A successful event is typically the result of careful planning and preparation. This booklet will guide you through the elements to consider when planning an event. It is by no means exhaustive as a great deal will vary depending on your own ideas and objectives, but it will give you a foundation to a well-structured event.
This guide has been broken down into five sections:
1) Initial Ideas
2) Planning & Implementing
4) On the Day
1) INITIAL IDEAS
Define who, what & why?
Once you’ve decided to hold an event, it can be a little overwhelming as to where to begin your planning. While you probably have these things in mind we suggest your initial thoughts should concentrate on clearly articulating the foundations:
Who is the event going to be for? (Audience)
What type of event will I host? (Type & Format)
Why am I going to hold this event? (Objectives)
There is no order in which you should determine each of these three foundations, but whichever comes first will dictate the others. For example, you may have a great idea for a basic but fun hands-on experiment, this would in turn dictate your audience as it would be most suitable for primary school aged children, and your objectives certainly wouldn’t be to educate the adult audience about climate change.
Identifying your target audience is essential in developing your event. It will play a large part in the type of event you will host and it will determine your publicity campaign. When defining your target audience and ensuring it is consistent with your event objectives and format, you may want to consider the following:
experience in the subject area of your event; and
why they would want to attend your event.
Type & Format
Considering the subject matter, theme and format of your event will determine the type of event you host. If you already have a great idea, then this part will be easy for you. Even so, it may be worthwhile doing some research because an initial idea can always be expanded or improved.
When deciding what type of event you want to host, inspiration can be found almost anywhere. Here are a few suggestions:
consider topical issues in the media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet);
research other international festivals and events; or
brain-storm with your colleagues.
Science, engineering, technology and innovation can be explored through a vast array of formats, ranging from hands-on activities to tours of places of interest. Some popular event formats include:
displays or exhibitions;
public discussions or debates;
online activities; or
talks and presentations.
Remember to consider what type of event your target audience would be interested in when deciding on the event format.
We suggest you generate several ideas, analyse their relative strengths and select the strongest combination of type and format, taking into consideration your aims and target audience. Remember to be realistic about your time, personnel, resources and budget. It may be useful to pilot your ideas on a sample of the target audience.
Along with defining your target audience and your event format and type, it is worthwhile considering your objectives. Over the period of planning, implementing and evaluating your event, the objectives will always a strong reference point to keep you on track, and can be used as a guideline by others involved.
To determine your objectives, think about what you hope to achieve for:
the presenters; and
We suggest that you make the objectives clear and concise, and write them down so you can reference them whenever required.
Gather a team
No matter the scale of your event, you will most probably need to work with others to see it become a reality. Consider how many people you will need to:
plan the event;
publicise the event; and
set up and run the event on the day (presenting, chairing, helping, catering, and cleaning up).
The number of people required will largely depend on the size and scope of the event. However, working in a team will always makes the process and the success of an event more enjoyable, so we suggest you consider gathering a team no matter what the size of your event.
When bringing a team together, consider that each member of the event team should be a real contributor, either through their dedication to event management, skill, creativity and/or decision-making ability.
The structure and membership of an event team depends on the size, nature and complexity of the event.
For small-scale local events, an event team may be appointed from within an existing organisation and may have a very flat hierarchy. Larger and more complex events are likely to have event committee structures that include representatives from a number of organisations and require a number of hierarchical levels.
Working with a partner organisation may also allow you to share best practice, combine resources and optimise both your audiences. Consider what types of organisation might make a good partner for your event.
Some organisations you might want to consider include:
Prepare the budget
A budget for your event is imperative. You may be given a budget to work within, or you may be required to present your costs for the budget to be allocated to you. Either way, it is important to plan carefully and be diligent with your budget.
To prepare your budget you will need to consider the income and expenses of the event.
Income streams may include:
• admissions fees;
• grants; and/or
Expenses to consider include:
• speakers fee;
• venue hire;
• equipment required;
• advertising & publicity; and
• insurance etc.
Whatever your maximum budget, we suggest you only allocate 90% and leave 10% for unseen incidental costs as these will inevitably occur.
