness campaigns etc.  People can’t attend if they don’t know the event is happening!
  • When it comes to delivery, if you don’t know how to project manage, learn! Or hire an event manager it appropriate to make sure all the steps you have meticulously planned actually get implement as effectively.
  • Make sure you remember the regulatory and common sense aspects like health and safety, public liability, accessibility, transport links etc. A site visit and meeting with the people who will be managing your event if appropriate is usually time very well spent.
  • Choose your suppliers and partners well – recommendation and track record is always a bonus but ultimately, you have to trust them to help you meet your objectives. If they believe in your objectives, they are more likely to deliver a sterling job. Flexibility will also be key if you need someone to help you sort out issues in the middle of the night or at very short notice.
  • If you are going to host celebrities and guests they must be relevant to the theme, the audience and / or the cause.  There’s no such thing as a free dinner or lunch so make them work for their free meal (and opportunity to plug their book or whatever).
  • If you are engaging celebrities, use the channels they prefer for contact as circumventing them generally leads to negative perception about you and or your organisation (see Eileen Hammond’s great book on dealing with celebrities)
  • Follow up your event.  Let the audience know the outcomes and thank them for their contributions and support.  Make it memorable to increase the likelihood of their ongoing support.
  • Measure and track the impact of your event – focus on actions and outcomes (which includes the likelihood of attendees to support you in the future). Evaluate the process of putting on the event as well to learn how to improve your next extravaganza.

What other essentials would you add to the list.

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