Photos Courtesy of the City of Chandler
It would have been easy to break into a panic when the city of Chandler, Ariz., was to host three large-scale events with more than 4,000 attendees at each event in one weekend in October 2013.
The events began on Friday night with the 32 nd annual Halloween Spooktacular with games, a haunted house, a graveyard, and costume contests. The following morning, staff members began setting up for the 7 th Annual Chandler Mayor’s Day of Play with demonstrations, performers, games, and interactive booths. This event celebrated the city’s 7 th national “Playful City USA” designation from KaBOOM! A few hours after that activity concluded, the night ended with the 27 th annual Fall Rhythm Fest—a celebration of music and movement through the ages.
After successfully executing all three events, the Special Events team learned eight important lessons that are applicable to any city hosting an event—large or small—or multiple events in one weekend.
1.) Public safety is paramount.
Take time to consider the best and worst outcomes of every event to assure safety for attendees. Weigh the pros and cons of adding a new activity to an existing event:
- What are the potential advantages and disadvantages to a change?
- Is the change going to enhance the event?
- Is it going to cause problems?
- Will you need to add or increase event security?
2.) Proper planning is crucial.
In the beginning stages of event planning, it is important to envision the entire event, and then identify all of the various elements, separating them systematically. For example:
- Will vendors be present?
- What type of vendors are you looking to attract—food, business, artists, or maybe a combination of all three?
- When will the application be available to vendors?
- When will vendor registration close?
- Are vendors allowed to sell items at their booth or just share information?
- If they sell, do they need or have a Tax ID number? By what time should vendors set up their booths?
- Do they need to stay for the entire length of the event?
Each event needs proper time and thought to consider these and many more questions.
3.) Separate to-do lists for events are helpful.
Last October, the Special Events team members assessed what could be completed for all three events at once. For example, Stephanie Feldaverd, was in charge of purchasing items for each event. She made one buy list for each store and noted which items for each event would be purchased. When Feldaverd went shopping, she asked each store to ring items separately. This allowed her to keep the receipts for each event clear and know which budget was being used. Feldaverd’s biggest tip was “Always try to think what you can do to make it easier on yourself as you coordinate the events.”
4.) There is no such thing as over-communication.
Planning three events in one weekend requires a great deal of communication with several audiences—staff members, vendors, sponsors, performers, the community, etc. The Special Events and marketing staff worked closely to ensure that all external communications were incredibly detailed to avoid confusion of start times, vendors, performers, and activities for each event.
Even with the best-laid plans, there can be misunderstandings. One unexpected problem arose the night before the first event, the Halloween Spooktacular. Miscommunication occurred on the critical importance of setting up the Haunted House the night prior to the event because the individual responsible for the house setup did not fully understand his role. The Haunted House was to have been completely set up by the end of the day on Thursday. Instead, he only started the process before leaving for the evening. This left the Special Events team, along with a couple of part-time staff members, to complete the project. Thankfully, as a team, the members worked together to hang the tarps and scary props to complete it in time.
5.) The ability to think on your feet is imperative.
The ability to shuffle, prioritize, and multi-task in the moment proved to be invaluable. One of the major concerns was last minute-changes and deliveries for the events. Since the activities were occurring during the same weekend, the entire team had to multi-task in order to figure out who was going to be where for each event’s deliveries. While a solid plan had been laid out, suddenly changes had to be made to accommodate TV spots promoting the events and delivery times. We worked with the TV station and arranged to have the spots during the early-morning delivery time to ensure that a team member could be at each location.
Another difficulty encountered during the Mayor’s Day of Play was that vendors were not bringing or receiving all of their ”day of” event information, such as parking, load-in/load-out, field access, and important setup times. Staff members had to work with unprepared vendors as they tried to find their booth locations and were set up in a timely manner.
6.) Working with community partners/sponsors has its benefits.
With the help of a radio sponsor, a headlining band had been secured for the Fall Rhythm Fest. When the performer canceled a month before the event, staff inquired if the radio station could help find another performer to fill the time slot. Not only was the station able to help, but it secured a bigger name for the event—“American Idol” season-12 winner Candice Glover. The impact of partnering outside of the organization can be tremendous.
7.) Don’t sweat working on a shoe-string marketing budget.
Being a city entity, the funds for special events are very limited, but staff members make the best with what they are given. Having three events in one weekend allowed the staff to save time and money by marketing the events together through fliers, social-media posts, and advertisements, promoting a family-friendly weekend with the city.
If the community is active on social media, consider promoting the events through sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. A small budget was set aside to advertise on Facebook. Utilizing this medium allowed us to reach thousands of people for $40. The marketing team created an ad and targeted individuals who lived within a 5-mile radius, had children, and indicated they liked festivals, holidays, Halloween, and music. The ad reached close to 10,000 people.
8.) Keep copious notes.
Just because an event is over doesn’t mean the work is over. Once the event has concluded, write wrap-up notes as soon as possible while things are still fresh. Analyze the event from every angle possible. These notes will be one of the staff’s greatest assets in the growth and success of the event as planning begins for the next year.
One final note—make sure to take the public’s overall comments into consideration and improve on the areas they found weak; after all, the event is for them.
For more detailed information on these events, visit www.chandleraz.gov/special-events .
Brooke Peterson is the Marketing and Communication Coordinator for the city of Chandler, Ariz. Reach her at Brooke.Peterson@chandleraz.gov .