Culture, Grassroots

How To Make Your Next Event A Success

By: Lisa Surber, Grassroots Specialist

My overall objectives when planning and managing an event are ultimately dependent on the client’s expectation for the event. However, no matter the objectives, I always try to have fun, get creative, and be flexible. To be able to achieve this and reach client goals, I must be organized, view the event from various angles when planning it, and keep a positive attitude. Let’s explore some key preparation tips that help result in successful events.

Get Connected

Know who your partners are and build lasting relationships with them. Outline potential vendors and venue representatives and reach out often so that they know who you are. Your partners and colleagues are the ones you will want to collaborate with when planning the event, and you will need to rely on them for assistance during all phases of the event process. Be the person that always “knows a guy,” and can provide a solution. I like to say I have a lot of ideas but finding people who know how to run with them is key.

Align On Expectations

Before you begin to plan the event, ensure you clearly understand the expectations and goals of the event and assess the means to achieve them. For example, a goal could be to gather attendee information, so you would want to make certain all guests complete the sign-in form or individual participant forms. Also, be sure that the budget is aligned with the expectations and goals of the event.

 Execute the Details and Logistics

After making sure you understand the event’s goal(s), you can execute the following accordingly:

1. Create a unique and engaging event theme or messaging and make sure this theme is carried through promotion to the actual event.

2. Determine the venue, speaker, entertainment, catering, décor, and other important details.

3. Outline the event layout and flow. Make sure you are aware of the venue’s capacity and know the approximate number of attendees. Also walk through the pre-event and event flow, beginning to end, from the guests’ perspective, including the registration/RSVP process, finding the location, parking, signing in, receiving takeaway gifts, etc.

4. Know the location inside and out and ensure the address of the location syncs with GPS systems. Also, be familiar of the surrounding area for those that may need assistance if lost.

5. Consider any special needs, such as required permits, overflow parking, directional signage, etc.

6. Draw up a contingency plan. Map out situations that are less than ideal, but could happen at the event, and pair them with solutions. Things rarely go exactly as planned, so it’s imperative that you are prepared for the unexpected.

Promote Your Event

Reaching your target audience consistently and capturing their interest is critical, so you should use an integrated approach when publicizing the event. Make sure you begin promoting the event far in advance to help maximize attendance. Depending on the size of the event, most if not all of the following should be implemented:

1. Add event details to community calendars

2. Deploy e-blasts and distribute direct mail

3. Run ads in targeted publications and on social media

4. Create social media posts announcing event

5. Write press releases or media alerts and distribute to the media

6. Develop flyers and posters and place in strategic locations

To gauge the number of attendees, request potential guests register/RSVP for the event. Follow up with those that registered or RSVP’d with a phone call or e-blast to remind them about the event. Calling them serves as a fantastic opportunity to answer questions and encourage them to bring a friend if you’re trying to boost attendance.

Have the Right Attitude

The right attitude is essential to having a successful event. Planning events can be very taxing, and your stress level may increase tenfold the day of — especially if problems arise. In the case of complications, be open to alternatives, be flexible and be nimble in order to come up with solutions. As an event specialist, I have experienced it all — turnouts that were lower or higher than anticipated, forgotten items, the speaker or entertainment arriving late to the event, technical issues or audio/visual problems occurring during the event, and more. Through it all, I’ve just had to roll with the punches.

Make sure you have properly planned and confirmed major aspects of the event, but don’t have a meltdown over minute details that may have been overlooked. For support though, it’s a good idea to have a bag of tricks on hand that includes supplies such as pens, safety pins, tape, hammer, double-stick tape, etc. to help fix minor snafus.

Through any problems you may encounter, you must stay calm and always remain in control of the event. Overcoming challenges can be rewarding and, moving forward, you can use these glitches as learning opportunities.

Complete End-of-Event Reporting

Any information you gathered should be compiled in a final report.  This includes costs, feedback and attendee information. I like to compare the RSVP list to the final attendee list as well as track engagement levels.


Planning and managing events is often thought of as daunting processes, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. It’s all dependent on your approach, so remember to stay organized, be passionate and have fun!

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