Whether you are organising a field day, a workshop, a policy briefing or a meeting, some forward planning can make all the difference to its success. Making sure you have well-briefed facilitators, chairs and presenters will also help ensure the success of your event. Use the event checklist at the end of this sheet or develop your own checklist to help you stay focused on the detail of the event.
Planning your event
Firstly, get an event plan down on paper which:
- clearly defines the roles/tasks for everyone involved in the event and keeps a check on their progress
- pinpoints your target audience/attendees and what you want them to get out of the event
- creates something different and interesting
Avoid holding public events during big news times, for example:
- when budgets are being handed down
- special holidays
- sports grand finals
Promote public events using:
- community bulletin boards in suburban papers
- community radio announcements (both FM and AM run these as free services and will often post them on their websites as well)
- school newsletters
- email networks
- media alerts and editorials
Make contingency plans—have backup speakers and plan for bad weather. Hold your event where there is mobile phone service so that people don’t have to leave the venue to communicate with others.
Organising a field day
Field days take more time and effort to organise than the people involved ever imagine. Here are some tips for organising a field day:
- Start planning early - everything takes longer than you think.
- Focus energy on doing a few big events really well rather than many events of a lower standard.
- Collaborate with as many partners as possible - to expand the reach of the event. Look for regional partners and support regional activities where possible.
- Look at what else is happening around the time - How can you fit in with existing programs or events rather than creating your own event? How can they fit in with you?
- Use the strengths of your organisation - contacts, expertise etc.
- Call in expertise where needed - if you have never contacted a group in the region before, talk to others who have, rather than starting from scratch.
- Involve other people and organisations such as community and industry groups - Use seed funding to build better relationships and leverage more for a field day using combined resources and strengths.
- Be open to new ideas and new partners - talk to as many people as possible and keep a contact list.
- Offer a prize to encourage excellence in the field.
- Make available an experienced, proactive person to answer enquiries about the field day’s activities as soon as people come in - Give them the time and resources they need.
- Hand out freebies — it guarantees a good response from attendees.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel - Take note of the number of attendees, media coverage, what worked, what didn’t, and feedback from anyone involved. These notes are useful for the organisation to build on the profile of the event.
Organising a workshop
Workshops provide a structured space for people to work together to create desired outputs or pursue shared objectives. Workshops are useful for:
- discussing criteria or analysing alternatives allowing two-way information
- fostering small group or one-on-one communication
- offering a choice of team members to answer difficult questions
- building ownership and credibility for the outcomes
- maximising feedback obtained from participants
- achieving a group product/outcome
- exploring issues/solutions/ways forward
- discussing criteria or analysing alternatives
- drawing on other team members to answer difficult questions
- building credibility
- fostering public ownership in solving the problem
- developing community capacity and action plans
- communicating an issue
- building alliances, consensus
A workshop must be well designed to meet its objectives. Hostile participants may resist what they may perceive as the 'divide and conquer' strategy of breaking into small groups. Choosing a good facilitator is crucial to good planning. The facilitator must be experienced in keeping the focus on the objectives and be able to evaluate the quality and quantity of their delivery. They need to know how they will use the public input before they begin the workshop and in some cases several facilitators are needed for small group discussions. The number of tools that you can use in a workshop to raise the relevant issues and stimulate creativity and thought are limited only to your imagination.
5 things to consider when planning a workshop
- Shaping objectives/desired outputs - Work out the purpose of the workshop and what you want the workshop to achieve, and make this very clear to participants before the workshop begins. You may also wish to discuss and clarify this at the beginning.
- The participants - You can select participants based on their knowledge, closeness to the issue, expertise or by selecting a cross-section of views. Alternatively, you can target particular groups.
- Design process and tools to meet the objectives - The facilitator must be experienced in the processes required, such as designing messages, chairing sessions and resolving conflict. Consider the materials or workbooks you need to help meet the objectives.
- Workshop environment - Once you have identified the objectives and process, focus on the workshop environment to ensure that the workshop runs smoothly. Environmental considerations may include hiring a venue, catering, staffing, engaging experts, recorders, gophers and artists/photographer. Audiovisual requirements can be a major hurdle to a well-run workshop. Check the recording equipment and amplification, overhead projectors, data projectors, video and slide projector/screen, and props for working in groups (pens, paper, pins, etc.). Check that the furniture is arranged so that all participants can see each other and there is no hierarchy. A square arrangement works best.
