Special Event Planning Tips

They say (whoever “they” are) that real estate is all about location, location, location.

When planning special events, it’s a bit more complicated. It’s all about location, timing, planning, follow-up, marketing and all the little details that can bite you on the backside of the equation.

Start at the Beginning

Successfully planning any type of special event can’t happen without a thorough knowledge of the community, and even the surrounding communities. First, you have to know your constituency, then you need to know what’s going on around you in adjacent cities and towns.

“You’ve have to know there’s a need for it. Is your event addressing a need? What’s the purpose? It goes back to the basic stuff — what are you trying to accomplish and what’s the need for it?” says Troy Cox, recreation supervisor for the City of Palm Bay, Fla.

“Then we have to look at the area. We’re pretty diverse, but certain events might work somewhere else that wouldn’t work here, based on our demographics.”

Cox adds that it’s important to understand the price threshold of your community and those in surrounding communities that may attend the event. He cites a festival that came to town and charged $10 a head, not realizing that all previous festivals had been free.

“They had all this stuff here, and they may have had 2,000 people over the weekend, when they were expecting 30,000-50,000. They didn’t do their homework,” recalls Cox.

“You better know your community. They were not going to spend $10 a head to walk in the gate with their family. Had they gone in for free, they were going to eat, drink and do some rides. They would’ve spent their 50 bucks, plus more.”

Next on the list is timing. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to schedule an event that doesn’t conflict with something that’s happening in the region.

Keep in Touch

The San Gabriel Parks and Recreation Department in San Gabriel, Calif., runs a Turkey Trot each year. As you might imagine, conflicts in the Los Angeles area run rampant, but there are degrees of conflict.

One year, San Gabriel’s Turkey Trot was scheduled on the same weekend as the USC-UCLA game. Southern Californians may be relatively blasé about their sports teams, but this brings ‘em out in droves. Needless to say, the Turkey Trot was scheduled for another weekend.

For Rebecca Anderson, assistant director of parks and recreation for San Gabriel, avoiding these conflicts is a matter of constantly scanning the Internet and local calendars.

Since the Turkey Trot is a running event, it’s especially important to stay updated through various running clubs and running Web sites (San Gabriel also markets through these channels).

Anderson also works closely with its professional timing company, Runner’s Image. The company has become an important partner in all aspects of the race.

“The timing company (or Runner’s Image) is able to tell us what races are going on in the area. They are also a source for the best ways to run a race,” says Anderson.

“It’s not cheap to get a timing management company, but it’s well worth it. We used to do itthe timing ourselves, but it takes so much stress off of you to have someone who’s professional. I had never been in charge of a race before I came here, and it’s a totally different world to have professionals who have the background and can offer suggestions. It’s very positive.”

Anderson adds that any vendors that operate as sponsors or suppliers of various services for the event needs are excellent information sources. Tap them for help, because there’s a good chance they know things you don’t that can make the event run even more smoothly.

“If I was looking for a calendar of events I’d go to the chamber of commerce and on-line. If it’s an art show, for example, I would be talking to my local art-community people,” says Palm Bay’s Cox.

“The Melbourne Art Festival is a good example… I’ll go there and find out when their events are, so that I’m not doing mine within a month of theirs, because the artists normally go to one a month, instead of one every other week.”

Once you’ve made contacts with other area special events, identify those who have been doing it for a long time and pick their brains about how they’re successfully running their event.

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