I am currently planning a major regional event here in the UK. If you have to plan a prestigious event yourself, you might appreciate my guide on the aspects of arranging an event, from start to finish!
1. Define your aims of the event
What is the concept? Before you can start to organise your event, write down a few lines about what the event is going to be about and what you hope to achieve. It’s helpful at this stage to have a meeting with everyone involved to discuss the event. Here is a list of points to cover:
o Decide on the subject for the event
o Discuss what you hope to achieve, for example
1 .Raise the profile of your business/organisation
2. Network with some sales prospects in a relaxed environment
o When do you want to hold the event?
o Where do you want to hold it?
o Who do you want to come to the event? How many?
o How and where will you promote the event to ensure that they come along?
o Do you want outside speakers? If so, who? What will they speak about?
o What budget do you have for the event?
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
o What else is going on at the same time as your event (both within your organisation and externally) – will this have an impact on your event?
o If you are, for example, running a training session, have you identified that there is a sufficient need for that particular topic?
o If you are inviting outside speakers, always make sure that, where possible, you have a ‘reserve’ choice in case your first choice isn’t available. If you have existing contacts that is fine but make sure you know they will be competent and “on message” – if in doubt contact an agency for advice (I recommend http://www.speakers-uk.com/ for no other reason that they will always spend time with you to make sure that you have a list of the right people at the right price). Watch out for expenses clauses as they can be hidden costs which mess up your budget.
2. Planning and logistics
Nominate a lead person to:
o keep track of all the tasks for the event
1. what has been done
2. what still needs to be done
3. who needs to do it
4. when it needs to be done by
5. budget and actual expense
Create a spreadsheet detailing all the tasks for the event. This ensures that all tasks for the event are recorded in one place, so that nothing is missed or forgotten.
Hold regular progress meetings for everyone involved in the event to ensure that everyone is aware of what stage the event is at, as well as any problems that have arisen. Any further tasks arising as a result of these meetings should be assigned and logged in the planning spreadsheet. Depending on the number of people involved, you may also find it useful to take minutes of the meeting.
Here are some of the main areas you will need to consider – although it will vary depending on the nature of your event.
o Allow plenty of time to plan and organise the event, particularly if you are inviting outside speakers as their diaries fill up quickly. A month is probably the bare minimum – more if it’s a large event with many speakers.
o Check deadlines!!
o Make sure that everything is arranged in plenty of time before the event, so that you’re not left with a last-minute panic the day before.
o If you find yourself with only a few people signed up with only 2-3 weeks to go before your event, don’t panic. This is fairly normal – we find that most people don’t sign up to our events until a week or two beforehand.
Venue and catering
o Decide on a venue for your event, bearing in mind the following factors (depending on the nature of the event, your needs will vary):
Location – is it easily accessible for your intended audience?
Size – ideally you want a venue that will fit everyone in, but not so big that you have lots of empty space
Cost – can you afford it? If your event has a charitable cause attached to it, please remember that some venues offer a discount for charities and not-for-profit organisations, so it’s worth asking
Availability – many popular venues book up months (even years) in advance, so you may need to hunt around
Facilities -do they provide catering? Do they have disabled access? Event equipment (e.g. data projector)?
Cancellation policy – if you have to cancel your event for any reason, you should check whether you’ll lose any money
o Once you’ve booked your venue, check when it needs to be paid for – then make sure it’s paid on time!
o Decide what catering you need for your event (this may be dependent on your budget).
People tend to be happy if they’re well fed and watered – so make sure there’s enough food and drink for everyone, as this is one of things they’re sure to remember about your event!
If you’re using an outside catering company, check if they have a delivery charge, as this can add to your costs.
Ask your attendees if they have any special dietary requirements and, where possible, try to meet their requirements. As vegetarianism is fairly common now, make sure there’s enough vegetarian food (as a rough guide, order half veggie, half non-veggie).
o Check the deadline for ordering catering – and again, make sure it’s paid on time!
o Once you’ve decided who you would like to speak at your event, invite them. Initially, this can be a phone call to check their availability, but this should be followed up with an email/letter outlining:
1.What the event is about and when it is
2.What you want them to speak about, including a list of bullet points of issues you want them to cover
3.What time you would like them to speak (this is particularly important if it’s an all day event, as they may not be able to commit to a whole day)
4.Who else is speaking at the event
5.The intended audience for the event
6.The venue (if this has already been confirmed)
o Keep your speakers up-to-date with any changes to the event, and email them a full outline/agenda for the event once it is confirmed. You may also want to send them copies of any promotional material you produce. I like to meet my key speakers a week or so before the event to tie up any loose ends.
o For seminars/conferences in which your speakers are giving formal presentations, it is useful to prepare handouts for the delegates of all the presentations, as well as speaker biographies. Therefore, you will need this information beforehand from your speakers. Tell them that you need their presentation and biography at least a couple of days before the event – although you may find that you don’t receive it until the day of the event! If this is the case, ask them to bring copies with them.
o It’s also useful to have the presentation beforehand so that you can load it onto the computer you’re using, to avoid any last minute IT hitches. It also helps to prevent any surprises in the presentations!
Complying with legislation:
o Public liability insurance is required
o Public entertainment licence/gaming licence may be required for fundraising events – check with your local authority about their requirements for public events
o Risk assessment – guides are available from the Health and Safety Executive website
Invitations and promotion:
Once you’ve decided who you want to come to your event – what type of people – you need to work out the best way to get them to come to your event.
o Think about your event and the people that you want to attend – what is so special about it? Why should people come to your event and not someone else’s? What will they get out of attending your event? List at least three reasons – these are your unique selling points (USPs) and should form the basis of any promotional material that you create for your event.
o If you have a mailing list for your target audience, send quality personalised invites to them. Be sure to include details of how to book a place or where to get further information. The invites can be sent by email or letter. Both have their pros and cons and which method you choose depends on your resources.