A key to organising a successful event is to ensure that effective plans are in place so that people involved know what needs to happen and when.
A project plan can be a useful way of planning for an event. It can be done in a variety of ways and can provides detail on:
What needs to be done
When it needs to be done
Who will carry it out
Who will support
What costs will be involved
They can be prepared and presented in a variety of different formats, including:
Word document or spreadsheet with a table
A spreadsheet set up as a Gantt chart which can also provide a more visual representation of the timelines involved
Online tools, such as Trello, which can make it easier to share work and distribute tasks
Things won’t always go to plan at an event and so it is worth considering what could be different from how you originally planned. Some common reasons for needing contingency plans are:
Weather – Storms, wind, rain and water levels
Problems with the venue infrastructure or access
Workforce issues – volunteers being unable to attend or changes in their circumstances
Emergency situations – e.g. medical or safeguarding
Some of these things can be mitigated against by having plans in place for some of the most likely ‘what if…’ scenarios. An example of this might be to discuss ‘What if the wind levels reach a speed where it is unsafe’ - the planning may then take into account:
How would you make sure participants are off the water?
How would you make decisions about if the event is delayed or cancelled?
How would this be communicated to participants and others?
Is there any infrastructure on the site which needs to be taken down or secured because of the wind?
What will be the responsibility for each member of the Organising Committee?
Going through these processes will still not alleviate all of the possible scenarios, however it encourages all of those involved in the event organisation to consider how they would be involved and the kind of things which may need to be done if a situation arises. Many of these things will also be transferable and will be useful in situations that do occur.
It is important for both planned contingencies and unforeseen circumstances that you have clear decision making and communication processes. How are the issues fed through and to who, who is/are the decision makers and how do you communicate any amendments? Can you get any information up front to try and plan ahead for any likely issues, e.g. monitor rainfall and river levels from one month out, or monitor the wind forecast from two weeks out from the event.
Event Plan Documents
It’s useful to create an event plan which specifically covers the duration of the event. This can then be shared with all volunteers and will reduce the number of questions you receive and provide people with the majority of the information they will need throughout the event. It also helps from a contingency perspective should a key member of the team become unavailable.
It may include details on:
Contact numbers for key staff/volunteers
Schedule and Timings - including set-up and de-rig
Activities available and associated key information
Volunteer roles and timings
Key safety information
Risk assessment and information for checks to be made on the day
In order to help with planning, it may be useful to create a pre-event checklist to make sure that all activity is completed. It’s worth adding to it throughout the planning process as things crop up but there are some key things that might be worth considering:
- Equipment collation/collection - when and where is the equipment you need coming from? Is it all in working order?
Paperwork, documentation, policies and procedures - what do you need preparing, circulating and printing
Confirm entries, sign-ups and any schedules/start lists
Finalise the running order of the day and confirm with venue and any partners, etc.
Signage - creating and putting up
Venue and logistics - layout, set-up, catering, drinking water, parking
Participant communications to paddlers, volunteers, spectators, contractors, etc.
Review risk assessment and management plan to ensure measures are in place
Briefing workforce - in advance and on the day
Post-Event Follow Up
Post-event activity is often something that gets overlooked as there is usually a desire to move on to the next event or to take a well-deserved break! There are, however, some key things that are useful to do, especially if you’re likely to run other events in the future. Some of the key things are:
Thank you’s – there’s usually a whole team of people involved in delivering an event, from volunteers to facilities, partners and paid contractors. Taking the time to thank them is certainly worthwhile and will help for future relationships.
Review – documenting what has happened to make the event possible and making notes of successes and areas for improvement are all particularly useful for planning for any future events and even more so if there is potentially a change in the people delivering them. Engage the whole Organising Committee when evaluating the event and, where possible, gain insight from participants and volunteers.
Celebration – once your event has been successful, you should make sure you tell people about it. Whether it’s within your club/discipline, the wider paddling community or the general public, people will want to know what has happened and potentially how they could do the same. Producing news reports or case studies could be a good way of doing this.