Those of us involved in these action sports industries often find ourselves attempting to figure out the best way to help promote our sport and get “outsiders” involved. Well what better way then to plan something that does in fact interest everyone, right? Let’s host an event, get people to come for the food, music, and games, and then give an opportunity to put on a show! It’s a common idea among cable parks, private lakes, skateparks, BMX tracks, etc. Especially this time of year as we begin to approach a busy summer season! Whether it’s some kind of fundraiser, music festival, or any random event idea someone comes up with, we like the idea of an opportunity to showcase what it is we are so passionate about. So we put together an event.
Managing and coordinating events is not quite the laid-back “I’m planning a party!” type of job that many people picture when you tell them you’re an event manager. Whether it’s a wedding or a baby shower or a birthday party or the X-Games- a lot of work goes into each event that is never seen from the outside looking in. Well what about from the inside looking out? Whether you are the person who manages these types of events, or someone who’s simply interested, you might at some point in your life find these tips quite useful. And remember the most important thing in all of this- you CAN do it! Stay excited about what it is you want to share and tackle these goals one step at a time to make a difference in someone’s life (or many peoples’ lives!)
In the time leading up to the event, (especially right at first) you might reach a point in time where you quite literally FREEZE. Your to-do list has gotten so long (whether it’s written out or a jumbled mess up inside your head), and your ideas have become so overwhelming, you simply cannot make yourself take action because you don’t know where to start. Want to know where to start? Or, better yet, never reach this point of frozen? Be sure you keep up with the following tips!
- STAY ORGANIZED.This one CANNOT be stressed enough. A lot of people claim they don’t need calendars or planners or lists but oh my goodness gracious you cannot do all of this in your head. Google docs and excel sheets are beautiful things. USE THEM. Make folders in your email inbox, set reminders on your phone, use filing cabinets- whatever system works best for you, just make sure you have some kind of system to keep yourself organized.
- Lists, lists, lists. Ok so this one kind of goes hand in hand with the tip above and below it, but it needs its own section. Some people are bigger on lists than others, but I must say there is no greater sense of satisfaction than being able to cross that last thing off and throw the thing away. It’s best to break the list into sections of some kind- whether by timeline, category, person responsible, or whatever else, I promise it will help you stay organized, even if it’s a good old fashioned pen-and-paper spiral notebook to-do list. And calendars. This is a big one. Last one on the organization train- make a calendar and STICK TO IT. Create deadlines for yourself to make sure you can knock out each piece of the puzzle at a time.
- Figure out the purpose of your event. Whether it’s a fundraiser, a way to get people to your site, or just for fun, it’s in your best interest to have an underlying purpose that is well established and communicated to the public if you want people to come.
- Listen to people, but not too much. When it comes to putting an event together, the whole idea tends to stem from “let’s do what people will love”- but this concept is not always as simple as it might seem. Understanding what people want can be much more difficult than one might think, so it’s important to talk to people. Take surveys, ask questions, gather people’s opinions on what they would and wouldn’t like, etc. BUT- if you have a concept for your event in mind, be sure to stick relatively close to that idea. Adjustments are ok, but don’t let people run your brain into a mess. Sometimes people will even say “this is better”, and then come event time decide they don’t like the way their own idea actually panned out. As the event manager or management team, be sure to consider these ideas, but take them with a grain of salt.
- STAY POSITIVE. Realistic, but positive. Positivity is key. The minute stress enters into an environment it begins to reflect outward. If you can keep yourself and your event team looking at things in a positive light and moving forward with a good attitude, you will be able to see solutions to problems much more clearly, and this positivity will reflect outwardly to your attendeeds, participants, and other clientel.
- Communicate and delegate. Working as a team with anyone and everyone else involved in the event is critical to its success. Communicate clearly and efficiently. Make things “dummy proof” so ideas and tasks can be easily shared. Delegation is the second key here. Even if you are the most incredible, Type A, crazy work-ethic, control freak of a person- you CANNOT do everything yourself. Take a deep breath and read that again. You can’t do it. So your best bet is to take what you know best, assign that to yourself, and then figure out the best people to task the rest with. Now, if you ARE one of the personality types mentioned previously, here’s how you get everything to a point where you are about to relax a bit. Organize whatever tasks you are delegating with very clear, step-by-step instructions, and communicate these clearly. This ensures everyone is on the same page and has similar goals that align well together.
- DON’T procrastinate, especially if you need to get sponsors to help out with your event. Sponsorships can make or break your event, or even entire business. The important thing to remember with sponsorships is mutual benefits. You want to make sure that the sponsor has ample exposure, but it needs to be equal to the effort that you are putting forth for that company, organization or individual. To save a headache, it’s extra important that this is something you do NOT put off until the last minute. Sponsors can help you with marketing, boosting attendance, financial costs, and so much more. The sooner you are able to get them on board, the better off your event will likely play out.
