Make a plan

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You’d been planning it for months and you were pumped. You had organised the best bands and the finest venue for an awesome concert. But it was a failure. Why? The second band didn’t know where to go, it rained and drowned everyone, it was absolutely freezing and the only person who had keys to the venue left early so you couldn’t lock up. What could have changed it all? Time management, risk assessment and a good plan.

It sounds a bit like school work, but when you make a plan, there’s less chance of failure and embarrassment. It will help you harness your big ideas so they actually happen rather than fizzle out.

Identify your vision

Ask yourself what you want to achieve, why it’s important and who it affects. Try to explain it in a paragraph or two.  Give a clear idea of your future direction and set a time frame for achieving your goal. This makes it easier to explain and sell your idea to other people: friends, family, the community and business. 

Make a work plan

Events and campaigns are time consuming and hard work. Even if you’ve got superpowers, you can’t organise it all without help. You need to recruit people with different skills and to spread the word. Think about keeping your core decision-making group to five to seven people. This is a good size for getting things done without too much dithering.

Work out what activities will raise money or awareness of your issue. Ask:

  • How does it link back to your objectives?
  • When could it happen?
  • What needs to be done?
  • Who’ll help and how?

Brainstorm the resources, contacts and skills that you can access. For example, does someone have friend who’s in a band, a graphic designer or an accountant?

Map out a time line

The order that you do things can make or break your project or event. Sometimes tasks are linked – you need to make sure that another task is finished before you can start the next thing. It helps to map these out so you can work out what’s linked or dependent. Start with the last tasks that need to be done, and work backwards. You can set a time line up in days, weeks or fortnights. The earlier stages of the project are likely to have longer time lines than the end, where every day counts.

The time line should show where, when and how each activity will take place. Colour code them according to who is responsible for the activity.

When you make a timetable, make sure that you include ‘life’ dates like people’s birthdays, holidays and exams. Be realistic, or unexpected delays will happen and people will get burnt out.

Stick to your budget

You need money to hold an event. You need to pay for things like promotional material, insurance, resources, travel, performances and venue hire. If you’re planning a campaign, you may need to pay for an office, photocopying, advertising and even someone’s salary. But like everything else in life, there are ways to get around it. For example, if your event is at a school, their insurance may cover it.

Whatever your budget, it’s important that you stick to what you have. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of what you’re spending, and what expenses are coming up.

Start local

You’d be surprised at how much you can get for free or at a discount, especially when it’s for a worthy cause. Go into your local shops and ask to speak to the manager:

  • Identify yourself, for example as the President or Secretary of your group
  • Tell them what you want to achieve
  • Explain how their company would be a valuable sponsor
  • Give them any relevant promotional material that you have ready
  • Ask if they are interested or have any questions. 
  • Always offer to print the company’s logo on promotional materials
  • Acknowledge them at events and ceremonies
  • Meet with them regularly to give them updates on progress and keep them as long-term allies

Be realistic

Of course, you’d rather get it for free. But you will need to buy things in the long run. When you need to spend money, do your research in advance:

  • Decide on your ideal price
  • Rate expenses as a want or a need
  • Brainstorm different products or options
  • Get quotes
  • Assess quality, reliability and price

Look at the risks

With your team that you’ve recruited, brainstorm everything that could go wrong; from fires, to bad weather, to injuries and no one showing up. With your list identify the likelihood of it occurring and how this would impact your event. If there is a high likelihood of the incident occurring and high impact on the event, you need to alter your plan. If there are medium risks, develop strategies to cope with the incident if it occurs.

For example, if the event is held outside and there is a medium likelihood that it will rain (because it’s Spring) and the impact of the rain could be medium, your strategy may be to provide shelter. However, if rain would have a high impact and high likelihood of occurring, you may need to change the venue. If the likelihood of the event is low and the impact is low, ignore the possibility of it going wrong.     

Check progress regularly

Every fortnight meet with your team to review the risk assessment and see if there are any changes, review the budget and review the time lines. Although they are all simply tools to guide your event and most likely won’t be stringently followed, they will keep you on track and help you prioritise tasks.

Links

Planning Safe Community Events, React International (2002) - This website has a foolproof guide of planning a safe community event with an emphasis on parking, traffic control and crowd management.

Youth Action Effecting Change - A great website about what it means to be a successful leader.