When preparing your budget, be aware of the following:
• identify all items of expenditure early in the event planning e.g. administration,
event delivery, marketing and communication;
• make sure the budget represents true costs. Hidden costs, such as hiring extra
equipment that was originally under-estimated, can be significant. Even if it is
known that some items will be free or subsidised, they should be included;
• most events will attract some income, whether it’s direct (items such as gate
takings, programs, catering, car parking) or indirect (items such as advertising,
sponsorships, raffles, sales, donations); and
• show all sponsorships as income. It is best not to overestimate the amount.
Remember that it may cost money to obtain a sponsorship and this cost should also be
included in expenditure.
2) PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTING
You should now have fleshed out the initial ideas and concepts of your event, that is:
• defined the who, what and why of the event;
• gathered a team; and
• prepared the budget.
You’ve made a solid foundation to the structure of your event and it’s time to start implementing and planning. Outlined below are the tasks and activities we suggest you undertake in preparation for staging a National Science Week event.
Identify tasks & responsibilities
To ensure every aspect of your event is considered and planned for accurately, we suggest you use the Event Implementation and budget template on the website. This will allow you to identify and track all the elements and tasks involved in staging an event, who’s responsible for each and when they need to be completed by.
Elements identified in the template include:
Advertising & Publicity;
Bookings & RSVPs;
Competition, Prizes & Incentives;
You may want to decide on some of these elements as a team or leave it up to the individuals; this is all up to you and your team and how you work together. Also, please remember that this list is a guide and may need to be tailored to your event.
Once the Event Implementation template has been prepared for your event, set clear directions for the event team, including:
Any specifics about the tasks;
Who they are responsible to; and
Any specific reporting dates.
Plan for regular updates
During the Planning & Implementing stage it is important to keep regular communication between yourself and the members of your event team. This can take place in a variety of forms, whether it is in person, telephone conferencing, face-to-face meetings or via emails.
Whichever the preference of your group, we suggest you hold updates on a weekly or fortnightly basis, particularly as the event draws closer.
We suggest you also consider some sort of Meeting Agenda and Meeting Minutes. This will keep the communication of the group as effective and efficient as possible. To ensure this happens, it is best you appoint an individual to be responsible for these tasks.
As identified in the Tasks & Responsibilities, when planning an event there are many elements to consider. Outlined to follow are some points to consider on just a few of key event elements.
Where to hold the event?
Events can take place at a variety of venues including schools, workplaces, or in a public space (such as a shopping centre). They can be held in small rooms, across whole buildings or outdoors, and can even take place in cyberspace. Many organisers feel that using cultural or social venues, such as a museum or bar, can help to make people feel more at ease and may also help to attract a different type of audience.
Choosing a venue suitable for your event will be contingent on both the event format and the target audience. Ensure you consider both of these when choosing your venue.
When to hold the event?
In regard to timing of your event, your target audience may dictate your decision. For example, schools will come during weekdays, families will come at weekends, and working professionals will attend out of business hours or in their lunch hours. Consider who will be coming when you choose the day and time for your event.
How to attract your audience?
Your publicity campaign will be crucial to the success of your event and how you market the event will depend on the event itself and who you wish to attract.
See section 3) PROMOTION for further details.
Don’t forget to acknowledge all sponsors of your event when preparing your promotional material.
Specifics on the day
It is important to work through every aspect of the event from start to end. Specifics for the day are outlined below.
Take some time to plan the setup of the room in advance. Build a good relationship with the venue staff and presenters. Consider the following in your planning:
book the venue for longer than the event, as you will need time to set up and to clean up;
check access to the venue: will you need signs/door stops? Is there disabled access?
how will you get staff and equipment to the venue? Do you need to arrange transport?
check what equipment/facilities are needed and who will provide them: some scientific equipment may be covered by safety regulations, check electrical supplies are adequate;
check the best arrangement for the layout: what type of seating arrangement would best suit the format of the event?
learn the occupational health and safety procedures and fire regulations for the building; and
check that public liability insurance will be covered by the venue.
