So you volunteered to plan the neighborhood July 4th parade, but you have no idea how to start? Do not panic. Here are some basic steps on how to plan an event. Follow these steps – and apply some elbow grease and time -- and you should have an event that leaves your attendees ready for your next one.

1.      Come up with an idea or theme for an event

The process starts here. Is the idea to have a neighborhood block party? Maybe the idea is to get children involved with a parade? Develop a fun event idea as your starting point. It is also good to begin with a date and time in mind, although your audience or goals might cause you to change this part.

2.      Determine out the goals, target audience and timeline for the event

Before you get too far in, think about why you want to host it. Are you looking to grow your customer base? Make a profit? Recruit new volunteers? Build relationships with others or get your neighbors involved? These goals may impact some of the decisions you make about the event? You may even realize that an event isn't the strongest choice for your goal. If you are ready to move forward with an event, expand your goal to specify your target attendees. For example, an event with an engagement goal would target opinion leaders. Your target audience cannot be everyone! Your target audience will dictate a lot of your decisions later on. This is also a good time to set the timeline for your event. A timeline gives you deadlines that help keep you on track for getting the event planned. The date you select for the event will impact your timeline. You should also make sure you set the date far enough out to get everything done without burning out.

3.      Establish a team

Do not try and go it alone. Get some co-workers or family members, or neighbors involved in the process and in the event itself. This helps with planning (different ideas), it helps to make sure you have enough hands the day of the event, and it helps in case you fall ill!

4. Establish your budget

It's the least glamorous part of the whole shebang, but you've got to figure out how you're paying for all the fun stuff (food, speakers, swag, confetti canons). Events can, after all, get pretty pricey. Once you've figured out exactly how much everything will cost, you are ready to start the fun stuff.

5. Find your venue or location and select your technology

Plan an event that's easily accessible to the majority of your target audience. For example, if you are doing a neighborhood parade, check with the city or the parks department to see if you have to fill out forms or get permission to use a park or the roads that are closest to your target audience. This is also a good time to select what technology you are going to use. There's a lot of software out there. Some of it will be helpful for your event, and some of it might help with future events. Some software can help with registration (if that is needed) and planning. Or, if you are going to require tickets (even for a free event), you might consider Will your event need to be broadcast live? Will you need signage of any type or tools to help at the event?

6. Find your partners and vendors

Vendors can help with food and drink, but you may need particular forms or permission if doing this on city property. Just be sure you check first. Security is also an additional consideration for your event and the participants. Partners or sponsors can help cover the event's costs, promote it, and even help organize the event. Be sure to vet your vendors ahead of time.

7. Figure out your main attraction

What is it that's going to get people to attend your event? Maybe it's the subject matter, or perhaps it's the speakers. It depends on the event, and more than that, it depends on your attendees. Think about your audience. What's going to get them excited? What's going to motivate them? If you're organizing a neighborhood parade, think about prizes and a theme that makes the event fund for children.

8. Build out your marketing campaign

You want to get folks to attend, so this step is essential. Have a theme and use that on all materials. Engage as many channels as your marketing team has at their disposal. Beyond email marketing, content marketing, the local newspaper, and social media marketing, you should reach out to those who have RSVPed early to see if they will promote the event on social media. I have found fliers on the front door and signs at the neighborhood exits to be very effective for neighborhood events.

9. Get prepared to host a successful event

With all of this work behind you, it is now time to focus on the event's details. Develop a list of jobs you need done the day of the event and assign partners or team members to those. And think of alternatives in case the weather or other circumstances change.

10. Celebrate your successes, and learn from your mistakes.

Once your event is over it is time to gather feedback, talk with partners, vendors and volunteers, to determine what went well and what could be improved. Take some time to celebrate your success. Then take time to learn from your mistakes and make some change so your next event can be even better.


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