]No aspect of activism is more important than event planning. Why? Because without the event planning phase there would be no event. No event means that no one learns about your cause. No one learning about your cause means that things never change. So, to help prevent this from happening, I am here to share some of the things I have learned from planning several larger events.
1. Accept the fact that something will go wrong.
Before I get any further in this article, you need to accept the fact that something will go wrong. As the popular quote goes, “all the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. Take a deep breath and remember this while you are in the thick of things. But there is something else to remember: if you do a good job of planning your event, more than likely you can stop it from derailing completely. This means be flexible and have a back-up plan for crucial parts of your event.
2. Picking your team.
All joking aside, picking your team is important and can save you many headaches down the road. It doesn’t mean you need to pick individuals who are the best at everything, but you want people who are independent, good at following through, and whom you share a certain amount of respect for. Some qualities to keep in mind:
- independent workers: when working on larger events that require a massive amount of planning in a short period of time, it pays off to have people who are independent workers. Having them wait to be put in action by you every step of the way is time consuming.
- good communication skills: pick people who are good about communicating where they are in the project. Make sure they are someone who responds promptly to emails, phone calls or text messages depending on what is convenient for them. Also make sure to ask them what works better for them. If they don’t use email that often, maybe Facebook IMing is a better way to communicate.
- reliable: will they get the job done by the time you need it done? If they don’t have a good track record of this, it more than likely means they aren’t reliable. Either work with them and put them on low priority jobs, or find someone else.
- respectful: pick a team that respects each other. None of this “Oh don’t worry, you won’t even need to talk to what’s-her-face.” If the person can’t get along with everyone else working on the project, then don’t bring them in.
- a team player: while independence is important, make sure they can work well on a team. That means that they are willing to share what they know and help support one another.
These qualities are not a requirement when pulling together a team, they are merely factors to keep in mind. No group of people mesh together perfectly. More than likely you are going to end up with one or two people who forget about things, or have to be prompted quite a bit in order to get things done. If that is the case make sure to be supportive and let them know what they need to do. A good leader recognizes where there are strengths and weaknesses, and this is something to be aware of. For example, if one person doesn’t like talking to new people then they probably shouldn’t be the one to contact co-sponsors or vendors, however, if they are a talented artist let them work on publicity materials like posters. Another example would be if you have someone who is highly social but isn’t good with details, it might be a better idea to let them be in charge of your social media publicity since they will do a good job at spreading the word.
3. Get the idea down.
Now that you have your team together, it is time to get your event fleshed out. This will take some time. Pick a day where you can all meet in person, have some food/drinks (tea is the best of course), and talk it out. Here are some things to go over when planning your event:
Who is going to be there? Students? Adults?
What groups are you going to invite?
Are there going to be vendors? Do vendors have to pay to be there?
Are there going to be guest speakers? How many guest speakers?
What is the purpose of your event?
What are you trying to say?
What is the focus? Are you an expo trying to let people know what veg friendly food is out there? What alternatives there are to vivisection?
How many people are going to show up?
What place can hold this many people?
Does the space meet your needs?
What should the layout of your space be?
Do you need more than one room? How big of a room?
When is your event?
What holidays do you need to keep in mind?
Do you want to do it on a weekend or a weekday? When are people more likely to show up?
Morning or evening?
Why are you having this event? Tradition? A recent event?
Is it still worth while to continue having this event? Has it been successful in the past?
These are just some questions to keep in mind when getting your idea down. Try and answer these as much as possible. After you have answered the more general ones, look at the nitty gritty details.If you are having co-sponsors, who are they going to be, how are you going to contact them, who is going to contact whom?
This kind of detail planning can be done in roughly a two hour session or you might have to take several meetings depending on the size of your group and how often/long you can meet at a time. After each meeting people should know what their objective is.
It is important while planning to have deadlines and goals in mind because one thing not being done can hold up the rest of the team. Here is a list of things you should get done up front and roughly in what order:
- Pick a location, date, and time
- Reserve the location
- Contact vendors/co-sponsors
- Start advertisment planning/contact graphic designer if needed
- Figure out permits needed/forms that need to be filled
- Solidify vendors/co-sponsors
- Finalize advertisement/print posters or materials
- Put up advertisment
- Confirm again with vendors/co-sponsors
Pick deadlines for when these should be done. People are less likely to finish something if they do not know when it is due. Ask for updates at each meeting and figure out where your road blocks are.
