Why are events important? And why should I care?
Before delving into how to plan an event, let’s talk about why events are important. Events like workshops and speaker series bring a community of people together to share their love and passion for something. They get to learn new viewpoints, ideas, and connect with like-minded people. Events are also great networking opportunities. At some events like speaker series, listeners hear firsthand experience from an expert in their field while other events like workshops are a great opportunity to help others learn more about a specific topic. Workshops are also a great opportunity to foster different interests in others, especially young children. Events are crucial for empowering and educating communities on subjects.
Ok yes, I can already see some people going, “Hannah, yadi yada yada, yes we get that events are important but why should we plan an event? It’s so much work!” Why should you plan an event? Planning an event is a way for you to give back to your community and hone some serious leadership skills. You learn so many valuable lessons along the way too, such as how to manage a team, find sponsors, and market to others. Yes, it involves a lot of work, but I can tell you that it is such a rewarding experience to create educational opportunities for others.
My event planning background
I currently manage the Delaware chapter of TILE. TILE is the world’s largest conversation series with over 400 locations in 50 countries. Our mission is to make conversations with innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs accessible to students of all backgrounds. Every season, we plan out a series of talks to educate communities on innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Like many others before me, I was nervous planning my first event and I didn’t really know what to expect. After the first TILE^DE event was over, I was so thankful that I took the initiative to start a TILE chapter in my area because I met so many awesome people and listened to their diverse stories.
Finally, the good part — the part you have all been waiting for: how to plan an event.
1. Gather a team
Planning everything for an event by yourself is extremely stressful so I would suggest gathering a group of people to help you. I would recommend gathering a team that is relative to the size of the event you are trying to plan.
Having a great team makes everything run smoother, but where can you get teammates? -- After school clubs, electives, friends, current organizations you are a part of, etc.
You should have at least one person to be in charge of each major task: managing volunteers, getting sponsors, event marketing, getting speakers (if you need any), delegating tasks, etc. -- Use an app like Trello to keep track of who is doing what, what needs to be done, and what has already been done.
By breaking down each job, each person has less to worry about, therefore leading to less stress.
2. Figure out your audience
Know who you are trying to bring to this event. This will help you with your marketing later on and will also give you an idea of where your event could take place at.
For example, if you are trying to reach high schoolers to attend your event, your venue should be where a lot of high schoolers socialize around. This includes local high schools, libraries, churches, and so on.
3. Set a budget
Setting a budget for your event will let you know how much money your team can afford to spend on each thing. I would recommend using Google Spreadsheet to easily keep track of your budget for each little thing.
Start up by figuring out each part of your event that could incur a cost. Ex: venue, food, chairs, etc.
You and your team should plan out beforehand how much you guys are willing to spend, and if you have sponsors, how you are going to use the money.
What are sponsors? Sponsors are organizations or individuals that pay some or all of the costs involved in hosting an event in exchange for advertising. Some sponsors may donate food or other event items like chairs or tablecloths instead of money.
Be sure to thank you sponsor at the beginning of the event: “Our event today could not have been possible without the kind donations of *insert sponsor name*”
I suggest emailing small businesses or franchises near you to try to get them to sponsor you first. Some businesses have a specific tab on their website devoted to the type of sponsorships they give out so be sure to do your research first
When you email sponsors, be sure to state your motive for the event, who will be there, and what sponsoring you means for them. This gives them an idea of why they should sponsor you.
Estimate the cost each thing might incur for you and then write down how much it actually cost.
Writing down how much it actually cost will help you with budgeting for future events
ALWAYS add a separate column for other costs that might incur (unexpected costs).
4. Find a venue and set a date
You can usually find a venue to host your event for free, especially if you ask the right places and put in the hard work.
Going back to what I mentioned in Step #2, figuring out your audience is key to finding a venue. If your event is leaning more towards being educational, I highly recommend emailing your school to ask if you can use the school gym or auditorium to host your event.
After you find a venue, set a date for the event. Do your research! Don’t set a date for your event when you know there’s going to be another big event happening around your area.
5. MARKET! MARKET! MARKET!
I cannot stress this enough — Marketing is key! Marketing is what brings people to your event.
Start with asking some of your friends/family members to come and support you. This will bring a good amount of people who will also give you feedback on how to improve your event.
Marketing on social media will reach a much larger audience than in person.
Make a Facebook page or Instagram account for the event so that others can find out more about your event
Although social media marketing reaches a much larger audience, it does not mean that more people will come.
From past experience, just posting your event on your Snapchat/Instagram/Facebook story is NOT going to get people to come to your event as most people usually just thumb tap their way through each story.
Instead, create posts that tell about your event: speakers that are going to be there, the educational opportunities presented, etc.
Talk about WHY they should come
Make posters and pass out flyers to people in your school/local community.
Find out who your target audience is and market to them
Ex: if your event is a science workshop, market to the people interested in science or going to pursue science!
Get a rough estimate of how many people are going to come. This will give you an idea of how many people to expect, how much food there should be, how many chairs to set up, and so on.
6. Day of event
The day of the event has finally come! Now is the time to see all your hard work pay off. What should you do now?
Get to your venue at least half an hour before the event starts to start setting up everything.
Play some music before the start of the event.-- Makes the place seem much livelier
If you plan to have food at your event, set up a designated spot for the food and bring some tablecloths
7. Write thank you emails
After your event is done, the first thing you should do when you get home is to write thank you emails to everyone that helped with the process. Shows others how much you appreciate their help. Examples of people to thank: speakers, your team, the venue, sponsors, etc.
I suggest you reflect on what happened during the event and how you can improve for next time after the event.
For example, if you noticed that people had a hard time trying to find where you event was located, put up posters and signs leading to where you event space is.
Hopefully, this article made planning an event not as daunting of a task as it seemed before. Remember, don’t think too much — just start doing and try your best.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the changemakerZ team on Instagram (changemaker.z) or email (email@example.com). Good luck and don’t forget to have fun while doing it! :D
Hannah’s TILE (Talks on Innovation, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship) experience