Schools are vital players to each community. As such, we understand that when a school holds a special event, the community should be there in full force. However, with today’s busy schedule, how do you effectively pack your event with parents and members of the community? As event managers and parents, we recently had to use all of our skills when planning an event for our kid’s schools.
As event planning experts, we know that there is not one single way to run and manage all events. Every event is different. Every audience is unique. Here are five quick points to consider when planning your special event.
Know Your Audience
When planning your event, the first two questions to ask are:
Whom do you want to bring together?
Why are you bringing these particular people together?
Parent groups provide excellent opportunities for families to get to know one another and build community through social events. However, equally as important are parent networking and fundraising events. Once you determine the audience you want to target, you can begin to work on the theme and/or focus of what the event should be. For example:
- Wine Tasting
- Mom’s Night Out
- Halloween Party
- Weekend or Afterschool Playdates
- Town Hall Meetings
Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
Now that you’ve landed on the perfect event and audience, spread the word with gusto! Luckily, there are several platforms to help spread news for FREE. When determining how to market your event, here are a few considerations:
- Flyers/Paper Invites – Tried and true, sending home flyers or some type of paper invite through students is a great way to reach parents. Include pertinent information about the event that answers very simply What, How, When and WHY! If you are asking parents to attend an event that is raising money, always share how funds will be used. Keep in mind that as students get older, flyers sent home do not always get delivered to their rightful recipient.
- Electronic Invitations – Similar to learning styles, everyone communicates in different ways. As such, consider utilizing multiple platforms to reach a greater audience. Facebook is wonderful for some, while others may not be regular users. That’s not to say don’t use Facebook rather we encourage you to use Facebook in addition to a free invitation web program such as Evite or Eventbrite. This will ensure you have opened the lines of communication to more potential attendees.
- Parents – Consider a Parent volunteer team to help spread the word via word of mouth in addition to other responsibilities.
- Website – Maybe you can create an event website using WordPress or another similar program.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
Anything is possible when we work as a Team! To help make your event success, include others who may want to help. The trick is to make sure that everyone understands their responsibilities, as well as how much time will be needed to support the event. Here are some hints to successfully delegating roles and responsibilities to others:
- Network with other parents to learn what special talents and connections they have.
- Create committees based on talents: Consider Advertising/outreach, Sponsorships (who knows business community members – think local restaurants, dry cleaners, etc.), Live Auctions or Restaurant Tree (restaurants donate gift cards of $25, then people pull a gift card off a picture tree), Logistics for the day of – who’s good at managing the day of event, Volunteers – who can help make sure that everyone understands their role the day of the event.
- Clearly communicate roles and responsibilities! If you are asking someone to help complete a task that you know will require a commitment of 2 to 5 hours per week before the event, this should be shared with the person offering to help. If someone is not able to commit to the time you really need, you can find a different less time-consuming commitment – and ultimately will gain a new volunteer!
The First and Last Impression!
Think about the last event you attended. What immediately comes to mind? For most, it is either the moment they arrived, or just before they left. When planning your event, think of ways you could impress yourself if you were a guest at your own event. Even more, think of worse case scenarios and how to possibly avoid them. Bad experiences are the greatest way to lower attendance at future events!
- When laying out the event, for each category (registration, auctions, main event), consider contingency plans. What will you do if a child is having a meltdown while the live auction is happening?
- How are you capturing your audience and truly engaging them during the event? Do you have a special VIP invited that should be personally introduced to Directors? How are you making this happen?
Follow-up and Thank you!
Follow-up and thank you could mean the difference of someone coming to your next event or not, or donating more time or money, or bringing more of their friends!
- Gratitude goes a long way – consider a hand written card or a personal phone call to a generous donor. If you are looking to build a strong donor base, creating an experience people want to return to is important. Whether it’s sharing the number of people who attended, or the amount of money raised at the event, people want to know that their time and attendance made a difference.
- The overall experience of an event includes not only the event itself, but the time immediately afterwards. Within a week, it is important to follow-up with everyone to let them know how successful the event was and how appreciative you are they attended.
While we’ve included a list of our favorite top five, there is definitely more than one way to fill a room! What are your best ways to fill your event? Hit the comment section below to share your stories of success. Jennifer Ricker and Emily Anderson are Event Production Managers for Event 360. Jen is mom to Rosalie and Andrew and Emily is mom to Kaisa.