Once you have an interested audience you need to make sure that you supply them with all the information and facilities they need to enjoy the event. Some things you might want to consider are:
booking systems: do they need to book/pay, and if so how and when;
check that everything is clear in the information sent out to confirm bookings;
produce signs/maps and information on parking, public transport, walking distances and disabled access so your attendees know where to go;
specify if children need to be accompanied by adults;
ensure toilets are properly signed; and
consider audience comfort, including furniture, refreshments, audio levels and room temperature.
Your staff on the day will be pivotal to the experience your audience receives. You may want to think about:
how the speaker/presenter will interact with your target audience;
all staff should be equipped with session times, running times, venue details and an audience profile in advance;
brief staff so that they are confident with their roles and responsibilities;
select an MC who will be confident and work well with the format of your event; and
consider whether you need to organise travel or lunch arrangements for your staff.
We suggest you walk through the event from the point of view of every stakeholder involved (without any assumed knowledge) to ensure each group knows their roles, responsibilities and requirements with precision.
Could anything prevent the staff or the participants from getting to the venue and enjoying the event? e.g. strikes, inadequate directions.
It is also worth considering everything that could go wrong and planning what you would need should that mishap take place. Think about:
risk assessments, first aid cover, fire regulations;
audio malfunctions; and
having a Plan B, eg if it rains, if the speaker doesn’t arrive etc.
Prepare a running sheet
A running sheet outlines the event minute-to-minute, designating responsibilities and tasks for the day. Preparing a running sheet for your event will assist in its success as it makes it clear to all, what is to take place and when.
There’s an Event Run Sheet template on the website that can be adapted to your National Science Week event.
An event running sheet should include:
allocated time and location for every activity;
names of those involved; and,
Everyone involved in the event should have a copy of the running sheet and follow it carefully. Running sheets are also used for briefings of all involved.
Prior to working out your publicity plan, you need to have all of the details of your event
finalised. This includes:
Having decided on your event, you should already know who your market is. In order to market your event effectively, you need to know what the habits and interests are of your target audience.
Some questions to help in establishing this may include:
What media are they most likely to use? Would they be more likely to read a specific paper or listen to a radio station?
Where do they congregate? Do they work in a specific place or visit a venue after hours?
What typically interests this age group?
Your marketing plan can be as simple or detailed as you like!
If you are short on time, it would be worthwhile prioritising your activities, from the absolutely
essential activities through to your wish list of actions.
A useful next step is to spend some time writing up a few short paragraphs about your event that can become the basis for your publicity.
Try to keep the sentences short and to the point, without difficult words or jargon.
Remember, people need to be able to understand what your event will be about and it should appeal to your target audience.
Also think about the way we read – left to right and top to bottom. You want to put the most important information at the top and the least important information at the bottom. Try to come up with a first line that captures the reader’s attention and makes them want to read to the end.
Once you have your basic text you can then adapt this for use in posters, media releases, community announcements, advertisements, mailouts and invitations.
The following section will provide you with some ideas to consider for promoting your event. Some of these ideas will require funding, whereas others won’t require any money, just your time.
Look through and choose the concepts that best suit your target audience and the resources you have available.
An extremely quick and easy way to get your event out there is to make sure you have registered it on the WhySci website. Make sure you enter your event as soon as you have confirmed the details – the earlier the event is listed, the greater the number of people who will be able to view your event.
Invitations are a good way to reach target audiences like schools, colleagues, university students, clubs and friends. Invitations can be sent by themselves, or if you have other material like a flyer, it is a good idea to send those as well.
Invitations can be sent via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter in electronic form or in hard copy through the mail. As email is now used by the vast majority of Australians, this can be a very effective and simple way to get your message out.
A great way to promote your event is through networking. A few quick phone calls can soon lead to an ever-expanding number of people attending your event. Apart from your own contacts, organisations are sometimes willing to promote your event in their own marketing material, for example through email or company newsletters.
Some people that you might want to consider approaching include:
Local schools and universities
If your target audience is small, such as a local community or school, you might want to consider conducting a mail-out. If you can, the mail-out should be personally addressed to your audience, however even doing a letter box drop will work. In your mail-out, it is a good idea to write a cover letter as well as including a flyer or other promotional material.
A well-designed flyer that is visually exciting can easily capture that audience’s attention.
