Events

A school event planning checklist to set you up for success

September 7, 2020

Key points

  • Events are the cornerstone of many school admissions strategies, so it’s incredibly important that you ensure your function is a showstopping success
  • Our school event checklist can help you to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases before the big day

It’s no secret that events are the cornerstone of most school admissions strategies. From open days to fundraisers, event marketing provides prospective families with the perfect opportunity to meet staff members, get to know your community, and evaluate whether your school is a good fit for their child.

However, pulling off a show-stopping event takes a lot of time and effort. Enter: the school event checklist. It’s your one-stop-shop and ultimate source of truth for everything that is related to a particular school event. It’s the best way to ensure you’re on the path to success, even before you send out a single invitation. 

Keep reading to find out more about this excellent tool, and learn how your school can create its own event-specific checklist today. Here are the nine things you’ll need on your event planning checklist:

  1. Event objectives
  2. Budget
  3. Venue and date
  4. Event marketing strategy
  5. Vendors and collateral
  6. Staff and volunteers
  7. Event documents
  8. Contingency plan
  9. Final checks

 

When to start planning your event

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! 

1. Set your event objectives

First things first, you’ll need to set some goals for your event. We recommend ensuring that the goals you set are SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. These goals should always work to support your overarching marketing plan and school business objectives. Some examples of SMART goals you can set are:

  • To increase attendance by 10% from a particular subset of your school community
  • To raise a dollar figure for a school initiative
  • To drive 10 new leads through an email sign-up available at the event.

Generally, there’s no rule of thumb as to how many goals you should set for an event, however, setting at least three can help you to better measure your event success. You’ll need this information in order to direct future events, as well as to provide robust information when you report back to your executive team.

2. Work out your event budget

Your budget will have a major influence on all aspects of your event. Previous events can give you a general idea of how much each of the different aspects of your event will cost (like catering, venue hire, and speaker fees).

You can also get cost estimates by requesting quotes from suppliers to help ensure your budget is as accurate as possible. Once you have your budget, make sure you stick to it by setting up a tracking spreadsheet or using an event management software like Aventri.

3. Book your venue and date

After your goals and budget have been approved, it’s time to get the ball rolling and start booking your suppliers. First up on your list? Your venue. Securing a great venue will also lock in another key piece of the puzzle — your event date.

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. You can bring a number of feasible dates to your venue to determine whether they have any openings that you can secure.

4. Create your event marketing strategy

Great marketing is the most effective way to drive attendance and boost engagement at your event. Writing a quick event marketing plan will go a long way towards ensuring that the right people know about the event and can book their spot. Your marketing content should include all of the relevant event information such as the date, time, venue, and a link to the registration page. 

You can market your event over a mix of social media, email, print advertising and other communication channels to drive ticket sales or sign-ups. Aim to post at least once a week in the three months leading up to the event, and then schedule a last-minute push of content in the final two weeks. 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.

5. Book vendors and organise collateral 

If you need to organise event catering, audio-visual equipment, or marketing collateral, it’s best to book these suppliers 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. If you need to order materials or merchandise for the event, make sure you’ve organised it at least two to three months in advance. This will give you plenty of time to order your product and confirm that you’re happy with it when you receive it.

6. Roster staff and volunteers 

Once there’s around one month to go until your event, it’s time to lock in your staff and volunteers. One month’s notice is a good amount of time for staff and volunteers to commit and keep the date free.

If you are utilising a team of student volunteers you should implement some volunteer management strategies. This might include: 

  • Communicating role requirements
  • Providing shift information
  • Prepping them with any questions or knowledge that they might need to know for the event.

7. Get your event documents ready 

Event management resources are documents that you can distribute to your attendees or volunteers to ensure your day runs smoothly. 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 and amenities like toilets, water fountains, and the information desk. 

It’s also important to put together a run schedule for your events team. It should include a complete breakdown of the day, outlining each event activity, and the time that it needs to be executed. This resource is a life-saver if you are managing multiple elements simultaneously.

You can 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 you time and means you won’t need to stop everything to search for important details on the day.

Finally, to ensure that your event is abiding by safety guidelines and procedures, you should complete a risk assessment at the venue in the weeks leading up to the event. In this risk assessment, you will identify any areas that could pose a potential danger to attendees (for example, an uncovered extension cord in the middle of the walkway) and find ways to minimise the risk. 

8. Create a contingency plan

With the fast-paced environment of events and the current uncertainty of COVID-19-related restrictions, there is always the chance that things can change. There is also the chance, if you are hosting your event outdoors, that poor weather can disrupt your plans.

If you can pre-plan and identify any possible changes with a contingency plan, you will be able to make fast and appropriate changes on the day. If the worst happens and you are unable to host the event at all, you can look at postponing, cancelling or even taking your event online! Virtual events can be a great option for creating an immersive event experience without the requirement of in-person interactions.

9. Complete a final check

You’ve made it – the final countdown to your event is on! Now is the most crucial time to ensure everything is in order. During this week you should double-check the following details: 

  • Contact all suppliers and confirm shift times and the equipment they are bringing
  • Check the weather report if it’s an outdoor venue 
  • Finalise packing 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 before the day. 

The final communication to your attendees is important as it may give them a final nudge to ensure they attend on the day!

 

On the day

Congratulations — you’ve made it to the event day! It’s time to shine.

While there’s been a lot of preparation to make it this far, the organisation isn’t over just yet. This is where your run sheet will come in handy so that you can cross off each activity 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. By providing guests and volunteers with clear instructions, you should be able to mitigate some of the confusion that may arise! Also, never underestimate the power of signage - a few signs around your venue will lead guests straight to your registration desk. 

Once your attendees have checked in and your event has started, regularly follow up with each stakeholder throughout the event. This way you can assess if any suppliers, speakers, staff, or attendees require your assistance. 

Finally, you’ll need to 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. 

 

Post-event wrap up

It’s all over red rover, and there are just a few key things you’ll need to do before you can sit back, relax and ride out your event high! First up, send out a thank you email to all of your attendees and suppliers. Close up all of your registrations on your website and respond to any post-event emails that you’ve received from attendees. Now is also the time to take a look at those event objectives you set at step 1 (remember those?) to see if you’ve met your goals.

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) to ensure as many people as possible complete it. And that’s it! You now have an 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, you can download it here: Download your copy of Digistorm’s event planning checklist!

Did you know that you can use Digistorm Funnel to help your events run smoothly and maximise your attendance? Within Funnel, you can:

  • Create a sign-up form to manage registrations
  • Track attendance and send reminder emails
  • Safely check-in attendees using our contactless QR system
  • Follow up with attendees after the event.

If you’d like to learn more about how Funnel can support your school’s future events, make sure you book a demo with a friendly member of our team!