Prepare To Plan

By Jill Korsok
Photos Courtesy Of City Of Mentor

The great baseball slugger Roger Maris was famously quoted: “You hit home runs not by chance, but by preparation.” In the world of special events, that concept of thorough and complete planning is the key in providing attendees with an exceptional experience that looks effortlessly produced.

People tasked with creating a new event—anything from a 3-hour mother-and-daughter tea party to a 3-day community festival—must research, conceptualize, and review the initial concept with stakeholders before any decision to move forward can be made. Stakeholders include the people who will make the final decisions regarding the event, those who will assist in the implementation of the event, and the potential participants.

Research And Conceptualization
The research and conceptualization process can be not only the most time-consuming yet beneficial part of the process but also the most creative and fun part. Brainstorm with the team to make the event different than any other. Think outside the box, dream big, and imagine what the function could look like if there were no limitations. If considering a new festival, can the planning team create a themed, green-living or sustainability event that might grow into the future? What about a golf tournament in the snow next winter? Can new technology be utilized in order to capture the attention of the audience at a music event?

Establish The Details
Once a concept has been created, start working on the details. Planning a large event can take months, sometimes a year or more, so select a date that gives staff members plenty of time to secure facilities, equipment, and partners. Carefully research other activities or celebrations in the area that might be scheduled for the date or weekend proposed for your event. Scheduling a new major festival on the same weekend as a large county fair a few miles away might not be wise.

When the date and time of the event have been decided, create a special-event master plan. This will effectively document each step of the planning, implementation, and evaluation process. It can be short for a smaller event, or long for a large, multi-day event, but the thoroughness and time invested in creating a plan can make a big difference in the event’s production. This exercise may reveal, for example, that the proposed facility is either too large or too small, or the stakeholders’ expectations for the event are too costly to achieve. Roadblocks and obstacles are easier to spot and work around in the planning process than a few days before an event.

In creating a master plan, develop manageable sections that include the purpose of the event, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) that may affect the event, and the market in which the event will operate.

A solid plan will outline the goals and objectives, a strategy for the event’s promotion, a course of action for attracting sponsorship, and an overview of the financial resources available.

Analyze Each Component
Define each component of the plan that will take place from the time the event begins to the time it ends, and be specific about the resources for each. At a large festival, for example, there may be 10 or more different activities taking place, such as a parade, a concert, games and activities, merchandise sales, exhibitions, or vendor displays. List the “what, where, and when” for each activity, along with “who” will supervise and implement the activity. Also, list all of the activity’s physical needs, such as tables and chairs, a stage, ice, even port-o-pots and trash barrels. These details are critical because they can directly affect the outcome of the event and the stress load of event producers and staff.

Think Strategically And Logistically
Think like an event participant:

  • Will there be signs designating where restrooms are located?
  • Will activities be handicapped-accessible?
  • Will a list of planned activities be posted on a website prior to the event?
  • Will print material be available on-site to help attendees navigate the event grounds?
  • Will an ATM machine be available?

Next, think like a vendor, a sponsor, or event partner:

  • Does the vendor application provide details addressing possible questions the vendor may have about participating in the festival?
  • Do partner agreements clearly define their role and the role of the festival organizers?
  • Is a list available of sponsorable activities, locations, and services, along with a list of deliverables from which potential sponsors can benefit?

Write It Down
The management section of the plan should carefully list the responsibilities of each staff member, contractor, and event partner. This is the place to create job descriptions for each person, to define volunteer roles, and to determine how many volunteers are needed.

A logistics section should outline how each activity will be implemented. Include a map of the site, setup and takedown instructions, maintenance responsibilities, safety and security management, the use or rental of any equipment, as well as a list of necessary infrastructure, such as water, electricity, and communications. If permits are required, include copies in the plan. A master contact list  should include names, addresses, email addresses, and business phone and cellphone numbers for every staff member, vendor, contractor, partner, supplier, and sponsor.

Another section of the plan should analyze all potential risks to patrons, the host organization, facility owners, and other stakeholders. Include operational, security, public-safety, environmental, and financial risks that might affect the event. A safety and security plan also should include the way in which the media will be managed and utilized in the event of an emergency.

Last, include in the plan an evaluation of the success of the event and with whom it will be shared, and also a solicitation of feedback, and how it will be used to understand the completed product. If an on-site evaluation is to be used, be sure to have enough staff scheduled and trained to collect useful data.

Whether an event is large or small, taking the time to strategically and creatively plan in advance will produce an event that delights guests and achieves the staff’s goals and objectives.

Jill Dray Korsok , CPRP, is the Recreation Program Manager for the city of Mentor Parks, Recreation & Public Facilities Department in Ohio. Reach her at .


Key Approaches To Planning An Event
Research and conceptualize
Establish the details
Analyze each component
Think strategically and logistically
Write the plan down
Communicate with stakeholders
Execute the plan
Evaluate and make recommendations for the future


Considerations For A Strong Event Plan
The purpose and concept of the event
Goals and objectives
A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
Market analysis
Management structure
Activities implementation process
Event logistics
Risk and safety management
Community relations
Volunteer recruitment and use