Flyers can be distributed through:
Displays in prominent places such as libraries, shops, schools, universities and clubs.
Tip – Make sure to do a thorough spell check before you print your flyers. If you are unsure, get someone else to double check.
Posters and banners
Posters and banners should be displayed in as many prominent places as possible.
Consider the places where your audience is most likely to visit as these will be the best places to display your material. Approach local businesses, clubs or organisations who might be willing to display your poster or banner in their buildings. You might want to consider:
A great way to target younger audiences is through Facebook and Twitter. If your event is aimed at this group, it might be worth listing your event on the National Science Week pages of these networking sites.
If your target audience is the general public, or a large group, local media may be a useful promotional tool. Newspapers, online websites, radio and local television stations may be interested in running a story on your event or taking photos and attending on the day.
Here are some steps for dealing with the media. There are also examples of each recommendation provided with the event kit.
1. Prepare a media list
Look at the media that is available in your local area and make a list of what is available.
You might want to consider:
Free community papers.
Local AM and FM radio stations.
Local television stations.
Websites about your local area.
The next step is to identify the right contact. Most media have their own websites set up and this is a good starting point. Look for an email address and phone number for “Editorial”. If it is a small newspaper, you can look for the news editor or features editor. If you can’t find details on their website, call the switchboard and ask for the email address to submit press releases.
Timing is crucial, so always check when the deadline date is. For example, many weekly newspapers will have a Tuesday deadline to make their Friday edition. Also television and radio may need longer lead times to put together a story. Find out the deadlines for each media on your list and work to those.
2. Draft media material
There are various ways to let the press know about your event. These include:
What’s On and Community listings.
Depending on how confident you feel, you may wish to undertake any one of these activities.
We have also provided you with templates and examples for each of these activities in the event kit. You can adjust these and use them as you would like.
Keep in mind that you will need to choose the activity that is most suitable to your event. A lecture might not be the most interesting photo opportunity for the media. A group of school children undertaking experiments will make for a more exciting photo.
Tip – Remember that the journalist is looking for something different than your audience.
They want an interesting story that comes with a good photograph – that will grab their reader’s attention.
The media release serves as the journalist’s introduction to the story and it needs to stand out from other news items. It usually runs for one page and contains basic facts about a story. Here are a few points to consider:
Use the National Science Week media release template supplied.
Try to keep paragraphs to one or two sentences.
Refer initially to people by title, first name, surname and designation, for example Doctor Christopher Montgomery, Head of Science, University of Tasmania. After the first time, refer to them only by their title and surname.
Avoid technical terms, jargon, exaggeration and flowery language.
Put the date at the top of the release.
Make sure to write the words ENDS after your text, followed by your contact details so the media can reach you.
The title and first paragraph are very important. They need to be concise, brief and capture the reader’s attention. The first paragraph should answer the questions: who, what, where, when, why and how.
Make sure to include a short quote from someone closely involved in the project.
Include any relevant images – the media always look for photos to go with their story and it will increase your chances of getting a run. Make sure the images are interesting, high quality and clear.
Once you have completed your media release, attach it in an email and send it to the journalists you have listed on your media list.
A media alert is a shortened version of the media release. It should be sent out a few days before your event, and acts as an ‘invitation’ to the media to attend your event and to capture photos.
An example of a media alert is contained in the event kit. You will notice that the top part of the alert contains details about the event, what photo opportunities will be available and sets up a meeting point for you to meet with the media on the day. The second part of the media alert contains a shorter version of the media release.
As with the media release, always make sure to put the date at the top, and the word ENDS and your contact details at the bottom.
Tip – Have the media arrive 15 minutes before the event so they can get ready before it starts and you have enough time to talk to them and make sure they have everything they need.
Arranging a photo opportunity is a good way to ensure coverage, both prior and after your event. Whether or not you arrange a separate photo shoot before your event or invite the media to attend the actual event to take photos, a good photo set-up will help to get your story in the paper.
If you choose to arrange your own photo opportunity, you will need to make sure that the photo is visually interesting and relates to your event. Also, if using children, make sure that you have their parent’s permission.
To arrange for the media to come to the photo shoot, you need to draft a media alert, detailing the logistics, as well as outlining the photo opportunities available. This can then be sent out to your list of local media.
