By Slade Thompson
One of the key factors in determining an event’s success is selecting an event date. And when it comes to selecting an event date there are roughly a billion considerations to take into account. The truth is that trying to find the perfect day is nearly impossible. So here are a few of the top factors to consider as you begin your selection process. To make your life easier, we recommend you start by getting a few key people in your organization to agree on which of these factors are at the top of the list and which are lower priorities.
- Your cause: if your event is tied to a charitable cause (especially health related) you likely have a month, or day, or both that are widely known when the public already focuses on your mission. Do you want to capitalize on that? Or have you already saturated that period of time and perhaps should consider 6 months from then to give your potential participants a break between events and spread your PR attention throughout the year?
- Your target audience: once you’ve completed your event’s participant profile ask yourself what they might consider the perfect date. For example, we recently produced a bike ride where the participants were chefs. A weekend event for chefs would have 0 participants, so the ride is held mid-week when chefs have their time off.
- Marketing and fundraising cycles: consult with your marketing and fundraising experts to see how much time is needed to make your event successful. Some events can pull it together in 60 days, some require a full year. Your finance team will also appreciate it if your expenses and revenue are not split between fiscal year ends.
- The weather: probably an obvious one but stay with me for a minute. Any chance your event could happen outdoors in winter weather? Then the venue options are probably wide open and might even have more affordable “off season” rates. Does your event rely on major vendor and infrastructure support? Then you might not want to plan an event on the east coast during hurricane season when infrastructure is often diverted for emergency responses.
- The venue: if a particular venue is critical to your event then your date options will be dictated by their availability. This is even true for many major metro park and trail systems which now open permit applications 365 days in advance and give preference to annual events.
- A tour: is your event part of a national series where staff, supplies and equipment travel from event to event? You can certainly bounce back and forth across the country but that plan will come with a significant budget impact. The MuckFest® MS event calendar is our most challenging event calendar to build (we often refer to it as playing Tetris) and takes months to complete as we balance the logistics of a traveling event (that takes 16 days to build, execute, and tear down) with many of the other considerations in this list.
- VIPs: if a key draw for your event will be a performer, celebrity, major sponsor or other VIP then you’ve got another hurdle to work through.
- The competition: are there several local events of your type? Is your organization marketing multiple events to the same group of participants and volunteers? Are you putting your event up against major national or religious holidays? Are you in a part of the country where most families head to the summer cabin on weekends? Does your target audience include families with young adults? Then you should avoid homecoming and graduation weekends. Are your participants major sports fans? Avoid those playoff and championship game days. There is a lot more competition for your participants’ time and attention than may be obvious at first.
These are a few of the big factors to consider when planning your event date. Your organization and participants may have even more considerations for you to weigh. Choosing your day can quickly become a challenging task, but eventually you’ll narrow in on an option that is best. Give it a try and be sure to get your participants’ feedback so you can keep improving year over year until you hit the sweet spot.
Slade Thompson has been with Event 360 for more than 12 years and has played a role in planning and executing more than 100 events ranging from a 5K for a few hundred people to multi-day events for thousands of participants.