An Event Planning Checklist for SchoolsSeptember 7, 2020
We all know just how effective event marketing can be for providing prospective families with an immersive glimpse into your school. However, it’s also no secret that pulling off a great event takes a lot of time and effort. One way to ensure that you’re on track to success is by creating an event checklist.
Knowing where to start or just what exactly should be on your checklist is tricky! To lend a hand, I’ve put together a school event-specific checklist that can be used at any point during your event planning process.
Kickstart your event planning
Depending on the size and scale of your event, it’s best to allow a lead time of around four to six months to plan your event. This time frame allows you to comfortably organize your event, without worrying about securing suppliers at the last minute. The takeaway? As soon as you get a confirmation for your event – it’s time to get to work!
6 months before your event
First things first, set some SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals for your event. These goals should always work to support your overarching marketing plan and help you to set an appropriate budget for your event.
Not sure where to start? It’s always a good idea to look at previous event data and evaluations to see what worked and what didn’t. Let’s take a look at some examples of SMART goals you might like to set for your next school event.
- To increase attendance and have 50% of the registered parents actually attend
- To increase brand awareness by gaining 5 user-generated posts from the event
- To gain 10 new leads from the event through an email sign up
Generally, there’s no rule of thumb as to how many goals you should set for an event, but at least three is always a good amount. This will provide you with direction and allow you to better measure event success and communicate that back to your executive team.
Set your event budget
Your budget will have a major influence on all aspects of your event. But, don’t be discouraged if you event is smaller than you were expecting – you can always make a budget work by getting creative! If you’re setting your own budget, refer back to past events to get an idea of how much you’ll need.
Once you’ve set your budget, it’s best to keep track of every detail in a spreadsheet or by using event management software like Aventri. A template will help you track expenses and split the budget accordingly into smaller sections. Take a look below to see how we’ve used a spreadsheet for our ‘Digistorm College Open Day.’
Don’t forget to keep checking back in with this spreadsheet regularly and are updating your budget throughout the event planning process to make it easier for yourself at the end of the event.
Choose a venue
So your goals and budget are set, now it’s time to get the ball rolling! Choosing when and where to host your event might depend on the event type and your school’s yearly schedule. For example, if you’re looking to host an open day, it might be best to host your event on a weekend when more parents can attend. When selecting an event date, it’s always a good idea to have a backup just in case the first one does not work with your yearly event calendar.
Now’s also a great time to decide on a venue. There are a few things to consider when picking the venue including the number of attendees, whether you require a permit, and the infrastructure needed. It’s likely that your own school campus has some great spaces, so If there is an appropriate hall or room on your school campus – book it!
3 months before your event
Create a marketing strategy
At Digistorm, we love all things inbound marketing and we believe that marketing your event is an effective way to drive attendance and boost engagement. With just three months left until your event, it’s time to create a marketing plan that will help promote the event and target audiences. You should market your event over a mix of social media and other communication channels to gain registrations. Using Digistorm Funnel you can create an event form on your website to manage event registrations. You can jump into Funnel at any time to see how your event registration numbers are tracking. Here you can also make appropriate changes to any event registrations such as name changes or number of guests in a group registration. You can then promote this event form on a range of channels including:
- Email Campaigns
- Notifications on a school communication app
Aim to post at least once a week in the lead up to the event and then schedule in a last-minute push of content in the final two weeks. Your marketing content should include all of the relevant event information such as: date, time, venue, and a link to the registration page. Don’t be afraid to mix up your content with different images or videos from past events to create a sense of hype among attendees.
Book vendors and organize collateral
If you need to organize event catering, audio-visual equipment, or marketing collateral, it’s best to book this in at least three months out from your event date. Guest speakers are always a great idea, but you’ll need to get in quick to ensure they’re not double-booked. Just some examples of the kinds of guest speakers you could include are alumni, current students, or even a staff member at your school. In the current climate where social distancing is still in place there are certain event guidelines in place that need to be abided by. This means that you may need to organize certain event items, such as signage and hand sanitisation stations.
All marketing materials and merchandise should be ordered at least two to three months before your event. This will give you plenty of time to choose the product, receive it, and confirm that you are happy with the product.
Event merchandise ideas:
- Branded pens, notepads or lanyards
- School branded tote bags
- Reusable coffee keep cups
1 month before your event
Roster staff and volunteers
There’s just one month to go until your event and it’s time to lock in your staff and/or volunteers. If you recruit staff any earlier then this time frame it may be hard for them to commit to the date as it's too far in the future. Giving a month’s notice is an adequate amount of time for staff and volunteers to make time in their calendar.
If you are utilizing a team of student volunteers you should implement some volunteer management strategies. This might include: communicating role requirements, providing shift information, and prepping them with any questions or knowledge that they might need to know for the event.
Get your event documents ready
Let’s talk about some of the event management resources that will help the day run a lot smoother.