WHAT’S ON & COMMUNITY LISTINGS
This is the easiest way to get your National Science Week event into the press and requires very little discussion with journalists.
A sample listing and a National Science Week template for you to use have been included in the event kit on the National Science Week website. It is simply a matter of filling in your event details and sending the listing to the newspaper and radio stations, marked attention to “Community listings”.
With What’s On listings, the key is timing. You will need to get your listing into the newspapers a few weeks in advance to ensure that there is enough time to run it. For radio, getting your listing in two or three days before the event is a good move, as they will usually only discuss timely events.
3. Releasing your media material
Timing is very important when it comes to the media. Anything sent to magazines and television needs to be submitted up to 6 weeks prior to the event. You should also send out listing information as early as possible. Newspapers should receive information the week before the event, whereas radio only needs to information 2-3 days prior to the event.
It is best to send your media material out in a personalised email. If you decide to send a bulk email, make sure that you blind copy the other recipients.
4. Dealing with the media
HAVING THE MEDIA ATTEND AN EVENT
If you have issued a media alert or lined up a photo opportunity there are a few things that you need to do to ensure success.
Before the media arrive:
Ensure the set up is complete and all of the people involved are ready to go.
Be the first person at the media meeting point to meet and greet the journalists.
Prepare any material you want to leave with the media.
During the photo opportunity/event:
Be prepared to talk to the media and give them some quotes.
Thank the media for their time.
If the media are attending your event, ensure they have all the information they need and have a seat available in your venue.
You may find that you are asked to give an interview, to either print (newspapers) or broadcast (radio, television) media. Here are some tips for getting through the interview.
Before the interview gather some information:
What is the main message you want to get across?
Is it a live or recorded interview?
Who is the audience?
How long will the interview take?
Where will the interview take place? By phone or in person?
Discuss and confirm the subject of the interview. Check what the questions will be about.
Ensure that the phone line is free at the determined time, so that the journalist can get through.
Will they call you or will you need to call them?
During the interview itself:
Speak slowly and clearly, keep it simple and avoid jargon.
Be relaxed and treat the interview as a conversation.
Be positive and enthusiastic.
Don’t forget to mention the time, venue and details of your event.
4) ON THE DAY
The day of the event is generally the most hectic part. But with careful planning your event can run smoothly. It is almost guaranteed that not everything will run to plan, there will be countless situations which will arise and will require immediate decisions. Don’t stress if this occurs, expect it and just take it in your stride.
Before the event
Arrive in plenty of time and with plenty of people. Have an action plan in your mind (or written down) with what needs to be done in priority order.
Ensure signs, furniture, equipment and facilities are correctly set up and working, especially audio visual equipment. Allow enough time for you to get everything ready and to be relaxed before people begin to arrive.
During the event
Keep a tight hold of your running sheet, monitor the event and be ready to activate your Plan B if anything goes wrong.
If the event isn’t ticketed, be sure to keep a track on the number of attendees.
After the event
Ensure the clean-up operation is effective. Return furniture to its original location. Arrange for all equipment and materials to be returned to their proper places. Complete any financial transactions resulting from the event.
And most importantly, be sure to sincerely thank all staff and presenters.
5) POST EVENT
The event is over and its certain there is a great deal of satisfaction and relief amongst your team, but don’t forget the very important post-event activities.
It is essential that an evaluation process of the event be developed. Feedback after the event is always useful for future planning as well. When evaluating your event you may want to consider:
whether the audience was made up of the people you targeted?
whether they enjoy the event?
how successful was your publicity campaign?
whether the attendees found the venue easily?
whether there was sufficient clear information sent out beforehand?
whether the presenters were suitable and interesting?
Most importantly, you should consider you original objectives against the event outcomes.
After the euphoria of a successful event it is often difficult to remain focused, and easy to leave some tasks incomplete.
send out results and media information;
thank and recognise all volunteers, participants, media and sponsors;
balance the accounts;
hold a debriefing session with your event team;
send out reports to the sponsors and key organisations (if necessary);
ensure adequate records are kept for running the event in the future; and
pay outstanding accounts.