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Saturday, Aug 30, 2014
The Sun

The best laid plans...take time


Published:

It seems there are events going on all the time in southern Hillsborough County. Whether it’s Fun Fest in Sun City Center or the Manatee Arts Festival in Apollo Beach, there is always something happening or in the planning phase.

Usually, these events go off seemingly flawlessly. I say “seemingly” because they’re never really perfect. But only those who were in on the planning have any idea something didn’t go as expected.

How do these special events planners pull off such great happenings? And what are the things they’d tell us if we wanted pull off one ourselves?

One of the most important things to remember is to give yourself plenty of time. Yes, weddings have been pulled off in a couple of weeks, but it’s better when you have a minimum of three months or more to get everything in place.

Next, talk to people who have done an event similar to what you are getting ready to undertake and get their advice and input. Are you having a grand opening or celebrating 10 years in business with your best customers? Talk to someone who just did it and let them tell you what worked and what didn’t. If you can, get a committee made up of people who are both interested in your event and have experience doing one.

Another critical step is to make a checklist. This ensures you don’t forget anything, like ordering the tablecloths or hiring a photographer. This also allows you to assign tasks to your committee members so all the work doesn’t fall on your shoulders. Add a completion date to the task so you develop a timeline. This helps ensure you have time to get it all done.

Do you know how much money you have to spend? The costs for special events can spiral out of control if you’re not careful. Set a budget at the very beginning, say $15 per person to include everything and then stick to it. That may mean paper plates instead of the real thing, but you won’t regret it later when the bills come in.

UPS isn’t the only company who respects the concept of logistics. If you have a teeny tiny office, it’s best not to host a business after hours for 40 people, unless you can put up a tent and have it in the parking lot. Speaking of parking, do you have enough? Do you have help for setting up? Going over logistical possibilities with your committee is a great way to foresee potential issues long before you actually have them.

Is this an event that requires publicity? You don’t want to throw a great fundraiser just to have no one show up. Most media outlets need advance notice to get your event on their community or business calendars, so make sure your press releases go out in plenty of time and include all of the relevant information. And think outside the box. Not only do you want to get your event into your local press but also consider school newsletters, church announcements and cable and commercial stations. Make a detailed list with names of who to contact and when.

If this is an annual event like a golf tournament, take time to evaluate how it went immediately afterward while the details are fresh. You may want to consider having a questionnaire for participants to fill out. Get your committee back together one last time to share what worked and what didn’t. And while you’re all together, celebrate your successes and thank all those who contributed.

Now, what fun thing do you want to start planning?

Dana Dittmar is the executive director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at (813) 634-5111.

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