Event site map
If you’re holding a large event (like an open day), a site map will help you and your attendees know where everything is located. It’s always a good idea to map out key areas like; toilets, water fountains, and the information desk. You could have these event maps printed out at your information desk or uploaded to a school app for attendees to access.
Event run order/ schedule
This is an internal document for your events team. It should include a complete breakdown of the day, outlining each task that needs to be completed, and by what time. This resource is a life-saver if you are managing multiple speakers, activities or elements.
Key contact list
Create a list of key contacts with the names and mobile numbers of everyone you might need to get in touch with during the event. Having a contact list readily available will save a tonne of time and stop you from needing to sort through your emails.
Post-event evaluation forms
To help evaluate your KPIs and get an idea of attendee satisfaction, create a post-event survey. You can provide this to attendees at the end of the event or email it the next day as a follow-up. It’s best to keep the survey short and sweet – no more than 10 questions.
With the fast-paced environment of events and the current uncertainty with COVID-19 restrictions, there is always the chance that things can change. Although we are seeing restrictions ease, in certain states in Australia, an increase in active cases or community transmissions may require you to shift your event. In this instance, you can look at postponing , cancelling or taking your event online! Virtual events are a great option for creating an immersive event experience without the requirement of in-person interactions.You can keep up to date with the latest information on COVID-19 event restrictions with the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other common event changes include suppliers or speakers canceling, wet weather preventing the use of an outdoor venue, under catering and power or audiovisual failures. If you can pre-plan and identify these possible changes with a contingency plan you will be able to make fast and appropriate choices on the day.
Risk management documents
To ensure that your event is abiding by safety guidelines and procedures you should do a risk assessment at the venue in the weeks leading up to the event. In this risk assessment you should identify any areas that could pose a potential danger to attendees and find ways to minimize the risk. An example of a potential risk is an uncovered extension cord in the middle of a walkway. This risk can be mitigated by pre-purchasing a cord cover or using tape to secure it to the ground.
The week of your event
Complete a final check
You’ve made it – the final countdown to your event is on and it’s the most crucial time to ensure everything is in order. During this week you should double-check the following details:
- Contact and confirm all suppliers with shift times and equipment that they are bringing
- Check the weather report if it’s an outdoor venue
- Finalize the packing of any gift bags or marketing materials
- Update all parties with the final registration numbers
- Send your attendees a last-minute email outlining everything they need to know for the day
The final communication to your attendees is important as it may be that final nudge to get them to attend on the day! You can use a CRM, such as Digistorm Funnel, to send email reminders to all of the registered attendees. In this reminder you should include the time, the location with a map if necessary and check in instructions. You can also utilise a school communication app to send a push notification reminder the day before the event.
Management on the day
You’ve made it to event day! There’s been a lot of preparation to make it to this day, but the organization isn’t quite over just yet. Make sure that you have your run order printed out on the day so that you cross out each job as you go. An important part of your event day is managing the arrival and check in of your attendees. The check in process can be a challenging start to your event as you will have multiple people arriving and attempting to check in at the same time. If your attendees have received clear check in details prior to the day it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier!
The next step is to have direction and flow to your onsite check-in, which can be done by placing informative signage around your school that leads to your registration desk. To avoid long lines and queuing, your registration area should consist of one to two tables and two staff that are assisting the check in. To cut down the check in time at your registration desk you can use a school CRM, such as Funnel, to manage your attendees. When your attendees arrive at the desk, you can check them in under the events functionality in Funnel. By using Funnel you will be able to instantly see who checked in and attended the event out of your registered attendees, without having to sort through multiple spreadsheets after the event. You can then easily send a follow up email to individuals that checked in with Funnel.
Once your attendees have checked in and your event has started regularly check in on each stakeholder throughout the event. This way you can assess if there are any suppliers, speakers, staff, or attendees that require assistance. If you run into any problems on the day, try to address the situation as quickly as possible without drawing too much attention to the situation.
Allocate a member of your team to be managing your social media channels on the day as events are a great opportunity to capture live content for Instagram stories, Linkedin, and Facebook.Finally, monitor the event pack down to ensure that all of the equipment is properly packed and stored with all stakeholders taking home their own equipment.
The week following the event
Post-event wrap up
Congratulations, you did it! There are just a few key things to do for the event wrap up before you can sit back and relax and ride out that event high.
- Send a thank-you email and event survey to all attendees
- Send a thank-you email to the suppliers
- Close any registration landing pages on your website
- Follow up and nurture any leads that you may have met at the event using Digistorm Funnel
- Post photo or video content across your social media channels
- Collate your event data to see if you have met your event objectives and KPIs
- Schedule in future dates into your marketing plan where content can be posted and reshared
- Check and finalize the budget and ensure that all stakeholders have been paid accordingly
- Regularly check your emails the week after the event to answer any follow-up questions that attendees may have
And that’s it! Your ultimate event checklist to help you plan successful and organized events. If you would like a shortened checklist to use and tick off for your next event download it now below!