An email from a friend in Illinois was looking for start-up advice for a group that wants to put on a festival. Her question to me: what should I tell them they have to pay attention to that they don’t know.
Here are my three most important things to keep in mind when starting a festival or other similar large event.
- Time. Time isn’t what you think; deadlines aren’t what you think.
Time is fixed. Once you announce the date, you cannot say we need to postpone this for a week or a month. Whatever has to be done must be done between now and that date.
In fact, most of it must be done eight to 12 weeks ahead of that date to meet marketing deadlines. Especially when you are starting a new event, you need to let your prospective attendees know what amazing things you have lined up for them to do, see, hear, taste, and experience. All those things must be contracted, arranged, hired, or sufficiently secured to promise them in ads, promotional materials, on the website, and in social media.
One other note about time. Events bring lots of people together to create them. People take time. I figure 10-20 minutes per person: each participant, supplier, team member, volunteer, staff, board or committee, related agency, regulatory agencies, advertising channel, sponsor, donor, or grant maker. This is important time; these are the relationships that will make your event a success over time.
- Budget. Money is to events what oxygen is to you and me. Without it, you can’t make the event a hometown tradition. Plan for each income stream and be realistic. Check with similar events for what works. Pick revenue streams that use your team’s strengths. On the expense side, budget for everything you need; you can always take it out if you get it donated. Make sure you have budgeted enough for marketing. And don’t forget the dull stuff like safety, sanitation, and insurance. Budget income at 80% of your income estimates; budget expenses at 115%. Your surprises will be better.
- Scope of Project. What things will happen at your event? What things are important to do, and which are not. With your timeline fixed, and your budget limited, having a clear picture of what is a priority and what is not will save you lots of time, money, and stress. What is important? Your goal is important! Focus on that. Focus your budgeting on your goal. Focus you time on your goal. Don’t let shiny, trendy ideas entice you off the path. Don’t let making certain individuals happy nudge you off your priorities. Don’t let exciting last-minute ideas interrupt your focus on producing your goal.
I figure the first six weeks of event planning are figuring out what will happen — creating a preliminary Plan; the next five weeks are figuring out what it will cost in time and money — and making adjustments to The Plan; and after that it’s Just Follow The Plan.