Business & Community
Experienced Cooperative Extension or community service staff know how to plan an event. However, coordinating a good event is not enough when program funds are limited. Today, success means more than just inviting outstanding speakers or gathering a huge crowd. It’s important that program objectives are met and well documented. So, sit down and think about what you are trying to accomplish. Get started by developing a thorough plan to make your event an even
Detailed planning is critical to coordinating any event. First, define your event objectives.
1. Define Event Objectives
Events are critical to your plan of work, so determine what value they add to your community and to the people you serve. Identify potential partners that can help with sponsorship and marketing your event to new customers. And consider what you want to achieve.
- Are you trying to educate the public?
- Are you trying to change negative behavior within the community?
- Are you training professionals in a specific career field?
Remember, many professionals attend events to earn contact hours or continuing education units or credits (CEUs/CECs). These credits help professionals to maintain certification in their careers. So, be sure to clearly state the purpose and program objectives on all promotional materials. Then complete the necessary paperwork to award contact hours or CEUs.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Determine who benefits from attending your event and how you plan to reach your target audience. You want to select a theme that will draw people to your program.
3. Select a Theme
Work with your program committee to select a catchy theme that reflects your program objectives. Once you have selected the right theme, set a date and time for your event that will benefit your target audience.
4. Set a Date and Time
When selecting a date and time, check local and state calendars to find out what programs are already scheduled in your community and state. You don’t want to compete for participants or get stressed out by trying to do too many things at once.
Find community partners with similar program goals and invite them to be members of your working committees.
5. Establish Working Committees
It takes time and effort to coordinate an event, particularly conferences. So, identify individuals that can help you. It’s important to find the right people for the right tasks. Make sure committee assignments are clear and try to meet with committee chairs regularly to keep your program on track.
Community Event Committees and Tasks
- Planning or steering committee helps you to identify speakers, to develop the program agenda, to establish a budget, and to carry out event preparation tasks. Choose committee members that are nearby or accessible by digital technology. An event planner, a secretary, or a program assistant are good members to have on the planning committee. They can help you manage event tasks and correspondence, and keep a detailed record of all event activities.
- Marketing committee helps you to develop and to implement an event marketing plan that includes everything from designing promotional materials to setting up local media interviews. The marketing committee also produces a hard copy of the event program complete with sponsors, speaker information, and other important items.
- Logistics committee makes sure the event runs smoothly on the This committee is responsible for developing directional signage, managing crowd flow and working with facility staff to handle on-site emergencies.
- Exhibits committee identifies local, state, or national exhibitors that enhance event activities by offering valuable products and identifies local, state, or national exhibitors that enhance event activities by offering valuable products and services.
- Registration committee handles the distribution of promotional materials. The registration committee ensures that registration forms and fees are collected and that on-site registration for participants and speakers goes The registration committee also distributes certificates and documentation for contact hours and CEUs/CECs.
Other important committees include:
- Travel committee makes arrangements to have speakers or program participants picked up and escorted to and from hotels and other venues. They also transport event materials such as registration packets and giveaways.
- Hospitality committee oversees the set up of decorations, tables and chairs, and food and beverages. Hospitality committee members serve as ushers by greeting and directing event participants to appropriate areas.
- Technology committee ensures that audiovisual equipment is available for speakers, including microphones, computers, and This committee provides technical support at the event as well.
- Sponsorship and budget committee allocates and collects funds for event activities, including sponsorship fees. Sponsors are entitled to certain benefits that include imprinting their company logo on all promotional material and free admittance to event activities. Sponsorship benefits are to be followed down to the last detail.
- Volunteer committee helps to recruit and train volunteers for the The volunteer committee works closely with all committees, particularly the hospitality, registration, and logistics committees.
Be sure to develop a budget that covers your essential costs.
6. Set a Budget
A budget is critical to any event. First, check with your administrator(s) to determine what funds are allocated for this activity. Start with a proposed budget then determine if it’s necessary to seek external sponsors to fully cover costs. Whether it’s a fundraiser or if you are trying to avoid accumulating overhead costs, it’s wise to make sure your registration fee covers all expenses. These expenses include speaker honorariums, hotel and travel accommodations, facility costs, giveaways, food and beverages, marketing, and equipment fees. You will also need to find a suitable venue for your audience and your budget.
7. Find a good Location
Make sure the event location is ideal for activities and the participants, including speakers. If you invite a well-known speaker, then chances are you will need a facility that holds a large crowd. Event facilities will require you to sign a contract. Read it carefully and find out what amenities they offer, such as:
- Is there ample parking space and do they charge a parking fee for participants?
- Do they set up tables or chairs?
- How early can you enter the building on event day?
- Is there a secure room to store registration materials or other event items?
Conduct a site visit with committee chairpersons. Walk through the facility to make sure it is adequate for all event activities.
Develop a Timeline
Once committee assignments are established, it is wise to develop a timeline. A timeline is vital to your marketing and public relations plan, but it is also ideal to develop this document for all event planning activities. A timeline helps you to determine what actions (tasks) are to be carried out, who is responsible for those actions, and when the tasks are to be completed.
Promote the Event
Your event marketing plan can help you to determine what messages you want to convey to participants and how to reach your audience. For example, participants are always interested in the speakers, the program agenda, costs, conference objectives, and whether they can earn professional contact hours or CEUs. How you promote the event will depend on your target audience. Today, many forms of the media are available, including social media. Make sure you develop catchy or appealing promotional materials, including press releases, public service announcements, posters, flyers, social media banners, etc.
Create Evaluation Tool
An evaluation instrument is important in determining whether you fulfilled your objectives. It will also help you to plan and to improve your event. Evaluations are critical in measuring the overall impact or outcomes of your program. Consider asking someone with evaluation development experience to assist you if needed.
Handle the Details
Details is just another word for logistics. Make sure committee members complete assignments that could make or break an event. These details include:
- Directional signs
- Facility layout for traffic flow
- Picking up guests from the airport
- Participant and speaker name tags
- Supplies, including giveaways or pre-printed event bags
- Certificates for speakers
- Contact hours or other professional or CEUs/CECs
- Clear registration procedures
- Speaker honorariums, travel reimbursements and thank you letters for event participants
In closing, remember that proper planning helps your event to run more smoothly. It will also ensure that measurable goals are set that yield greater impacts for your organization and for your community.
Download a copy of UNP-0122 Community Event Planning Guide.