In my previous post about event production, we covered some essential first steps. So, aspiring event producers, what comes next?
Now that you’ve determined what you want to do, sussed out how you are going to get it done, and asked yourself if it’s a project you can realistically make happen, it’s time to set some event production wheels in motion! Keep in mind that some of these steps will need to happen simultaneously, or you may have to swap their order around in order to get all your pieces to fall into place.
Getting It Done Part 2 – Prepare For Launch!
1. Pick Your Date(s)
I’ve put this as your first step, but I need to be very clear here – depending on your project, you may have to take some other steps first, like contacting and booking a headliner (you may have to work with their schedule instead of asking them to come on a specific date), or working with the space you want to book in order to find an available time for your project. Planning the exact date of your event can be tricky, because you may not get the date that you want from your venue, or from your special guest/teacher/etc. You also need to take in to account the local holidays – booking an event on a long weekend may sound ideal, but what about all those dancers who go away with their families, or the extra cost for out of town guests to get hotels during peak tourist times?
Getting a studio space might be cheaper and easier during a weekday afternoon, but how many dancers can take the afternoon off work to be there? You can’t exactly hold a workshop from 8pm-2am on a Tuesday, so if that studio you like doesn’t have room for you in their schedule you will need to look elsewhere.
Event production always means finding several options you can work with, and understanding that you may not have much choice in the end. The most important thing is to not book on top of someone else if you can help it, and choose a date that *most* people would be ok with in order to maximize participation. Communicate with everyone about your needs, and your date can be solidified quickly!
2. Book Your Space
This goes hand-in-hand with the above step, but for many folks it ends up being step 2 instead of step 1. If you have given yourself enough time – let’s say 6 months in advance – you should have no problem booking a space to hold your event, depending on the popularity of the venue. When it comes to theatres and show spaces, some venues are so popular that you might be smart to book as early as possible. You’ll also need a deposit for something like this – go back to your budget and make sure you have already accounted for your out-of-pocket costs to make your project work. Take a good look at the contract before you move forward. If you are booking a headliner, make sure that you have agreed on your date before you drop a big deposit on your venue.
Studio spaces can also be tricky to book, depending on where you live. Many studios have popular kids classes on the weekends and during the evening, and most studios will not cancel their classes just to make room for you. That said, some studios will do that for you, with enough notice. The struggle to find an appropriate space for arts-related events is becoming more apparent these days, and it’s one of the toughest realities of arts-related event production, so give yourself enough time to shop around if you can’t get in to a space that suits you right away.
3. Start Advertising
Now that you have your event planned, your budget made, your dates picked, and your space booked, you are ready to tell the world about it! Marketing is also a huge subject that I will cover in it’s own blog post someday, but for now here are a few basics:
a.) Rollout: Successful takeoff, or failure to launch?
b.) Marketing materials: Well designed posters, website pages, well written copy, etc.
c.) Method of communication: Postcards to hand out at events, newsletter ads, press releases, etc.
d.) Value-added incentives: Contests, early bird deals, ticket bundles, free t-shirts, etc.
e.) Visibility & Engagement: Reaching your market, getting them excited & involved.
First, let’s talk about rollout – the timing of your event announcement is important! When you are ready to tell the world what you have been planning, you want to consider a few things, such as who else is gearing up for their event. Most promoters will become more visible as their event approaches, so don’t step on any toes by shouting about your event 5 months in advance while another promoter is trying to push their ticket sales for an event happening that week! Be a polite promoter by communicating with others in your area who are promoting events that are coming up on the calendar before you take over everyone’s news feed about something else you want them to spend money on – don’t overwhelm the market, or your event will suffer too!
A successful rollout also means that you have your ducks in a row before you hit that launch button – don’t promise things you aren’t ready to deliver, don’t put up a half-made poster, and try your best to include as many details as you can in your event launch so that folks actually have something to get excited about. At the same time, you’ll need to consider how much time people will have to save money for participation, or book time off for your event if necessary. Don’t rollout too early, but don’t leave it too late! Give people 4 weeks minimum to spend $100 or less, and 2-3 months minimum to spend more. If you start hyping your event more than 6-7 months in advance, prepare for eye rolls from the community. Yes, it’s exciting. It also might do damage to other events that were booked first. Remember to communicate with other producers.
Your marketing materials are a huge part of your rollout, and an essential part of event production! Learn how to make an engaging poster with clear information that won’t overwhelm the viewer. If you are working with a promo picture of your headliner, choose some colours from the photo to use on the poster. Stick to just 1 or 2 fonts – reserve the fancy font for your title and make the other font that lists your details easy to read. Don’t write a book on a single sheet of paper – give enough info to state what your event is about, and leave the rest for your website or the event description on your social media event page. Always include the date, the location, and the cost in your promo materials – the exception to this is for simple Facebook banners or teaser images. If your poster is boring, it sends the wrong message about who you are and how much fun your guests will have. If it’s hard to read, no one will read it. Use common sense – what would make *you* want to go to an event?
Method of communication is easy! Facebook events are essential if that is how you are connected to your community, but it’s not enough. Do you have a website? A local dancer newsletter that you can buy ad space in? What about printed materials that you can give to other teachers to give out in their classes? If your event is open to non-dancers too, why not craft up a press release for your local newspaper or community bulletin board? What about an email newsletter? Never spam people, or they won’t come to your event out of spite! Just get your message out there in as many forms as you can to reach as many people as possible. Cast a wide net!
Value-added incentives are great for attracting guests who need that extra push to commit to your event. If you can get enough dancers to register early, that makes your life easier by helping you cover all of your costs right away, so it’s worth giving an early registration discount up to a certain date. You don’t have to give away the farm, but you also don’t want to be too tight on this – give people a reason to sign up right away. You can also bundle tickets into workshop packages, give away performance spots to workshop participants only, create ticket packages that allow buyers of multiple tickets to save money, etc.
Finally, visibility and engagement are what will keep the ticket purchases and registrations coming in during those long months leading up to your event. To be visible is to make sure that you and your event participants are sharing your marketing materials and representing the event whenever possible, without sharing so often that you become annoying, and without sharing on top of other people’s events. Never advertise your event at someone else’s show without their permission, never spam other people’s social media pages or profiles with ads for your event, and please don’t tag people in your social media posts about the event unless they are already participating.
If you are someone who is booked for an event, please take note: the promoter is not the only one responsible for getting people to come and see you! Make sure you are posting about it online so that your audience can find you and take part – if you have a big fan base, you have more reach than anyone else to the market who will support you. For promoters, you can make sure that you post regularly (but not so often that you’re spammy) in your event, and change your personal profile photos to remind your friends of what is coming up and how they can support you. As a promoter, you can also be clear with your performers and/or headliners about how you expect them to support the event by making it more visible. It is for their benefit!
Engagement is when you can get your audience to actively participate in the hype too – event production takes a village! Have photo or post-sharing contests to get people to share the event with their audiences, or ask them to share their stories of studying with the teacher you are bringing to class. Word of mouth is the best advertising, but your mouth isn’t always the one who should be sharing! How can you get your audience to actively engage in the event before it even happens?