By Gerry Logan
Do you use templates for marketing materials? Probably. What about for an automated email response? This is likely a template that you built quickly, and it goes out anytime you receive an email.
What if I told you that the same theory can be applied to events?
First, let’s consider what exactly constitutes an event template. This is one example where “this is how we did it before” is not all that bad. In this case, the template is exactly that—the primary event’s aspects, activities, etc., that have always been done are the template. It is the skeleton, and the types of events that can be put on that skeleton are as infinitely unique as people. In other words, the template is the whole pie, but it is divided into pieces.
Now, in the context of events, like with all templates, some are good and some are bad. However, instead of only evaluating an event as a whole, it is easier to take each piece of the template and evaluate it. If a particular aspect needs improving, it is more beneficial to the event and to the department to go in that direction rather than replace the entire event.
For example, a recurring event of particular success in College Station, Texas, is the Movies in the Park series. In previous years, attendance averaged 200 to 300 people per movie, but now averages more than 1,000! How? The department significantly adjusted the template.
Because we were unhappy with the quality of the screen and sound, we began looking for other options and found a higher-quality system to rent. Due to the overwhelming positive response to the upgraded quality—and since the department anticipates offering movies for years to come—we decided to purchase a screen and have experienced tremendous savings.
Does your department host movie nights? Do you rent? Have you checked into all options for screens to see if purchasing is cost-effective? If not, I highly recommend doing so.
Additionally, we wanted the event to be about more than the movie, so added several pre-movie activities were held to give families—particularly the kids—another reason to attend. We adjusted the template to include themed activities depending on the movie we were showing. For example, we recently showed Jurassic World, and the pre-movie activities included a visit from the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History for a show-and-tell with various creatures and fossils, as well as mini-fossil digging so the kids had something to take home. By making each event different, yet centrally themed, we have had incredible success, and the proof is the consistently increased attendance.
Due to the success of the movie series, we have extended this approach out of necessity. Since attendance has increased, more organizations have been approaching us to become vendors or hand out promotional materials. We have utilized the city’s sponsorship agreement to work with these groups. The template in use now is that any organization that wishes to be a part of the event may do so, as long as it hosts an activity at its booth that fits with the theme. For example, for Jurassic World, we hosted a local dentist office. The activity was a dinosaur egg-making activity, with dinosaur coloring pages. While a dentist office has little to do with a movie directly, the activity contributed to the overall atmosphere of the event. This template continues to work well for us.
Baked To Perfection
When looking for template ideas, take into consideration factors you control as well as those you do not. If the department hosts a movie night, control which movie is selected. Also, account for other factors, like unique cultural dates. For example, we planned a movie night on a date in May, and later realized that the Kentucky Derby was scheduled for the next day. Therefore, we changed the theme and amended the movie choice to Seabiscuit. All vendors who participated were required to theme their booth for the movie, and it was an overall positive experience. Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July are other examples of dates that we have had to consider to create event templates. There are plenty of holidays, unique dates, and other factors that can be used to advantage. The calendar is yet another aspect of our event templates, and we do our best to maximize its effectiveness.
A template can also be much more than how a department operates events, regardless if the entity is on city property or not. Chances are that any event of a particular size has to meet certain requirements. Are those requirements centralized and easily understood? If you take on the challenge of doing so, and create a template for other organizations to use in order to host events in a particular city, it can greatly simplify process and increase efficiency.
Templates can make lives and events much easier. You may already be using a template, but have you evaluated its effectiveness lately? Instead of trying to eat the whole pie, take it piece by piece and see what happens. You’ll be better off because of it!
Gerry Logan, CPRE, is the Special Events Supervisor for the city of College Station’s Parks and Recreation Department in Texas. Reach him at email@example.com.