With the coronavirus lockdown end in sight, we’re all hoping that a return to normal(ish) life is within touching distance. That means the return of holidays, meals out, and, of course, in-person events. But if you’ve gotten used to hosting your events virtually over the last year, you may be feeling slightly apprehensive at the prospect of organising a bustling in-person event.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a handy event planning checklist of things you’ll need to tick off before the big day, from risk assessments to communicating with attendees. Some aspects might have formed part of your online events strategy, while others may feel a little more rusty. But use it to help bring back the magic of live events. (Note that the following list is non-exhaustive and it’s advised to always check local COVID-19 guidelines before running any in-person event.)
1. Main aim and objective
- Your target audience. Consider using surveys to find out what your segment is looking for and interested in when it comes to a live event.
- Event purpose. Cement the goals for your event in terms of reach, profitability, and brand awareness.
- Choosing a format. Decide what type of event might best suit your objective, whether it’s quiz nights or fun runs for social occasions to webinars or panel talks for educational events.
- Working out an accurate budget. In-person events tend to be a little more expensive than virtual ones, so keep in mind overheads like venue, catering, and staff.
- Identifying potential sponsors. Working with the right sponsors on your event can help make hosting more affordable and boost your reach. Secure a sponsor that aligns with your vision with this handy guide.
- Considering your event type. Intimate book readings might require a small and cosy space, while music gigs and festivals will need a place with bigger capacities and extras like plenty of toilets and bars.
- Accessibility. Make sure that your event venue is easy to get to, and has accessible features like handrails and ramps.
- Social distancing concerns. Whatever type of event you’re holding, you’ll need to make sure it’s large enough to accommodate social distancing to help keep everyone safe.
- Floor plan. Ensure there’s enough room for everything by creating a floor plan for your event and determining maximum capacity.
- Contracts. Just in case you need to cancel, familiarise yourself with the terms of your venue contract. Note that there may be different policies regarding COVID-19 cancellations.
- Staff and/or volunteers. Ensure you’re clear on who will be helping with what on the day, and assign responsibilities for pre-, during, and post-event activities, such as ticketing, clean-up, and sponsor liaison.
- Determining speakers and acts. Reach out to your potential participants months in advance, liaising with agents and management where necessary.
5. Risk assessment
- Identifying risks. Be aware of any potential dangers like fire hazards, as well as any aspects of your event that might specifically pose a risk of COVID-19 transmission, such as queues, venue bottle-necks, and toilets. Compile these into a risk assessment for event planning.
- Mitigating risks. Once you’re aware of the risks, consider how you might mitigate these to make your event as safe as possible. For example, you might put markings on the floor to maintain social distancing measures and operate a one-in, one-out system for toilets.
- Sharing your plans. Share all of your health and safety preparation with staff and attendees to keep them fully informed and comfortable.
- Having a back-up plan. With the possibility that restrictions and other factors can change, it’s always best to have a contingency plan in place. This may involve postponing your event or opting for virtual hosting.
6. Ticketing and payments
- Creating your event page. Use Eventbrite’s event planning tools, from powerful tracking to seamless promotion, to fully customise your online event page.
- Ticket tiers. Decide how you’ll price your event, and whether you’ll offer different types of ticket. Establishing a VIP tier gives you the opportunity to upsell, and can include bonus extras like queue jumps and merchandise.
- Online payments. Contactless payments can be taken directly from the Eventbrite platform for tickets, as well as for the likes of merchandise, food, and drinks.
- Onsite payments. You might also choose to have card machines at your event for people to pay for tickets and extras.
- Cancellations and refunds. Establish your policy on cancellations and refunds and make sure this is easy for attendees to find on your event page.
- Creating assets. Make logos, posters, and images with software like Canva to use for online and offline promotional activity. They’ll also help to create a consistent message for your event.
- Social media. Set up an email account as well as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook profiles for your event. This is where you can post teasers, information, and links to your event page.
- Creating a hashtag. Start a conversation about your event and easily find out what your target audience are talking about using a personalised hashtag.
- Paid and sponsored advertising. Consider creating an Adwords campaign or using Facebook ads to share the word about your event.
- Marketing strategy. Plan your promotional activity so that it builds up to a big push before the big day.
8. Attendee communication
- Making key information readily accessible. This includes floor plans, health and safety procedures, and refund policies. You can also share your back-up plan with attendees, which shows the course of action should lockdown easing be paused or delayed.
- Answering all questions. Create a list of FAQs to be hosted on your events page or circulated before your event to put minds at rest. Make sure that someone is manning your social media and email accounts, too, to promptly respond to any queries.
- Event reminders. On Eventbrite, you can send reminders of your event and all relevant details to attendees weeks, days, and hours in advance.
- Being ready to communicate any changes. As soon as anything changes, such as cancellation, postponement, or a speaker falling through, let your attendees know as soon as possible. This gives them plenty of time to alter their plans and also helps to build trust.
9. Health and safety on the day
- Entry requirements. Help to keep everyone as safe as possible by considering asking attendees for proof of a negative test or vaccination upon entry. If you go down this route, make sure it’s communicated to attendees well in advance.
- PPE. Make sure all staff and volunteers are given adequate personal protective equipment to wear on the day. This might include face coverings, visors, and gloves.
- Hand sanitiser stations. It’s a good idea to make hand sanitiser readily available throughout your venue, and especially at key touch-points like entrances, exits, toilets, and ticketing stations.
- Cleaning rota. Sanitising important areas regularly will help to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Make sure your staff are aware of who is responsible for cleaning which areas, and when.
10. After the event
- Survey attendees, sponsors, speakers, and staff. Find out how safe they felt, what went right, and what could be improved upon for next time.
- Using Eventbrite analytics and reports. Use key metrics like turn-out, ticket sales, and social media buzz to assess the success of your event.
- Planning your next in-person event. With everything you’ve learned, you can start laying the groundwork for future events.
Getting back into the swing of in-person event planning
Once you’ve planned your first live event after lockdown, you might just find that the next one (and the one after that) feel a lot easier. It may also serve as a reminder of why you fell in love with event planning in the first place. After all, there’s nothing quite like the buzz of an in-person event. If you ever start to feel overwhelmed, check out our list to help stay on track and remember to stay on top of local guidelines when it comes to COVID-19.