How to Plan an Event: a Step-by-Step Guide

Preface: Organizing a successful event

Seeking guidance on event planning? You're in the right spot!

Over the years, we've observed numerous events hosted by various organizations. Although it's impossible to pinpoint every specific detail necessary for planning (since requirements often vary by event type), we have compiled a collection of universally applicable best practices.

This guide is perfect for both beginners and those seeking a quick refresher. It includes:

  • A blueprint for hosting a great event, whether it's an invite-only commitee event or a massive public rally.
  • Key elements of an effective event management strategy.
  • A step-by-step guide on how to plan an event successfully, in 11 steps.

Without further delay, let's jump into the fundamentals of event planning!

1. Define an objective

Starting with defining the event type is fundamental. This decision sets the stage for what you aim to achieve—be it raising awareness and flexing your power through a rally, educating members in workshops, or discussing strategic plans in invite-only meetings. The nature of the event will determine the audience, the content, and the activities involved.

Type of Event Good for... Keep in mind...
Phonebanking Event Mobilizing supporters, building deep relationships, developing community leaders, securing event commitments Structured call guides, comprehensive volunteer training, maintaining updated and segmented call lists, ensuring meaningful conversations
Public Rally Big crowds, media attention, morale-boosting, impressive photo ops Permits, bathroom facilities, weather, potential police interactions
Workshops and Training Sessions Educating members on rights, negotiation techniques, organizing and leadership skills Expert facilitators, materials, venue and tech for presentations, follow-up support
Lobbying Events Influencing policymakers, advocating for legislation, voicing organizational interests Lobbying laws, clear talking points, participant training, appointments with officials
Town Hall Meetings Dialogue between leaders and members, community engagement, transparent decision-making Venue capacity, open forum facilitation, speaker time limits, effective Q&A handling
Invite-Only Organizing Committee Meeting Strategic planning, confidential discussion, in-depth organizational matters Secured location, invite protocol, agenda clarity, member inclusivity
Picket Line Demonstrating solidarity, raising awareness about labor disputes, employer pressure Picketing laws, peaceful protest, participant scheduling, safety and visibility

Next, deciding between in-person or virtual formats shapes the attendee experience. In-person events offer a sense of community and immediacy, whereas virtual events can reach a broader, potentially global audience. This choice also hinges on your expected audience size and who you specifically want to attend. For large-scale public rallies, an in-person format might be preferable for its visual and emotional impact, while a virtual workshop could better serve a specialized audience spread across different locations.

Lastly, determining whether the event will be recurring or one-time impacts how you engage with your audience over time. Recurring events build community and sustained interest, perfect for a targeted group you wish to keep engaged. In contrast, a one-time event might aim to make a big splash with a broader audience for a specific occasion.

For each of these steps, considering how many people and which you want attending is essential. It influences not just the format and frequency of your event, but also the logistical planning—from venue size for in-person gatherings to bandwidth requirements for virtual ones. Identifying your target audience—whether it's the general public, members of your organization, or a select group of stakeholders—guides your promotional efforts and content creation to ensure your event resonates with and reaches those most likely to be interested and to benefit from it.

2. Make a plan

Crafting a detailed plan is crucial for event success, avoiding the pitfalls of "building the plane while it's in flight." Start with defining the event's structure, including timelines, roles, and responsibilities for every team member. Clearly outline who is in charge of logistics, who will handle outreach, and who will manage on-the-day activities.

Assemble a diverse team of volunteers to handle key roles like logistics coordination, media relations, safety oversight, sign-making, chant-leading, and providing refreshments. Ensure language diversity within the team to enhance outreach efforts like phonebanking supporters in their preferred languages.

Selecting speakers and organizing the content agenda requires early attention to align with the event's objectives. Similarly, an outreach and mobilization plan is essential, utilizing various channels to engage potential attendees effectively. This includes event pages, email & text blasts, social media campaigns, and community outreach.

Solidarity Tech's event management software in Central LA on the event management platform for non-profits, showing schedule and RSVP count. We'll break down how to plan an event successfully

3. Set a time and place

Selecting the right time and place for your event is pivotal. For in-person events, consider location accessibility, parking, and necessary permits. These logistical aspects can significantly impact attendee experience. For virtual events, choose a reliable platform and ensure all participants have access to the event URL. Provide clear instructions on how the virtual event will be managed, including engagement tools and technical support. Solidarity Tech can streamline this process, offering features to manage registrations, communicate venue details, or share virtual event links and instructions efficiently.

Solidarity Tech can simplify the process of managing recurring events. The intuitive interface, as shown in the screenshot below, allows you to easily set the frequency (weekly, monthly, etc.) and duration of your event. This eliminates the need to manually create multiple event entries for gatherings that occur on a regular basis.

