Putting an event together is never an easy task. At some point, despite the most meticulous planning, the human element comes into play and often manages to turn something that should have run as smoothly as a well-oiled piece of clockwork into a clapped-out cuckoo clock whose resident bird looks and sounds like an albatross with hiccups.
While success in organising an event can never be guaranteed, it is possible to avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls. Usually by studying the mistakes as well as the successes of others.
Having spent several decades attending numerous conferences, exhibitions, seminars and trade events focused on topics as diverse as advertising, architecture, journalism, finance, security, mining, education, tourism, pig breeding … and even diving, I built up a store of knowledge – and contacts – that stood me in good stead when it came to staging events in which I had a personal interest.
Hopefully the following – sent as an e-mail ten years ago (before the ascendancy of social media) to Carl Spencer who, with Leigh Bishop, was then considering starting a technical diving event similar to that which Richard Taylor and I had been organising in Australia – may still provide ideas for those who want to promote a diving event.
I readily admit that it’s not perfect – it’s largely as I wrote it ten years ago – but It does highlight some of the areas that do need to be addressed. Particularly at a time when dive-related events – especially those relating to Technical Diving – would seem to be on the increase.
- Register a name and establish an appropriate company/partnership structure.
- Have an event logo designed.
- Website. (The more information that can be downloaded from the website the easier the task)
- Structure a social media identity using, for example, FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, etc..
The price charged for the stands has to reflect your outgoings. (I’ve always attempted to make ours come in at break-even.) Considerations are:
- The cost charged by the venue for the exhibition space?
- Any contractors costs involved in erecting the stands and providing power, lighting, stand furniture etc..
- Ticketing. (Entry to the exhibition.)
- Daily – plus pre-; during-; and post-event – cleaning.
- Phone lines (for telephones, laptops; credit card machines, etc.)
- Exhibitor Sales kit.
- Exhibitors Manual.
- Exhibitor Name Badges.
- Policy for hanging display banners?
- Is a Forklift – or other machinery i.e. a cherry-picker – required?
- Limit the number of FOC stands given to, for example, media; safety organisations; conservation groups, etc.
- Keep stand sizes reasonably small. (That way you can attract a more diverse – and larger – range of exhibitors and make even a small exhibition area look more crowded.)
- Suitable auditorium/seminar rooms?
- A/V facilities. (I’ve always favoured the idea of presentations that can be pre-loaded onto a central computer and controlled from one point; thus reducing ‘down-time’ while speakers power up, for example, their own lap-tops, or load image cassettes.)
- Any additional A/V costs?
- Back screen images, sponsor names etc.
- Door Security – to ensure that everyone has a ticket.
- Lighting and audio control.
- A programme schedule. (Work out speaker times and ensure that potential speaker over-run times are minimised.)
- Entry costs?
- Ticket types (From a security point of view, wrist bands printed in different colours with the logo embossed can prove effective.)
- Printed programme/speaker schedule? (This is an expense that pays dividends by continuing to promote the event into the future.)
Your projected outgoings versus your potential incomings should determine how many – if any – speakers that you can afford in terms of air fares and accommodation.
- Speaker Name Badges.
Optional – but I’d suggest keeping it small in number, i.e. ‘T’-shirts with logo? Caps?
Volunteers are good.
- Manning registration desks.
- Collecting admission fees.
- Door ushers.
Consider whether to appoint “official” hotels? If you do, then:
- Try and negotiate an advantageous group rate.
- Try and negotiate FOC rooms for X number of rooms being booked and paid for.
- For preference try not to be involved in having the bookings come to you. i.e. Guests should book directly on-line with the hotels, and preferably – in order to keep track of room block numbers – by quoting a unique reference code via your website.
- Speak to the appropriate dive mediums. Give priority to those that reach your immediate target market in terms of potential audience/exhibitors.
- Source suitable internet forums who will be agreeable to allowing you to promote the event on-line.
- Consider that some may ask that you take – and pay for – say, a banner advert.
- Ask for reciprocal links on appropriate websites.
- Churn out regular releases announcing different aspects of the event – and send these to as many media outlets as possible. (Gear these releases to suit the specific audience reached by each media outlet.)
GALA DINNER – if appropriate to the event
- Try and work out how many people are likely to attend. Base ticket prices on total cost and allow a small margin for FOC dinner tickets to select people.
- Choose a food and beverage package that allows for two separate entrees, two mains, and two desserts. Served to alternate place settings (That way people can – if necessary change food with their neighbour. We usually go for one meat, and one seafood/chicken.)
- Limit drinks to beer, wine and soft-drinks, i.e. no spirits. (Any other drinks outside of the package are to be paid for by the individuals.)
- A/V facilities, (if you’re going to be talking, or having a “Dinner Speaker”) This may incur an additional charge so check and, if necessary, raise the ticket price accordingly.
- Consider a seating plan that separates any factional elements.
- Draw up a running order so that the evening keeps on track.
- If presenting Awards, decide on type. (Get quotes on production and ensure that they’re done within the appropriate time frame and are ready on the night.)
A number of options exist.
- Downloadable booking forms from the website that can be faxed through with credit card details.
- Paypal via website
- Through Dive Stores. (Offer a commission incentive)
- On the day sales at “Registration Desk”
It may be possible to attract paying sponsors to help offset the costs. While there are opportunities within the diving industry, sponsorship by one diving organisation may alienate competitors from attending.
Consider, for example, camera equipment companies; watch manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers (4-wheel drive vehicles and diving go hand in glove.) 🙂
- Naming Rights sponsors.
- Specific Sponsors (e.g. just the Gala Dinner?)
The above is an extract from an early e-mail sent ten year s ago and does not reflect a more recent approach to organising an event.