5. Vendors and Co-sponsors
Vendors and co-sponsors are important for making an event fun for everyone! If you are going beyond having a guest speaker, this is what will bring your event to life. It is a good idea to contact vendors and co-sponsors early on. The sooner they know when you want to work with them, the more likely you are to get them for the date you want.
Always keep vendors and co-sponsors in the loop. Make sure they understand what you expect of them and what they should expect of you. Consider making an agreement form that outlines exactly what it means to be a co-sponsor or vendor. At the end of this article an example form will be included for you to work from. Keep these on file and make sure that the people participating have their own copy as well. This can save you down the line from having vendors or co-sponsors not show up.
Keep your eyes peeled for another article on how to contact co-sponsors/vendors.
6. Don’t Trip Before The Finish Line
As you approach the date of your event, it is going to become easier and easier to miss something. It can be anything from forgetting to pay for your posters or having the check ready for a guest speaker. These little things will wake you up at night. The best way to stop this from happening is creating a checklist with all of the things that need to be done; this includes things both already done and not done, and checking them off at each meeting/as they occur.
The other problem that causes this problem is thinking that everything is done and not having a game day plan. The best way of handling this is to have a meeting with everyone involved the week of the event; the best day being the one right before everything goes down. Make sure to go over the following:
- Check your list, and check it again.
- Go over the timeline for the day:
- When should YOUR people get there?
- When are people going to start setting up? When should they be done by?
- When does the event start?
- When does each mini-event start?
- When does the guest speaker start? When do you start ushering people into the space where the speaker is?
- When do the vendors start serving?
- When should the person in the bunny suit walk around? When does the raffle happen? When does the guest performance happen?
- When do people need to start leaving?
- When does the event official end?
- When do people need to be packed up by?
- Send a copy of the timeline to everyone OR print out a copy and give it to them at the meeting. The latter is strongly suggested.
Going over the little details will help make the day of the event smoother, allow you to get a good night’s sleep, and lead to less stress overall.
7. Show Time: Day of the Event
Take a deep breath, smile, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. More than likely you will spend the majority of the event buzzing around, manning a table, or ushering others to where they should be. Odds say that something that day will go awry; be flexible and handle it with charm and tact. At this point things will either smooth themselves out with a little help from you and other people, or they won’t. The fact that you got to this day is an accomplishment in and of itself. The mistakes you make the first time around will make you better prepared for next time; no event is perfect to the person who plans it. Simply enjoy where you are and the people you are with. This is a life event and you should try and enjoy the experience as best you can.
When it is all done, celebrate! Give yourself a pat on the back with some So Delicious Cookie Dough Ice Cream, or go out to eat with your team. Let them know how proud you are of them, and that you can’t wait to work with them again.
Day for Change Co-Sponsor Agreement Form
I,___________________, am signing on behalf of ____________________ to be (your group’s name) co-sponsor in the Expo on (date of the event). My club agrees to do the following as a co-sponsor:
(a) Show up at (time setup starts) to set up our table at the Expo. If for any reason we cannot be there at that time, we will inform (primary contact) via email or text message. Cellphone to contact:
(b) We will set up an interactive* table highlighting the connection between our group and the need to reduce or eliminate meat and other animal products from our diet.
(c) Performers only: We will inform (primary contact) at least two weeks in advance of any special accommodations that will be needed to perform.
(d) We will help advertise for the event through our social media outlets and mailing list to members.
I am also agreeing as a co-sponsor for the Expo to be there unless an emergency occurs. An emergencies do not include forgetting about the event, not having someone to table, or poor planning on the part of the person responsible for tabling (i.e. forgoing the event to finish homework). If an emergency does arise, I will inform (primary contact) by calling, texting, or emailing them 24 hours in advance. If this is not followed, I understand that (name of group) will reconsider co-sponsoring with my group again in the future.
I do understand that co-sponsorships can be canceled up to two weeks before the event.
x____________________________ (signature) Print Name:_______________________
Primary Contact ___________________________
* An interactive table can include, but is not limited to the following: matching card games, trivia games, arts & crafts, small scavenger hunt like tasks (talk to SAVVY about limits on scavenger hunts), or anything else that requires attendees to do more than look at a trifold.