Planning an event or launch

Perhaps you want to run an open day at your organisation to inspire potential volunteers to get involved. Maybe you’ve decided to hold a party to celebrate the work of your volunteers. Perhaps you want to run a seminar about a new volunteering project you’re launching. Whatever the event, the key to success is in the planning.

Make a chart or plan of everything you’ll need to organise, starting at the event and working back. The more planning time you have, the more successful your event will be:

  • A big event for more than 200 people should be planned approx. 12 months in advance.
  • A one day event for approx. 100 people should be planned approx.  4 months in advance.
  • A seminar for around 30 people may need to be planned and booked 3 months in advance.

Making a plan

Putting on an event, running a launch or hosting a party is always time-consuming. Consider carefully:

  • What do you want from the event? What’s the aim of it?
  • Do you really need to put on an event? Is the event just about giving out information? And if so, could you send out a publication or build a website instead?
  • Who do you want to come to the event?
  • What do you want people to do at the event?
  • Do you think people will want to come to the event? Why?
  • Who do you want to speak/ appear at the event?
  • What do you want people to do after the event is over?

Getting the media interested in your event

You may want to secure media coverage before the event. It’s a good way to publicise the event and create a “buzz” about it. Consider offering journalists:

  • Exclusive access to one or more of the key speakers before the event.
  • An amazing case study – give them a human interest story to bring the event to life.
  • An explanation of what the event is about, stressing what makes it newsworthy. Tell them who’ll be at the event, what they’ll be doing or speaking about.
  • A feature idea. Suggest a way that the event could be a springboard to a broader feature looking at the issues being discussed at the event or the people who are involved.

Consider which media you want to actually come to the event:

  • Who do you want there? National TV, local radio, specialist press?
  • Personally invite key journalists and reporters. Send an invitation and call them.
  • Alert forward planning desks about your event.
  • Ask the news desk to send a photographer to the event. Explain what kind of pictures they could get out of it.
  • Give precise timings. If they do come they won’t stick around for long, so make sure you invite them for the most important, vibrant section of the event.

Journalists racing to meet their deadlines rarely leave their offices during the day. It’s very hard to get them to launches or events. However freelance journalists are much more likely to turn up (especially if there’s food and drink on offer!). Journalists aren’t great at coming to early events either; an event which starts between 9am and 10am is best for them.

If a journo/photographer does accept your invitation, organise a place and time to meet them. Make sure it’s you that looks after them, guides them and introduces them to the people they want to meet. Remember to keep confirming your key story message with them while you’re chatting to them.

Have a look at how St John Ambulance get local media involved with their events.

Marketing an event

Some event planners believe that for every guest/ delegate you want at your event, you need to invite 10. Always over-invite as there are bound to be last-minute cancellations. You’ll need to:

  • Build a large list of potential guests.
  • Email invitations and regular event reminders.
  • Produce and send out a printed invite. They’re always treated more seriously than emails.
  • Produce and distribute leaflets, flyers, posters about the event.
  • Consider setting up a website or a page on your organisation’s site about the event.
  • Produce delegate or event packs. An event programme.
  • Organise a direct mail shot, with personalised letters to important guests.
  • For high profile/ key guests, a hand written letter or invitation always works well.
  • Consider placing adverts about the event in key publications.

Top tips on timings

  • If you want MPs to come to your event, Thursdays are usually big parliamentary days. MPS are usually in their constituencies on Mondays and Fridays.
  • If you want business people at your event, a short breakfast event is usually best.
  • If you want journalists and reporters to come to the event, don’t plan your event in the middle of the day, not on a Friday and don’t start before 9am.
  • Avoid religious days, school and university holidays (unless your event is aimed at young people).
  • Make sure your event doesn’t clash with any others.
  • Chose a date which suits your main speakers or key guests.
  • Avoid Thursday and Friday evening events. People’s diaries are usually already booked up.

Most people find it hard to sit without a break for more than an hour and a half. Presentations at any event should be kept to 30 minutes maximum, allowing plenty of time for questions.

Be prepared

Make sure all your bookings are confirmed in writing.

  • Book your speakers and key guests. Send them details of what you’re expecting them to do on the day.
  • Find a venue. Location, location, location. Is it accessible to people with disabilities? Is it near transport and parking? The harder it is to get to, the less likely people will turn up.
  • Do you need volunteers to assist on the day of the event?
  • Do you need to book caterers and support staff for the event?
  • Find a designer. Are you going to provide delegate packs or give out information at the event?

More detailed event planning guides:

Volunteering England also produces a guide to event risk management and a guide “How to say thank you to volunteers“.

Budget

You can put on an event with a very small budget but you shouldn’t under estimate the amount of your time (and other staff’s time) it will take up. For big events with big budgets it may well be worth hiring an event organising company to help you.

It’s also important to make sure your event is insured. For an event involving 200 people insurance costs about £75 and insures you against any cancellations (or train strikes etc.)

ERSC Society Today has an event budget planning form which you can download for free.

 

Read the next article in this section…. Hiring Help: Working with designers, printers, agencies and more 

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