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Event Planning is Evolutionary

Posted by Stephen Lemire on March 22, 2012 at 9:00 AM

During the past 25 years when I worked as an executive director of various national, state, and community small staff associations, one of the many hats that I wore was that of event coordinator. Leading nonprofits of this size, I was not afforded the luxury of having a professional meeting planner on staff.
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The events that I organized included community health fairs, state-wide trainings, regional workshops, and state or national annual conferences. These meetings were typically for members and the general public and would draw anywhere from 50 to 3000 attendees. (The planning of these events was in addition to the organization of monthly, quarterly, or annual board of directors’ meetings which I participated in as an ex officio member.)

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With each event that I organized I added more attractions for attendees in order to draw them to the program or to reward them for participating. It was always an exciting opportunity to create something new each time whether it was a networking social, poster session, live demonstration, or finding a way to incorporate a local tourist attraction. Over time I learned to work closely with the area’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Chamber of Commerce as well as with event site staff and any local connections I may have had.

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There are a few keys to success which I always focus on when planning events:

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1) The agenda must be timely and objectively meet the needs of the audience.

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2) The presenters roles are to facilitate (not lecture) and to meet the objectives of each session.

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3) Attention to detail is vital (food quality, room temperature, etc.).

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4) Customer service cannot be understated (the registration process, greeting everyone, etc.).

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5) Create opportunities for attendee involvement (networking, group discussions, etc.).

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6) Evaluate and measure the success of the event and make continuous improvements.

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7) Demonstrate to attendees that their suggestions and feedback are put in place.

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I created a general template (see below) that I use for planning events. Depending on the type of event (e.g. an annual conference would require more detail and a longer lead time) I would make slight modifications. But this tool was my starting point and came in handy.
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Example: QUARTERLY REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL WORKSHOP
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4 MONTHS PRIOR

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___SELECT DATE (Be aware of conflicts for potential attendees: vacations, religious dates, etc.)

___SELECT SITE (Which city? Contact local CVB and Chamber. Invite bids. Visit prospective venues.)

___SIGN CONTRACT (Negotiate discounts on fees and bundling. Get extended stay discounts.)

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3 MONTHS PRIOR

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___SEND “SAVE THE DATE” (& LOCATION) NOTICES (Postcards, Listservs, social media, newsletter, etc.)

___POST EVENT INFORMATION ON WEBSITE (Add links and details as they become available.)

___DETERMINE EVENT OBJECTIVES AND ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES

___SET AGENDA AND FORMAT

___INVITE SPEAKERS AND FACILITATORS

___BOOK FLIGHTS & GROUND TRANSPORTATION (Check for courtesy shuttles.)

___ARRANGE TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN MULTIPLE SITES, IF APPLICABLE

___SET PRICES AND SET UP BUDGET

___CREATE PROMOTIONAL FLYER AND ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

___PLAN ADD-ON EVENTS (Poster session, networking meet & greet, board meeting, etc.)

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2 MONTHS PRIOR

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___OPEN UP ONLINE REGISTRATION

___ACTIVATE ALL LINKS ON WEBSITE (To registration, to flyer, to calendar, etc.)

___CREATE ATTENDEE SPREADSHEET (For payments, dates and programs attending, etc.)

___WORK WITH CVB TOARRANGE TOURIST DISCOUNTS; GET CVB MATERIALS; PROMO POSTCARD

___ANNOUNCE VIA LSERVS & SOCIAL MEDIA OVERTHE NEXT FOUR WEEKS

WEEK 1) GENERAL ANNCOUNCEMENT/HIGHLIGHTS

WEEK 2) AGENDA AND SPEAKERS

WEEK 3) TOURIST INFORMATION WITH VIRTUAL POSTCARD

WEEK 4) REGISTRATION DEADLINE (SHOULD BE TWO WEEKS PRIOR)

___WRITE-UP NEWSLETTER ARTICLE, PSAs, ETC.

___HIRE PHOTOGRAPHER, IF NEEDED

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1 MONTH PRIOR

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___SEND PERSONAL INVITATIONS TO THOSE WHO HAVE NOT REGISTERED (& EXPECTED TO)

___SEND INVITATIONS TO DIGNITARIES, MEDIA

___FINALIZE ROOMING LISTS, MENUS, A-V NEEDS

___PREPARE MATERIALS FOR ADD-ON MEETINGS (board of directors, etc.)

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2 WEEKS PRIOR

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___PREPARE MY PRESENTATION(S)/POWERPOINT(S) – (Put on thumb drive, email, & printout.)

___SEND CONFIRMATIONS TO ATTENDEES

___PREPARE REGISTRANT PACKETS (Nametags, reports, attendee list, agenda, swag, flyer, etc.)

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1 WEEK PRIOR

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___SHIP TO SITE (Attendees’ packets, banner, camera, supplies, reports, lapel pins, etc.)

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WITHIN 1 WEEK POST

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___FOLLOW-UP WITH ATTTENDEES (Send online evaluations, thank you’s, receivables.)

___COMPLETE EXPENSE REPORTS AND TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT

___POST SUMMARY, PICTURES, AND POWERPOINTS ON WEBSITE

___PUT RECAP (WITH PHOTOS) IN NEWSLETTER WITH LINKS VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

___FINALIZE EVALUATION REPORT (Share site-related comments with venue.)

___DRAFT AGENDA FOR NEXT EVENT

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Categories: Associations, Nonprofits, Management

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