Interface for scheduling recurring sessions highlighting bi-weekly event setup in Pacific Time Zone.

4. Promote your event website

To effectively promote your event and gather RSVPs, start by creating a detailed event page that caters to a wide audience, including multilingual support to ensure accessibility for all interested attendees. This event registration page serves not only to inform but also to capture attendee RSVPs through a web form, enrolling those contacts for automated & personalized text & email reminders.

Next, leverage the power of targeted email and text blasts to reach out to your potential audience. These communications should be crafted to resonate with your audience's preferences and languages, including direct links to your event page for easy access to more information and RSVP options.

This strategy ensures that your message is both personalized and far-reaching, significantly increasing the likelihood of higher engagement rates. It's usually best to make initial public event announcement this way, before you begin phonebanking and textbanking, to ensure that folks who will be receiving your outreach are aware of the event.

Event registration form for City Hall Protest with multilingual options and a crowd gathered in the background.

An effective event page is just the beginning; it should be part of a larger event management and leadership development strategy. Solidarity Tech facilitates this by allowing you to customize your post-registration engagement process.

For example, upon RSVP, attendees can be directed to a confirmation page that invites them to contribute further, such as:

  1. Related Activism: Attendees can RSVP for a related phonebank, ensuring robust turnout and engaging them in meaningful activism that amplifies your message.

  2. Leadership Development: Those committed to both the event and phonebank can schedule a call with an organizer, forming relationships, understanding motivations, and identifying potential leaders.

This seamless integration of event management with a leadership pipeline fortifies your organization's structure, ensuring each event builds a more resilient and empowered community.

Finally, utilize social media platforms and other promotional channels as complementary tools to broaden your reach. Sharing your event page across these networks can drive traffic back to your event RSVP page, amplifying your event marketing & promotion efforts.

Event Management Software For Non-Profits: The Right Choice for Your Event

Solidarity Tech's event management software is designed to manage various event types, with automated reminders to help boost attendance. Its integration with a CRM allows easy collection of RSVPs from multiple sources, and real-time updates ensure your event data is current. These features make Solidarity Tech a versatile option for event management.

5. Recruit volunteers

Recruiting dedicated volunteers is crucial for orchestrating a successful event. Depending on the event, crucial roles may include:

  • Phonebankers: Vital for personal outreach, they call potential attendees to inform and encourage event participation.
  • Textbankers: They send out mass texts to efficiently spread the word, utilizing platforms like Solidarity Tech for targeted messaging.
  • Media Team: Responsible for creating and managing digital content and press relations.
  • Safety Team: Ensures all health and security protocols are followed.
  • Sign-making Team: Crafts visual materials that capture attention and convey messages.
  • Chant-writing and Leading Team: Develops and leads chants or speeches, energizing the crowd.
  • Water/Snacks Team: Provides essential hydration and nourishment, keeping volunteers and attendees comfortable.

Leveraging Solidarity Tech for roles like phonebanking and textbanking can streamline the recruitment process, enabling organizers to reach out to a broad audience with personalized messages, making these roles even more effective. For expanding your volunteer team, consider reaching out to individuals who have previously contributed to or attended your past events. They already have a connection to your cause, may be more likely to commit their time again, and can be easily found in Solidarity Tech using User Filters.

6. Prepare RSVP reminders

Effective communication is the backbone of ensuring your event is properly attended, and automations play a crucial role in streamlining this process. By leveraging the right tools, event planners can ensure that attendees receive timely and relevant reminders, enhancing the overall experience and maximizing attendance. Automations not only simplify operations but also free up valuable time and resources, allowing organizers to focus on creating truly memorable events. Solidarity Tech's event management platform offers a comprehensive suite of automation features designed to optimize event communication:

Automated Reminders

  1. Immediate Email Confirmations: As soon as an attendee RSVPs, an automated email confirmation with a calendar invitation is sent, providing all necessary event details and the meeting URL for virtual events.
  2. Day-Before Reminders: A day before the event, an automated email reminder goes out to all RSVP'd attendees. If RSVP confirmations are enabled, this message can include a button for attendees to confirm their attendance.
  3. Day-of Event Texts: One hour before the event, a customizable text reminder is automatically sent to all RSVP'd attendees, ensuring high attendance rates.

Setup screen for automated email confirmations in Solidarity Tech's event management system.

Team Member Triggered Communications

  • RSVP Text Replies: Team members can quickly send pre-drafted text messages with dynamic merge tags in response to "Yes," "No," or "Maybe" RSVPs, providing immediate acknowledgment to attendees.
  • Event Text Templates: Standardized yet customizable text templates streamline communications while maintaining a consistent tone and style for reminders, updates, and more.

