We just completed an amazing event at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub – the Raspberry Pi Bake Off. Though I’m ecstatic over how successful everything turned out, I’m also now wading through the debris of everything left undone on my other projects, in the wake of this past weekend.
Plus, there’s this whole “job” situation I’m working on. So, there’s that.
This was our third year for the Bake Off. While I would like to say that every year gets easier, that wouldn’t be entirely true. Every year is different is probably the most accurate description of the process.
That said – how does one go about putting together such a large event?
There’s really no silver bullet answer – unless lots of hard work and dedicated people working their tails off is that. But, in truest listicle fashion, I’ll present my “must haves” to pull off a successful event, and live to tell the tale.
- Have a Purpose – this sounds self-evident, but you’d be surprised at the number of folks who want to put together an event without first having a unifying purpose, or even desired outcome. If you can’t articulate what your event is, or what you hope to accomplish in 1-3 sentences, you still have work to do.
- Start Early – you can never start work early enough on your event. There a few ways I use to gauge when to begin work on an event: look at how much time past events took, walk back the calendar and ticking off all the things that have to happen in that allotted time, or simply say “omagosh – the event is only a month away! I haven’t done squat!” The earlier you start, the more time you have to make mistakes, hector sponsors and vendors, and rally volunteers to the cause.
- Details, Details – The devil is always in the details, as the saying goes. Large scale events are a never ending stream of small questions about where tables should go, who will pick up the food, who will be responsible for cleanup, and who will make sure the donations come in. You should have at least one obsessively detail oriented person on your planning committee who will keep everyone on task and on script. Not the most popular job – or even person, by the end of things – but key to a successful event execution.
- It’s All About People – Without a group of reliable, committed people helping you pull off the event, it’s never gonna happen. Never. Gonna. Happen. Part of the reason you start your event planning early is to make sure you get the dedicated help you’re going to need. Find a great recruiter / people person, and put them in charge of your volunteers. Make sure they remain engaged in the planning process all along the way, and remember to keep connected as the event draws close. Which leads naturally to…
- Stay On It – You have to stay atop all the myriad activities leading up to your event – media, promotion, organization, vendors, suppliers, sponsors – every hour of every day leading up to the big day. If you assume that things will just happen? They won’t. Things happen because someone is there making sure they happen. That someone is you.
- Show Up – And finally, the most important part – show up. Execute everything you’ve spent weeks and months planning. And, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. This is why you’re doing all this hard work.
- Be Grateful – be overly generous in your thanks and praise for your sponsors, volunteers, and committee members, because without them, your event would have never happened. You can never really over thank or over acknowledge. Not doing this will be remembered, for a long time.
- Post Mortem – Once the event is over, you need to put aside time to go over what went well with the event, what didn’t go so well, and what you’d do differently if you had to do it all over again. This doesn’t need to be done right away, but should be done soon after, so that memories (and possibly some hurt feelings) are fresh enough to provide good, accurate, feedback.
That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell. If there is a recurring theme, it is to remain persistently vigilant in overseeing the details leading up to your event.
Good luck with your event, and please feel free to give your feedback in the comments.