By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail – Benjamin Franklin
I’ve seen the above quote attributed to many people but, as this is going out on the 4th of July, I’ll let Ben Franklin take credit for it. For what it’s worth, I always think of The Sphinx from the relatively poor 1999 film ‘Mystery Men’ but let’s not dwell on that!
The most obvious aspect of event preparation starts long before the event takes place – when it only exists as a concept on a piece of paper, a single line in an email (usually followed by a question-mark) or a minor mention in an informal meeting: planning.
Many authors famously use the “5 Ws” method of preparation and events are no different. The 5 Ws? Simple:
The order of the questions may look arbitrary, but it’s significant.
What is the event going to be? An incredibly obvious one but without this first question, we’re not going anywhere! This is often the first thing that sparks off the initial decision to hold the event. Somebody makes a suggestion: “I’ve been thinking and I believe it would be a good idea to hold an X type of event.”
Great. The most obvious question follows – although often it goes hand-in-hand with the first one.
Why are going to put on this event? “To raise money!” OK. That’s not going to get us very far, though, even if it is the main motivation to do it. “Why?” is a tricky question that is multi-faceted – there are more than one “Why?” questions to ask so make sure you cover them all.
Why would people want to come to it?
Why are we the best people to put this type of event on?
Why? is a question which involves research to answer. Is there a gap in the market? Is there a lack of provision for the type of event you’re looking to put on? Is the lack of event because there’s no actual market for it?
Who is the event for? Once you’ve answered this, you can start focusing upon how you’ll reach them and the answer to “Who?” also informs your subsequent questions.
Getting the right venue is vital for any event. Make it too small and your attendees will be uncomfortable; make it too large and it will feel empty even when well attended. Location is also key. Is there enough parking? Is it easy to reach via public transport for those who don’t drive? If the event is at your own venue, which room will work best for the type of event you’re running?
Finally, when will the event take place? Ensuring that you’re not clashing with other events which will appeal to your key audience is vital, but the time of day and day of the week is also important.