Text message template for RSVP confirmations showcasing personalized event details and virtual meeting link.

Leveraging event automations is essential for efficient event management. With Solidarity Tech's platform, organizers can streamline communications, ensuring attendees are well-informed with automated reminders and team-triggered messages. This reduces manual tasks, allowing focus on enhancing attendee experiences.

By utilizing features like immediate email confirmations, day-before reminders, and day-of event texts, event planning becomes more manageable, ensuring high attendance and engagement. Automations not only save time but also ensure consistent, accurate communication, crucial for successful event execution.

Event RSVP confirmation interface showing options for attendees to confirm attendance.

7. Mobilize supporters

Securing reliable commitments from supporters to attend events is a critical aspect of successful event promotion. Two powerful tools that organizers planning an event can leverage to achieve this are phonebanking and textbanking. These methods not only facilitate direct communication with supporters but also provide an opportunity to solidify initial commitments and ensure active participation.

Phonebanking: A Personal Touch

Phonebanking allows Team Members to streamline the process of calling a targeted list of supporters. Solidarity Tech's platform offers three distinct types of phonebanks:

  1. One-to-one: Used when specific Team Members need to call specific targets and ensure a response, usually for event invitations.
  2. Power dialer: This type allows Team Members to efficiently call through a list of supporters, without being assigned specific targets.
  3. Predictive dialer: Helps a group of Team Members efficiently call a large list of targeted supporters by making multiple calls simultaneously for each Team Member.

Through phonebanking, event planners can efficiently reach out to supporters, gather valuable feedback, and secure commitments to attend events. The personal touch of a phone call can be instrumental in shoring up initial commitments and addressing any concerns or questions supporters may have.

Call a contact from a phonebank and mark them as RSVP'd directly from the call screen

Textbanking: Efficient and Engaging

Textbanking enables Team Members to send personalized text messages to supporters and field their replies. This method is particularly effective when the message includes a direct question, and a group of Team Members is responsible for engaging with supporters and responding to their replies.With Solidarity Tech's platform, initial textbank messages can be sent by Team Members with a single tap, and the workflow is a two-step process: sending the initial message and fielding the replies.

This efficient communication channel allows event organizers to reach a large number of supporters quickly and engage in meaningful conversations to solidify their commitments.

Textbanking interface preview on Solidarity Tech platform, ready to send messages for event mobilization.

By leveraging the power of phonebanking and textbanking, event organizers can effectively engage and mobilize their supporters, ensuring that they are committed to attending events and actively participating in them. This not only increases the overall success of the event but also fosters a stronger sense of community and engagement among attendees, ultimately contributing to the overall impact of the event.

8. Media strategy

When organizing public actions where media attention is desired, a well-planned media strategy is crucial. This section is specifically relevant for events aimed at garnering media coverage and amplifying your message.

One key consideration is timing. It's advisable to request media outlets to arrive at least 30 minutes after the scheduled start time for attendees. This buffer period allows time for attendees to trickle in, creating a more visually impactful scene for media coverage.

Proactive media outreach is essential to ensure media presence at your event. This is typically handled by a dedicated media team, who are responsible for reaching out to relevant media outlets and providing them with the necessary details and talking points.

Training media contact volunteers is another critical aspect of your press strategy. These volunteers serve as the face of your organization, interacting with members of the press and ensuring that your organization's talking points are consistently communicated. Regardless of the questions posed, these trained volunteers must skillfully steer the conversation back to your core messaging.

Effective media strategy involves striking a balance between providing compelling visuals and maintaining control over the narrative. By carefully orchestrating the timing of media arrivals, conducting targeted outreach, and thoroughly preparing media contact volunteers, you can increase the chances of garnering favorable coverage that aligns with your organization's goals and amplifies your message to a wider audience.

Turn Casual Online Supporters into Real Life Organizers.
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9. Day-of Logistics

Ensuring a smooth event day hinges on effective coordination of various logistical elements. A well-organized sign-in process is crucial, with designated volunteers staffing a check-in area to streamline attendee arrivals. Tools like Solidarity Tech's attendance tracking feature can simplify this by allowing volunteers to quickly check in attendees using their name or phone number, or add new attendees on the spot.

Beyond check-in, day-of logistics encompass tasks such as streaming setup, volunteer coordination, resource distribution (water, t-shirts, handouts), and venue setup. Assigning dedicated team members to oversee specific tasks and establishing clear protocols can help mitigate potential issues.

Effective communication among the event team is key. Conducting briefings and providing clear instructions to volunteers ensures everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, contributing to a seamless experience.

Meticulous planning and execution of day-of logistics create a welcoming and organized environment, allowing attendees to focus on the event itself and maximizing their engagement and satisfaction.