- Feedback - Give each participant a feedback form (see sample workshop evaluation form at end) and a copy of everything produced from the workshop.
Organising a policy briefing to politicians
12 tips for briefing your politician
- Ask your politician how much time they have to spend with you.
- Be prepared to spend five minutes or 45 minutes with them.
- Introduce yourself, explain what you do and what you want out of the meeting e.g. raise their interest in the area, engender more support, or supply contacts. Ask them to do something concrete.
- Make sure you can cover this information in one minute as it may be all you get.
- Be honest and friendly.
- Research your MP and make your work or issue as relevant to them as you can so they understand why you are meeting with them. Do they have a research or education facility in their electorate? Are they on a committee that deals with your issue? Do they have a personal interest in the area?
- Give good examples. How much money can be saved? What are the social benefits for individuals or groups?
- Tell them stories - they will remember them.
- Provide solutions to problems rather than just problems—they hear enough problems.
- Let your research outcomes guide the direction of policy, not the detail - this is better left to the parliamentarians.
- Try to link with current issues. Read the paper and listen to the news. Make your project or issue relevant to general community concerns.
- Maintain as much contact as you can. Leave them with some written information, write to them thanking them for meeting with you, invite them to visit you, and keep them updated on your progress.
Running an effective meeting
Meetings are useful for gathering a diversity of opinions, honing goals, reaching agreement on decisions that must be made and taking action on issues—but they can really slow up a productive working day.
8 tips for organising an effective meeting
- Realise the purpose of the meeting - if it is for disseminating information perhaps this can be done in written form.
- Ensure all the right people (i.e. those that need to be consulted) attend so that additional meetings can be avoided.
- Provide enough information for people to be able to make decisions during the meeting.
- Provide a good meeting agenda so everyone knows what the meeting is about—give it an appropriate title, describe the meeting content in a short paragraph, and disseminate the agenda three days before the meeting.
- Choose a good chairperson who will keep to time and direct the agenda appropriately.
- Schedule meetings in the morning while everyone is fresh.
- Consider alternative settings, such as garden settings, where participants can feel relaxed or at least less focused on other matters.
- Participants may need time just to interact informally with others. To avoid interruptions during the meeting, create time for these interactions by scheduling lunch with the group for after the meeting, or by organising a field trip.
The following checklist can help you make sure you have covered all your bases. Some of the items won’t be relevant for events, but it does provide a useful guide.
- set up planning team
- decide on event theme
- write budget
- prepare written strategy – who, what, why, when, how?
- plan evaluation strategy
- confirm MC
- confirm guest speaker(s)
- brief speakers
- brief chairs
- provide speech notes if required
- provide copy of running order
- get mobile phone contact numbers of speakers
- design invitation
- prepare guest list
- organise RSVP arrangements
- print invitations
- mail out invitations
- finalise guest list and numbers
- prepare name tags if required
Prizes and donations
- prepare letter to send to potential sponsors
- allocate team of people to follow up
- collect prizes
- record names of businesses and individuals who make financial or in-kind contributions
- prepare auction or raffle procedures
- allocate staff duties at event
- choose and book venue
- organise catering
- confirm menu (and service times)
- finalise table layout
- prepare seating arrangements
- organise registration table
- confirm VIP car parking
- determine car parking facilities for other guests
- organise water for guest speakers
- book photographer/video
- check sound and AV equipment
- check toilet facilities
- organise power to site
- prepare stage display
- organise lectern sign
- prepare foyer display
- arrange other display material
- finalise directional signage
- create street signage
- write media release
- prepare media kit
- send media release for approval
- send media release to media outlets and arrange photo and interview times
- prepare running sheet
- distribute running sheet to organising team, guest speakers, venue manager and caterer
- prepare biography of guest speakers and provide to MC
- allocate roles and responsibilities for team:
- registration table
- prizes and/or gifts
- display area
- meet and greet
- collecting money
- VIP meet and greet
- allocate seating for VIP and guest speakers
- acknowledge sponsors
- organise table numbers
- print place cards
- organise table display or information
- finalise show bags or other giveaway material
- prepare thankyou letters – guest speakers, VIPs, sponsors and venue
- send thankyou letters
- write up notes from event (what worked and what didn’t work) and analyse feedback