Insights to Power Social Good

3 Tips for Planning a Successful Event

Posted by Ethan Kotel on Mar 14, 2017 12:15:18 PM

    

As Told by a Local Musician

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Ok, so you’re ready to put on an event. You’ve done the research on your donor demographics, drummed up support for your cause, and gotten people to show interest in coming out to support you. Now comes the hard part: making your event fun, exciting, and successful.

Well, as a local musician skilled in the art of booking and hosting events with the primary goal of continued engagement and financial support, I’ve gotten pretty adept at successful event coordination. Here are 3 tips, not only for planning a successful event, but also to encourage further engagement from your supporters. Let’s rock.

1) Make a Checklist, Ask Yourself Questions

Proper event planning is important, and having your event planned out and finalized long before the big day will help significantly to reduce the stress and headaches as you approach judgment day.

Remember: something will always go wrong, and you will need to fix it. However, by planning appropriately before the event, you minimize problem-variables and will have a much simpler (and more importantly, calmer) time dealing with any troubles as they happen, rather than allowing your problems to become overwhelming under deadline.

So, create an event planning checklist. Make a budget. Most importantly, plan ahead. As a general rule of thumb, if any more than 150 people are expected at your event, you’ll want to start planning at least 3 months in advance. Add another two weeks for every additional 100 people you think might attend. Your goal should be for all contracts (food, location, entertainment) to be finalized at least a full month before the day of the event. Again, this will help you minimize problems when they do happen, and allow you to sleep easier knowing the concrete needs of your event are set in stone.

 

Lawyer pro-tip: get everything in writing. Although it’s great to rely on the trustworthiness of people, getting all contracts in writing is always a best practice. This will allow you to more easily hold people accountable, and allow you to simply keep track of everything you have confirmed, without having to rely on memory or crawl through text messages and voicemails. If a provider does not want to give you a contract, find another provider. This is a red flag for any professional.

 

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before staging any event. Who is this event for? What is our goal in hosting this event? Do we want donations? Email addresses? To raise awareness of our cause? Having a clear and specific goal will help you focus your event, and will impact the way in which you plan it, as you’ll see in tip #2.

 

A clearly stated goal will also decide what your primary Call to Action will be for the event. This Call to Action will be the deciding factor in how successful your event can be, so be sure to structure the entire event around your Call to Action:

  • If your goal is to acquire email addresses or mobile numbers to grow your community, have a table with list signups clearly visible, centrally located, and staffed at all times.
  • If your Call to Action is to elicit a frenzy of mobile giving, plan your speech, banter, or announcements around how and when you will ask your audience to text in your keyword, and check out the video below on best practices for Event Calls to Action. Remember, repetition is key.
  • If, instead, you’re just trying to raise awareness for your work, structure the event around your ability to share stories: have a booth nearby playing the stories of people you’ve helped, invite beneficiaries on stage with you, or invite a leading expert in your sector to speak about your work.

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Whatever you decide, make sure that your Call to Action is the centerpiece of your entire event, and make sure nobody in attendance can miss it. You can read further here for more tips on maximizing engagement and donations during your events.

When playing a concert, my band will ask ourselves the same questions. Occasionally, we want to maximize our profit from the evening. Our main goal, however, is usually to focus on supporter engagement and community building.

When we play a show, we structure everything from the set list to our banter between songs around how we want to make people feel, and how we can get them to engage with us. Our Call to Action -- asking people to sign up for our mobile and email lists -- is placed directly after our highest energy song, when people are most likely to be paying attention, participating, and willing to listen to what we have to say.

We even will restructure our set and banter in order to change the location of this Call to Action, to test its efficacy and provide us the data we need to make each concurrent concert more effective.

2) Pick the Best Possible Night for your Event

I can feel you rolling your eyes from here. “Oh, here’s another blog post on ‘50 ways to use common sense.’” But, I’m here to tell you that “the best possible night” is not always a Friday or Saturday night. Date selection demands analysis and research to ensure that your event is the place to be, no matter when it is. Even the time of year will affect what day you aim to plan your event. A weekday night could be crucially under-attended in winter, but might get much more attention during the summer. #ThursdaysTheNewFriday

First, consider when your supporters are going to want to go out. This is when those questions from Step 1 come in handy. Consider your audience, and consider the type of event you’re planning. If you’re planning an event like a gala, concert, or party, Fridays and Saturdays will be your best friend. People are always more willing to stay out late if they don’t have work the next day, as I’m sure you know.

 

As a musician, we are always hoping to get a Friday or Saturday night. However, our preference for these nights is specifically centered around the fact that we are purely entertainment, and not at all related to people’s everyday work or business lives. For more business-type gatherings, weekend nights might not always be the best choice. There’s also WAY more competition for a Friday or Saturday night, so make sure to have a big HOOK to get people excited. (We’ll talk about that below).

 

If, for example, you are conducting an event to celebrate the success of the PTA bake sale, it might be a better idea to pick a Tuesday or Wednesday night, when your event won’t conflict with ball games, sleepovers, birthday parties, or other struggles that parents will be dealing with over their weekend.

 

So, to that end, here’s a breakdown of the week, according to my experience with how people view each day. Consider this as you plan your event:

Monday: people are planning their weeks, getting motivated, and slipping back into work mode from weekend mode. This is almost always the worst night to plan an event, as most people do not want to exhaust themselves so early in the week. Avoid Mondays if possible.

 

Tuesday: less restrictive than Monday, though will still not be an ideal night for a party or humongous gathering. On Tuesdays, people are into the swing of the week enough to not be as wary of going out, and so will be more willing to accept an invite to something like a small get together, fundraising planning session, movie night, or other low-key activity. This is a great night for engagement, less so for donations.

