Wouldn’t it be great if the next church event you planned went off without a hitch?
We all want the perfect event.
Think about this for a moment:
The day of the event arrives.
You’ve crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s.
Every detail has been looked after.
As people arrive, things start moving.
The planned activities have people connecting, laughing, talking, and learning.
Their experience from start to finish is seamless.
Everyone leaves happy and satisfied.
Someone leans in to tell you what a fantastic event it was as they walk out the door.
You look around afterward and all you can see is a job well done.
Be honest—this feels like a fantasy more than an attainable reality.
Well here’s the good news:
It is an attainable reality.
You can plan a successful event.
And you know what? Everything you need to know is right here in this article.
Let’s get busy.
1. Incentivize attendees to pre-commit
It’s much easier for people to work your event into their schedules if they are aware of it ahead of time. Later on, it’ll incentivize others to sign up as they see how many others are already attending.
If you’re planning something like a conference, the best way to do this is to offer an Early Bird special.
If a more low-key occasion is what’s on the table, offer an incentive for the first few people to RSVP.
2. Be proactive against last minute bail-outs
Let’s face it—We’ve all bailed-out on our plans at one point.
You were in a better, more optimistic mood when you signed up for that conference or rsvp’d to that party. Now that the day has actually rolled around, you think you’ll probably have a better time in sweats on the couch watching Netflix and smashing the pizza you’re about to order for delivery.
Believe it or not, this could happen to your event attendees, too.
Build value into the event. Give them something they want
Show your attendees that this is a valuable investment of their time. Things like food, games, and other fun activities will draw people in.
Regularly remind them the event is approaching.
Send out recurring emails, push notifications, texts, or messages to refresh that event in their minds.
3. Know what kind of experience you want your attendees to have.
Remember: Great events don’t happen by accident.
So how do you make sure you’re laying the right foundation?
Know what you want your attendees to experience.
Get together with your event team and brainstorm.
What do you not want for this event? What do you need to happen at this event?
Make sure there are quantifiable and attainable measures that are employed to ensure your success.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
We’ve all been to that event where things just did not go right at all.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
The wedding where a stack of 100 programs get dumped in the trash because no one passed them out. The men’s breakfast Bible study where they had mistakenly prepared to feed no more than 5 diet-conscious squirrels. Or how about the 1-year-old who falls asleep in their Smash Cake because their parents planned a party in the middle of nap time?
These mishaps do not have to be your burdens.
Be realistic about what you can and, more importantly, cannot do by yourself.
Delegation is a valuable practice, especially when it comes to large scale events.
Don’t try to do too many things at once. That will lower the overall quality of your event.
Instead, try focusing on a handful of valuable and simple elements that you can use to create a welcoming and entertaining atmosphere.
5. Ensure there is enough prep time the day of
Think you can just roll up the day of the event, maybe an hour beforehand, maybe just 30 minutes (depends on if you stop for Starbucks on the way or not), and still be satisfied with your result? You’re out of luck.
The best thing you can do for the success of your event is to prepare, prepare, and prepare.
A good rule of thumb is to give yourself 20%–50% more time than you had expected it to take if all things went according to plan.
Here’s a secret:
All things will certainly not go according to plan.
We live in a world full of unknowns, and it’s best for you to embrace that now.
6. Structure the event to accommodate late arrivals
You’ve been late before. It happens! But what about when it happens at your event? How will you take that inevitable possibility into account?
Give your event a buffer time.
Let’s say you’re hosting a dinner. Invite people to arrive at 6:00 p.m., even if the food won’t be ready until 6:30 p.m. Instead, make drinks and set out hors d’oeurves for your guests.
If you’re putting on a lecture or conference make sure there are open seats in the back row. Also, if there will be various meetings happening at the same time behind closed doors, make sure the meeting titles are posted outside the meeting rooms so late arrivals know where their stop is.
7. Make logistics clear to attendees upon arrival
The worst thing for an event attendee to experience is when they arrive and have no idea what to do. This is your job! Make it as clear as possible.
Get balloons, streamers, and/or signage to indicate entrances. This includes entrances to parking lots, buildings, or even conference rooms.
Make sure a hard copy of the event schedule and details are available on-site. While it’s helpful to send out an email with this information a day or two before, not everyone will have read it.
If you have buffets or kiosks set up of any kind, think strategically about their placement. Before you settle on a setup, think about the flow of traffic in and out of the space.
8. Put forth clear responsibilities for volunteers
The last thing you want is an event that’s falling to pieces, all the while volunteers are standing around waiting for direction you didn’t have the foresight to give them.
Ensure that all volunteers have a clear list of expectations before the day of the event.
Take it a step deeper: Give them a one-sheet the day of the event in addition to having emailed it a few days prior.
If your event is big enough, assign team leaders and create a roles and responsibilities laminated pocket guide that every team member carries with them.
Why is this important?
Because it helps you utilize one of the best assets and events can have: elbow grease. If you aren’t properly managing your volunteers, your event is sure to run into problems it can’t handle.
9. Make sure there’s a way to capture attendee data
What if you could keep in touch with all of your attendees? This doesn’t just need to apply to before your event. It’s crucial to be able to follow-up and connect with them.
So what am I talking about?
There’s a way to communicate with and manage all of your attendees. It’s seamless, easy to use, and the perfect asset to ensure you’re fully prepared for any event.
Forget about collecting checks or keeping track of PayPal transactions.
Say goodbye to juggling spreadsheets and online forms.
Never think about the hassle of setting up check-in tables and leafing through a packet to hastily highlight a name.
10. Prepare for worst case scenario
Nobody likes to talk about it. Not you, not me, not anyone.
But you need to. You have to.
Anything could happen.
Make sure that you have an emergency protocol in place that has been clearly communicated to your volunteers.
Alert your local law enforcement of the event you’re putting on. They’ll want details like the time, location, nature of the event, and an estimated number of those attending.
Take it a step further: get a consultation from a safety and security professional. They could provide insight that you’d never be able to find on Google.
You’re putting on this event to show people a good time. Don’t miss this crucial component of preparation.
11. Make sure you plan and market well and in advance
I’m sure we all remember the disaster that was the Fyre Festival, but in case you don’t, here’s the gist: young guy with connections and some pocket cash puts on a festival, charges an arm and a leg for people to get there, only they’re stuck on a deserted island with no plumbing, no electricity, and minimal food.
No one tries to put on an event like that. It just kind of...happens.
Why does it happen?
Because the event coordinators don’t start in advance.
You’re going to need time to ensure a successful event! How early should you start? It depends on the size and magnitude of your event.
If you’re planning a dinner party with a few friends, allow yourself at least a full week.
Planning a women's retreat? You should be advertising the dates at least three months in advance. Attendees will need to save for the cost as well as get the time off of work.
Now, if you’re taking on a conference, the dates and ticket prices should be available at least 6 months before the event.
Need last-minute help? Check out this guide to quickly creating a communication strategy for your church.
Over to you
So what are you waiting for? There’s nothing standing between you and planning your picture-book event.
You could even have tickets available for purchase today. In the next few minutes, with the help of Tithe.ly’s online event management, your event could be live.
Will it be a lot of hard work? Yes. Will you be tired after all is said and done? Yes. Is it totally worth it? Absolutely.
Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.