Follow these 5 steps for a smoother first-time event
In my last article, I offered 5 Things You Can Do To Revive Your Annual Event.
Now I’d like to share another Fab 5: 5 Foundations for Joyful First-Time Events. There are more, of course, but, after many years of supporting first-time events, our team at To the Point Collaborative has found these best form the foundation for a joyful outcome.
The definition of success for a first-time event is very different from one that has been happening year after year. But we’ll get to that in an upcoming post.
Preparing for your first event
As an event organizer, the more you can do in advance, the smoother things will go the day-of. With these 5 foundational steps, your initial event is sure to be less stressful.
- MAKE A CHECKLIST!! Whether you are an avid checklist person or not, you need to start with one. Do research and review at least five lists designed to help launch an event. Make your own list from these lists. If it seems too long, it should be too long. For first-timers, you will have so many moving parts that you cannot pull off a successful event without an extensive checklist.
- Create a timeline. You will want to plot this out week by week, adding in the elements listed in your checklist. If it seems like your timeline is either too packed or too short, you probably should move the date of the event back at least three months. First-timers often underestimate how much time they need.
- Create a budget. Be honest about what you will spend. Again, help is available online — or from folks like our team — for creating a realistic budget. Do not assume you can get most of it done yourself or by asking friends or volunteers to do work for free. And for a first-time event, do not assume you will recoup all your expenses. This is an investment in the future, not an immediate solution to your financial problems.
- Check the date against other events. Make sure the date you select does not overlap with other similar events. Most events are in the spring and fall. Online calendars exist that will list all events in your area. Sometimes for a first event, it is better to pick an “off-season” date in mid-summer or early or late winter. You may lose some attendees due to vacations or weather, but you won’t be up against all the nonprofits that choose spring and fall dates for fundraisers.
- Assume many things will go wrong. Build in extra time to replace the band that cancelled on you, the venue that suddenly had already booked another event for the same time, the designer who missed the deadline for finished invitations, etc. Check and double-check with vendors, the venue, the featured speaker(s), and the caterer to make sure everyone is on task. Have backups for all key items on your checklist. You will need at least a couple of them. Successful events with long histories encounter unforeseen setbacks every year. This is why event planners get paid — and why many are prematurely gray.
No matter how many times you work on an event, you will never get a greater rush than you will from that first one. You want that to be a rush of joy, though, not anxiety. If you start by following the 5 Foundations above, you ought to feel the joy when the curtain descends.