Guidelines for planning and delivering events

Many community organisations are dependent on large-scale events to assist in raising funds or to promote awareness of their services or area of expertise.

The key to any event is ensuring that there is ample preparation time. An organisation is better off not conducting an event than holding something that appears rushed or poorly delivered.

When planning an event be mindful of the expectations that your target audiences will have. For example, the expectations with a cycling ride are considerably different between professional cyclists and family riders.

Be mindful of competing expectations between target audiences and plan accordingly.

Large-scale events are best delivered when there is a functional team, with clearly defined expertise and responsibilities. When forming a team consider the skills of the people involved and how they can best assist.

In the early days of planning an event, you will want people that are more strategic in focus, with an emphasis on the bigger people. These members of your team will assist in developing timelines and considering key milestones, as well as the overall theme and content of the event.

As the date of the event approaches, you want people that are more interested in the operations of the event. These members are likely to be the people that will assist during the day of the event and will ensure that finer details, such as promotional materials and specific proceedings, are addressed.

It is important to have a complementary mix of people and ensure that they are involved during the right stages of an event. Someone who is strategic in nature, is likely to get frustrated discussing specific details, while a person that is operationally focused is likely to lose interest in overall planning.

Ensure that there is sufficient lead-time in promoting the event. Unfortunately publicity, particularly media releases, tend to be one of the most often overlooked areas of an event. Make sure that members, supporters and the wider community are given sufficient notice of the event and ensure that follow up invitations are also sent.

While your members and supporters may already be engaged and interested in your organisation, the wider community does not necessarily share the same level of involvement and commitment.

Effective frequency is the term that is used to describe the number of times someone within the target market needs to be exposed to a message before they act. This obviously differs depending on the type of commitment involved and the level of focus someone has when they experience the exposure, but traditionally three exposures are required before someone will act.

Regardless of the actual number, it is clear that more than exposure is required to encourage people to participate in an event, particularly if you are targeting the wider community. As such there needs to be a sufficient lead-time in order to deliver multiple messages and invitations about the event.

While media releases need to be timely, there also needs to be sufficient consideration of publication schedules to ensure that they are distributed and covered prior to the event. Post-event media releases should also be considered as a way of thanking participants and to report on the success of the event.

If you are planning to raise awareness of an issue it is worthwhile inviting politicians and local councillors. Even if they are unable to attend, the invitation serves as a prompt about your organisation and can provide a pathway for further discussion. Likewise, make sure that they are aware of any outcomes from your event and use this as a method of creating ongoing and constructive dialogue.

Just as an event needs to meet the expectations of its target audience, volunteers and staff also need to have a positive experience to ensure that their enthusiasm remains for future events.

It is always important to hold a de-briefing after an event to learn to discover areas that need improvement and to ensure that all members of the team are able to express their views.

Likewise, it is critical to receive feedback from participants, particularly if the event is likely to be repeated. Participant feedback can help uncover areas that may have been overlooked and also helps ensure further dialogue and interest.

It is typically more advantageous for an organisation to hold fewer larger-scale and more prominent events than lots of smaller activities. This is because larger events are typically able to involve a wider section of the community and tend to clearly demonstrate results, while smaller activities can attract the same attendees and lead to exhaustion and burn-out of staff and volunteers.

Regardless of the scale or prominence of your event, preparation and a sound team are critical to its success.

Alex Makin

Author Alex Makin

In a career spanning over fifteen years, Alex has been instrumental in transforming, reinvigorating and growing the capacity of businesses and not-for-profit organisations. He is a visionary who understands the big picture. Alex's expertise is a Certified Practising Marketer and as Chair of the Victorian State Council of the Australian Marketing Institute. Alex is also an accomplished speaker, author and mentor and former Mayor and Councillor for the City of Maroondah.

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