Wednesday 21 August 2019

Event Planning

Alongside my  writing I enjoy arranging events and find this as creative as the writing itself. Here are my tips on the process.

Define your event

What do you actually want to do at this event? What will it look like? How will you define its success? What do you want to achieve? How many people would you like to attend?  Who do you think is likely to attend? 

Setting a budget

Do you have a set amount of money to spend? Will you have to charge participants? Do you expect to make more money out of the event e.g. by selling books, charging for catering or asking people to pay what they can afford.
Tip: assume you will make nothing on the event but if you do you can put that into the budget of the next event.  
Possible costs:
  hire of room
  cost of catering
  personnel  - e.g. compeer, book seller, front of house, food server

Some ways that you might save money:
  Some venues may be offered for free for a minimum spend
  Choose somewhere where there is cash bar or servery.  You can still supply a cake or similar so that you look generous. 
  Form a mutual support group where you help each other with events.   


Inviting people

You've probably selected your venue according to the number of people you're expecting. Remember some people will drop out nearer the time - illness, weather, family problems, car breaking down etc.  It's wise to overbook by about 15%. You'll get a full room. I once "sold" fifty tickets for an event . Thirty-one people turned up. Ll the "drop-outs" had genuine reasons.
There are three tools that may help:
Facebook events - free to use but if your event is paid for it won't handle money. However, you can use it in connection with the other two listed below and make it point to them.  It's the extra advertising for your event.    
Eventbrite  - for free or paid for events.  There are lots of helpful tools.
Ticket Source - better for paid-for events. Like Eventbrite  it offers a lot of useful tools. It has the look and feel of a theatre box office. 
Tip: charge for an event but include a free book. Folk are more likely to turn up if they have had to pay.             

Organising what happens

Work out a timetable but be prepared for it to change. Factor in setting up and clearing up. Here is an example:
5.30 - set up
6.00 - guests arrive, mingle, serve drinks.
6.30 - intro
6.35 - readings from the book
6.50 - 7.10  Q & A
7.10 - 7.25 serve cake
7.25 - 8.00 sell books, sign copies, more mingling
8.00 - 8.30 clear up   

Critical Time Planning

This is a must for any type of event. It's the order in which you do things. For example you don't look at taps for your bath before you have laid the foundations for your house. And yes: even looking at them may be counterproductive - by the time you get the bathroom installed they may not be made anymore. On the other hand you need to be sure of lead times so that you order them in time.

The key is to work backwards. What does the even look like? What do you need to do in order for it to turn out that way?
Here is an example, and note it is set out with the event at the top.

50 people at the International Crumpsall Centre for book launch of Daisy Days 17 April 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 
Pick up cake / wine 17 April  12.00
Plan timings - discuss with helpers 10 April 2020
Order cake and wine 17 March   
Order 35 copies of book 12 March (Why not 50? Experience tells me this number is about right.  Would you be able to sell the further 15 afterwards? And if you do order more don' put them out all at once. Seeing a huge unsold pile puts people off. If it looks as if stocks  are running out people may make the effort to buy.
Find people to help - by 1 March                
Send invites (Invite 60 -writing friends, other friends, people interested in dementia) 1 March 2020.  Keep going until all tickets have gone.      
Book venue by 26 February
Set budget by 20 February 

Evaluating your event

This is a really important step and should be completed as soon as possible after the event has finished.
For a simple book launch you will probably not need to survey your participants. Even if your event is one where you have offered a service or a product I urge some caution. Invite people to complain and they will. Even if they are mainly satisfied ask them what could be done better and they'll tell you! And that may feel negative to you. Certainly that element should be there but it should be only one of many. Ask open questions such as:
What have you gained from this course?
What will you do next?
What else could we do for you?
What might we have done better?

For other sorts of events be kind to yourself. Still keep a critical head, though, and ask yourself these focused questions.
What went well?
What went less well?
What else would you do?
What would you do differently next time? 
It's important to record the answers and look at them before you plan the next event.    

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