6 Steps to Plan a Successful Event


Birthday BalloonIn December I threw my sister a surprise 50th birthday party. I did it with by brother-in-law and while living in another state.

In another month, I’ll be part of team that is putting together a conference. I’ve lost track as to how many conferences I have put together.

When I tell others that I’m organizing an event, many cringe. They think it is too much work, no one will show up, or it will cost too much money. Those can all be true, but if you follow these six steps, you should have a successful event.

  1. Establish your goals. Why are you holding the event? The surprise party was to celebrate a milestone in my sister’s life. Knowing that helped define the other elements of the party. The conference I am organizing is intended to provide learning and networking opportunities for members.
  2. Identify a team. Events require a strong attention to detail. It’s helpful to have someone who is overseeing the event at a macro level, as well as individuals who can handle specific areas, such as speakers or logistics.
  3. Pick a date. If you have flexibility with the date, consider holidays and availability of speakers and how they could impact your event. You also want to give yourself enough time to plan the event.
  4. Create a task sheet. I’m always surprised when someone asks me to help with an event and I ask about the task sheet and am told they don’t have one. I can’t function without one. I build in all of the steps needed to pull off the event and note the due dates and anything I need to be aware of. I track the status of each task.
  5. Establish a budget. Registrations and sponsorships should cover all of your expenses and, ideally, provide you with profit. The surprise party didn’t need to make a profit, but we did need to consider the budget, which informed the venue, menu options and decorations.
  6. Evaluate the success. When I am organizing a conference for a group, I consider it a success if most members attended and said they learned something from the speakers or made a new connection. The surprise birthday party was a success because my sister was surprised and she told me later, “It’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday.” That’s the best evaluation I’ve ever received!

Promoting Events with Social Media

Is your organization or affiliate hosting an event? What are you doing to promote it?

At the recent Social Media for Nonprofits conference in DC, Angelika Lipkin, manager of Strategic Partnerships at HigherLogic spoke about promoting events with social media. I started off with my netbook in sleep mode because I figured I had this topic covered. Within minutes, I busily typing away because she had so many great suggestions.

To start, she recommended several social media tools to organize the event, including:

  • Skype for conference calls
  • GChat, Tokbox for audio, video conversations
  • PBWorks, a Wiki collaboration tool that is good for online team collaboration and publishing guest and speaker lists
  • Google Docs, Google Calendars
  • Basecamp for project management
  • Calendar Hub

Once you have the event planned, Angelika said, “Promote and distribute using as many distribution channels as available.”

She suggested promoting a Twitter hashtag and asking for retweets. After the event, post photos to twitpic.

During the event, she suggested live blogging to create buzz. Or, take notes on a blog platform and once the seminar ends, make the blog post live. Another way to increase visibility is to conduct quick video interviews with attendees and speakers and publish.

High-speed wireless is considered the standard for most conferences. She noted that pre-social media, “You put away your phones and laptops. With social media, we want you all to be tweeting and writing on your Facebook status updates.”

Following the event, Angelika recommends:

  • Writing a blog of reflections
  • Hosting a web page where users can add their social media
  • Sending thank yous
  • Uploading photos to Flickr account
  • Posting videos

What suggestions do you have for promoting events with social media?