So. You think your town is lacking in some event. What do you do? Piss and moan about how your town sucks because it doesn’t have that event? (If you live in Des Moines, chances are good that the answer there is YES. We have such a large population of pissers and moaners.) Find someone who is willing to do the work to put on the event? Or do you man up and hold it yourself?
Well, if you’ve decided on the latter, I have some thoughts for you. Some are things I wish someone had told me about 12 years ago. Some are things I’ve told others. Some are things others have told me.
First, decide from the get-go if you want to do the bulk of the work yourself, or if you want to assemble a team to work on the project. If you’re doing it yourself, you obviously have to do all the work, but this does have its upside, as well. If you’re assembling a team, tread carefully and be choosy. Find people who are enthusiastic, who have time, who will do the work, who are reliable, and who share your vision. A team will help spread the workload, develop stronger ideas, and provide come camaraderie. Having a team is awesome. Being stuck doing all the work because your team didn’t do their job is not.
Second, make sure you know your market well enough before starting. And I mean, know it. Know who you’re targeting, know if they’re likely to come, know how many people will probably come. What will draw them, how will they learn of it, will they bring friends or family. What will annoy them or keep them away?
Third, know your event before starting. What are your goals? What aspects are mandatory, and what aspects are optional extras? If you know of similar events, what can you learn from them? Can you talk to the organizers?
Fourth, people are unreliable. Just know that. People will say they’re coming and then not come. People will say they’re interested, but then ultimately will decide to watch the Law and Order marathon instead. If you paid attention above, you should know your market well enough before starting work on your event that you don’t need to do surveys of people’s level of interest in your event.
Fifth, just make the decisions. Pick a date. Pick a good date without a lot of conflicts (major sports events, other similar events in nearby towns, other major events in your town). Pick a location. Be smart about the location. The opinions of others are important, but ultimately, you will probably never please everybody. Don’t try.
Sixth, the first one is the easiest, and the hardest. It’s the most amount of work, because you’re starting from scratch. But usually it’s also easiest because you have such low expectations and you’re also likely to be able to get a lot of publicity by virtue of being the FIRST. The FIRST whatever! The Inaugural event! Nobody wants to give you free publicity for having the Second Annual Shindig. That’s not exciting. So capitalize on the easy publicity from having the First one! Now, that said, if the first one goes well, you can capitalize on that success in subsequent years, as well. Your event gains credibility if it’s not a horrible flop!
Seventh, you’re unlikely to make money right away. Even if your estimates are right on, it’s tough to make much money the first year/week/month/whatever of an event.
But, really, holding an event is not that hard. Define your event. Define your audience. Develop a budget. Find a location, secure whatever components are necessary (a band? an auctioneer? a beer tent? vendors? students?), get some publicity. Promote your event (spend money on this!). Enjoy yourself.
(You might be asking yourself what experience I have in this regard. I’ve launched (singlehandedly, or with a team) numerous successful events in Des Moines, including dance classes, Jive Junction, the Natural Living Expo, the Green Gifts Fair, Swingin’ at the Crossroads, and a few others.)