Wednesday: hump day! People are getting a little bogged down from their work week, and are planning and looking forward to their weekend. This is a great night for an activity that will end relatively early, as people want to get home with enough time to decompress before work-night sleep. Consider something like a movie night, brainstorming session, guest speaker/think-tank, or something low-energy, like a mini-golfing event. Dinner events work best on weeknights, so consider putting your pizza party on a Wednesday.

Thursday: almost to the weekend, and people are much more willing to go out on the town. This is the earliest in the week I’d recommend planning something like a concert, gala, or other involved event, though I would still aim to get that on a Friday or Saturday if possible. Consider a higher-energy event that still leaves enough time to get home, such as go-karting, a night at the park, or a potluck.

Friday and Saturday: The gold standard of days to do things. People are always looking to go out on a Friday or Saturday night, will be in a great mood after a long work week, and don’t have to worry about waking up for work the next day. This is the optimal night if your goal is to raise funds or go crazy. Utilize these days for your largest or highest energy events, such as galas, concerts, fundraising events, and rallies. Make sure to plan for people staying late. Note, however, that these will be the two highest competition nights to hold an event.

Sunday: Sunday is kind of a weird day in the event planning world. People are willing to go do something during the day, but less likely to go out at night, as they are planning their coming week. Consider using a Sunday for a low-to-mid-key event, especially outside, such as a benefit in the Botanic Gardens, a march, a luncheon, or a guest-speaker. People are also more willing to give on Sundays, as many religions encourage alms-giving on the sabbath.

 

Another important consideration when picking the “right” day is what other events are happening in your area on the same night or the nights surrounding your event. If you have the opportunity to place your event on a Friday night, but it’s on the same night as another huge event in your town, it is usually best to hold off and wait for a better date, as your audience will be split between attending both events.

Also, keep in mind the events on the nights on either side of yours. Will your audience be too tired after the Sting concert the night before to come to your benefit? Will they be saving their energy for the Sting concert the night after your event? Sting comes into town a lot, and you want your supporters focused on you, not him.

 

Take care to ensure that your event is the dominant event in your area on your desired night. If this is impossible, pick a night where your event will at least dominate in your industry, so that you might attract as many attendees as possible. A Thursday night where you’re the only game in town will be better than a Friday night, if you’re being overshadowed by a larger or more popular event.

Pick the right day for your audience and the event that you’re planning. Once you have the day picked, make sure to contact your venue of choice and reserve it as soon as possible: losing dates because you waited too long to reserve a spot can have catastrophic results. Also, planning out far enough in advance helps you lock down dates on people’s calendars before they book something else, so get those event notifications out early and often.


3) What’s the Hook? Why is your Event Special?

This last, and perhaps most important question when planning your event will help you capitalize on a powerful and base instinct latent in each of your supporters: something we here at mGive refer to as #FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. The fear of missing out is a crucial tool, and, when used correctly, will lead to higher and higher attendance at each concurrent event that you host.

 

In short, it is exactly what it sounds like: in designing your event to be as fun as possible for the people attending, you hope to win over people who aren’t even there, by making them think “wow, that seems like it was a ton of fun. I better not miss out on the next one.

 

In the band, this takes a very simple form: at every concert, we seek to play so well, and imbue so much energy into our show, that our fans will leave and want to tell their friends about how awesome we are. We also choose fun and engaging themes for certain shows like a masquerade, costume party, or a benefit show for a great cause. This, in turn, will make those friends wonder about what they didn’t get to see, and will be more inclined to come to the next concert, knowing that they’re missing out on a great night if they don’t.

 

So, for your nonprofit, you should always be thinking of ways to make your events special and memorable.

This is another important time to consider your audience. If your target demographic for this event is 18-35 year old men, consider looking into inviting a local professional football or baseball player to participate in your event, hold an autograph signing, or something similar. If you’re trying to appeal to a small group of middle aged women, maybe consider something like Canvas and Cocktails, an activity centered around painting and drinking wine. If you’re working on attracting middle-school parents, think about hosting an event that involves their children as well, like the previously mentioned go karting, or something centered around games. Nothing is more effective at getting parents in a room than their kids begging them to go.

By making your event unique, you can turn your supporters into promoters, helping to do your marketing work for you. Think about this, are you likely to want to go to an event after the person hosting it asked you to go? Or are you perhaps more likely to attend once one of your friends tells you how much fun the last one was? Indeed, peers make the best persuaders. By essentially forcing people to talk about your event after the fact, you are tapping into their network of friends and connections and making them want to attend your next event, all without ever saying a word to them.

Wrapping Up

With these 3 elements in mind, you can plan not only a great event, but an impactful and inspiring one as well. With proper planning, you can ensure that your event is prepared and ready to go off without a hitch months before the date arrives. With a solid and well planned Call to Action, you can engage your supporters and get them involved in real time. By planning your event for the perfect day, you can maximize attendance and involvement. And, by utilizing #FOMO, you can turn your supporters into promoters, and watch as your attendance increases with every event you host.

These are all simple tips that will vastly increase the success of your events. We hope to see you utilize them and put on an amazing event! And be sure to read more on our blog to learn about best practices for following up after an event and more!

 

Yours sincerely,

Ethan Kotel

 

p.s. I am always here and happy to help brainstorm ways to make your event spectacular. Contact us with the button below to get in touch and start making your events shine!

 

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Topics: mgive, nonprofit, Fundraising, donors, Events, Event Planning

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