- If you are not the “artsy” type and/or don’t know how to use graphic design software, find someone who does. I cannot stress this enough. Now, granted, when it comes to marketing and advertising there is a lot more that goes into it than simply creating a cool poster or appealing graphic, but you have to have this at least to start. A simple black and white (or even color text-based) word document simply won’t cut it. It’s not appealing, it won’t catch any eyes, and will ultimately do you know good.
- The “categories”. So I run events at an action sports complex, but that doesn’t mean these categories are completely useless if you’re doing a different type of event. See which ones apply to you, and use those. When I’m putting an event together, there are a few main categories, each with a few of their own subcategories.
- Marketing: this involves everything from your social media to the event website (if applicable), the event logo, print media, etc. Not only the creation of these things, but the distribution is just as (if not more) important. Set a marketing plan right from the beginning that includes everything from creation to sharing and then stick to it.
- Money: refer back to the sponsorship ideas. Sponsors can help cover all event costs, if you get it right, but you need to have a plan for your expenses, incomes, profits, and donations (in some cases). Make a “PNL”- Profit & Loss- statement. It might largely be based on estimates, but make these as accurate as you can. Then you can clearly see what kind of attendance or participation you’ll need at your event to break even and/or reach your goals.
- People: this is the category a lot of people tend to forget about. Planning your day to day event structure and “internal itinerary”, as I like to call it. Make sure you have a plan for check-in or registration (if your event has it). List out the jobs and stations your staff or volunteers need to take charge of. Take your public event schedule and break it down into tiny pieces, adding in all of the set ups, breakdowns, and moving parts throughout the day, weekend, or week of the event so that you are ready to go when the time comes.
- The deadlines. Make them, and stick to them. Not following your deadlines can make you or break you, period. Make your lists. Add them to a calendar. Set your goals. And smash the hell out of them.
Ok so now that you’re an expert on planning the event from start to finish (lol), what happens day of? What should we be ready for? After years of doing this, there are a few very basic, general tips that apply to every event, no matter what, and they are some random things you might not have thought of until you didn’t actually have access to them.
- For every event, no matter what, you will need duct tape, scissors, and a clipboard with a pen. Just have these on hand, I promise you’ll need one or all of them at some point. I’m known to walk around an event site with a clipboard in hand and pen tucked behind my ear, with duct tape and scissors available at several on-site locations.
- Talk to siri! Or google or whatever other talking robot you have in your pocket. She’s (they are) a great reminder aide. Just simply taking a look over the schedule in front you and pulling out your phone “Siri- remind me at ___ to ____”. Throughout the event reminders can pop up on your phone and siri will basically walk you through the entire event, even when you are brain dead or trying to deal with a crisis. She’ll help you stay on track (or at least give you the ability to delegate a reminder to someone if you are being pulled in another direction).
- Walkie talkies. If you can’t get enough walkie talkies at a reasonable price for every event staff member onsite, there are some pretty cool apps out there that turn your phone into a walkie. Zello is one we use here onsite, and it can be incredibly useful. Texts draw too much attention away, phone calls can be cumbersome, and this will get your message to people quickly and effectively to make sure all your moving parts are moving together in sync.
- Comfortable shoes. Not flats, or flip flops (unless you have some bomb flip-flops with incredible arch support). I’m talking comfortable shoes with a LOT of support. By the end of the day or weekend or whatever it might be, without these not only will your feet be numb, your knees will ache and your back with be sore, too. Highly recommend investing in a really good pair of shoes.
- WATER. Oh my gosh, don’t forget this. Carry a water bottle with your clipboard or on a lanyard around your neck if you have to. Not only is it important to stay hydrated for your physical health, you’ll be surprised at how much more energy you have throughout the day if you are constantly drinking water.
- “Find my friends”, for you iphone users. This is a very useful tool, along with the walkies, to figure out where your event managers are on event day, particularly if the event is widespread and takes up a lot of square-footage or mileage. It will help you understand who is at which stations and taking on which responsibilities.
- Emotions do not exist on event day. I don’t care how stressed you are about something, or how irritated you are that so and so did whatever. Put it aside and focus.
- Crisis WILL happen. Period. Do NOT give up. If power goes out from a storm you figure out how to get food and drink to your attendees. If the septic system goes haywire for some reason you figure out an alternative solution. You figure things out as they happen and do NOT abandon your team. They are relying on you to guide them. Assess the situation, divide and delegate, and conquer.
There is a lot to be said for an event when it does run smoothly; when you have great teamwork, a great turn out, and happy guests. It makes all of the work ultimately more than worth it. Creating something for people to enjoy can be incredibly rewarding, and it will give them something to talk about and remember as a positive experience. A good story to pass on. And that feeling at the end of it all, when you get home and can finally throw yourself onto your bed and reflect- no matter what happens, being able to say “I did it” is a great feeling. From the beginning to end, it’s an incredible journey. I encourage each of you to throw yourself into your passion, and put something together to share that with the world!