10. Debrief

After the event, it's essential to take the time to debrief and reflect on the experience. This process not only allows for identifying areas of improvement but also presents an opportunity to strengthen relationships and cultivate leadership within your organization.

If the event was a public action, consider organizing a post-event meal with your core crew and any new attendees. This casual setting provides a chance to get to know individuals you may have previously only interacted with digitally, fostering deeper connections and building a sense of community.

For invite-only events, a post-event gathering allows for more in-depth face-to-face conversations, enabling you to connect with attendees on a more personal level than digital or phone interactions permit. These meaningful interactions can help strengthen existing relationships and lay the foundation for future collaborations.

Additionally, it's crucial to debrief with your core team, discussing what went well and what could have been improved. This open and honest dialogue not only identifies areas for growth but also celebrates successes, reinforcing a culture of continuous improvement and shared learning.

The post-event debriefing process is not just about logistics; it's about nurturing relationships, cultivating leadership, and fostering a sense of community within your organization. By creating spaces for genuine connection and constructive feedback, you can build a stronger, more cohesive team that is better equipped to tackle future challenges and achieve greater impact.

11. Attendance & follow up

Accurate attendance tracking is crucial for a growing organization, as it provides valuable insights and opportunities for follow-up engagement. Solidarity Tech's event platform offers a comprehensive attendance management system that streamlines the process of capturing and utilizing attendance data.

During the event, designated volunteers can efficiently check in attendees using the attendance tracking feature. By simply searching for an attendee's name or phone number, volunteers can mark their attendance with a few taps. If an attendee is not already in the system, volunteers can quickly add them, ensuring a complete and up-to-date attendance record.

Interface for adding attendees to an event with RSVP status details, showcasing a streamlined event management process.

The true power of attendance data lies in its ability to inform future outreach and engagement strategies. With Solidarity Tech's filtering capabilities, organizers can segment attendees based on various criteria, such as event type, location, or demographic information. This allows for targeted follow-up communications, tailored to the specific interests and needs of different attendee groups.

For instance, organizers can create a filter to identify first-time attendees and send them a personalized thank-you message, encouraging further involvement. Alternatively, they can filter for attendees who have participated in multiple events and offer them opportunities for deeper engagement, such as volunteering or leadership roles.

By leveraging attendance data effectively, event organizers can foster stronger connections with their supporters, nurture long-term relationships, and ultimately drive greater impact for their cause. Solidarity Tech's attendance management tools provide a streamlined and data-driven approach to attendance tracking & event data, empowering organizers to turn attendance data into actionable insights and meaningful follow-up strategies.

Filter options for event attendance tracking, focusing on the Driver Meetup - Central LA.

Once your public event is complete and you've added attendance, consider sharing event highlights and media coverage with your supporters. One way to do this is creating a blog post in Solidarity Tech and sharing that via social media. You may also want to just compile a set of photos and press coverage and send an email recap to all supporters or attendees.

Conclusion: Pulling it All Together

Organizing a successful event requires meticulous planning, effective communication, and a dedicated team. This guide has equipped you with the foundational knowledge to navigate the event planning process from conception to execution. By following these steps and best practices, you can ensure a smooth and impactful event that achieves your desired outcomes.

Remember, the key to putting together a successful gather is understanding your audience and tailoring your approach accordingly. Clearly define your event goals, target the right people, and craft a message that resonates with their interests.

Solidarity Tech: Powerful Tools for Streamlined Event Management

Solidarity Tech provides a comprehensive suite of tools designed to streamline the entire event organization process, with accounts starting at $29 per month. Consider these features to enhance your event experience:

  • Streamlined Communication: Our platform fosters seamless communication between team members and attendees, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Enhanced Outreach & Mobilization: Solidarity Tech facilitates efficient outreach through phonebanking, textbanking, and targeted email blasts, maximizing attendance and engagement. Text message and dialer rates are among the most competitive available.
  • Automated Reminders: Automated emails and text messages keep attendees informed and engaged throughout the event lifecycle.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Our powerful analytics provide valuable insights into attendance data, enabling you to refine your strategies for future events.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Solidarity Tech's intuitive design makes it easy for anyone to navigate the CRM and leverage its features.

Take the Next Step: Invest in Your Event Success

Solidarity Tech offers a powerful solution for organizations of all sizes. Contact us today to learn more about our affordable pricing plans and how we can help you make your next event a success!

In conclusion, with careful planning, effective communication, and the right tools at your disposal, you can organize an event that leaves a lasting impression and achieves your goals. Consider Solidarity Tech as a valuable partner, providing the resources and support you need to streamline your event planning process and maximize your impact.

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