Planning an event: sounds easy, right? Parents plan birthday parties, teenagers plan hangouts with their friends, and managers plan meetings at work. But planning an event turned out to be a lot harder than I thought.
About two months ago, I was approached to take on a new task within my RWD role: engagement. More specifically, I would boost tutor and coordinator engagement by organizing professional development workshops and events as incentives for their work with RWD.
Our first plan was a resume workshop for our community; it would help them better understand what a professional recruiter considers as they read a resume, and how to edit their own to stand out. At first glance, the idea seemed simple and solid; we would ask people to come, they would show up, and the workshop would be done. But the task proved to be substantially more complicated.
As I went through the process, I gained an understanding of the many considerations of event planning. Taking these into account, you can pull off any event! Below, my guide to planning a successful event:
1. Consider your audience.
First and foremost, we had to answer this question: would people even attend our event? Frankly, I was worried. This year was the first that RWD had been online. Engaging the community in person is one thing, but all bets are off with an online program. What if we asked someone to teach the workshop and no one showed up? Not only would that be embarrassing for us, but also a disappointment for the presenter who had worked so hard to put together a presentation. We had to ensure that if we promised an audience, we could deliver one.
To accomplish this, we drew from data we had collected in a prior survey, asking the community what kind of benefits would appeal to them. A resume workshop was well in demand, so we proceeded with the idea, confident that a good portion of the community seemed inclined to attend the workshop.
Tip #1: Collect data from your community to ensure that your intended audience will want to attend your event.
2. Finalize the logistics.
Then we had to decide on the numbers. How many people would attend the event? How could we host it? In these circumstances, we knew it had to be online. Zoom has both a webinar and a regular Zoom meeting, so we had to choose which to use.
We decided on a cap of 60 people in order to ensure a smaller group for more engagement during the presentation. In the same vein, we decided against a webinar, because the event would become solely a lecture with no input from attendees. With a regular Zoom meeting, we could see everyone’s faces and (almost!) pretend that we were in person.
Tip #2: Consider how much engagement you want from your audience, and then tailor your event to those specifications.
3. Plan the format.
Next, we had to think about how our event would be held. There were several formats to consider:
Having multiple presenters teach the attendees
Having one presenter teach the attendees
Utilizing breakout rooms to promote engagement among attendees, such as having them share and edit each other’s resumes
Utilizing Zoom’s other features, such as polls, the chat window, etc.
In the end, we went with the second option: having one presenter teach the attendees. However, we did incorporate Zoom’s elements such as polls and the chat window to promote engagement among the attendees. We used the polls to ask attendees for their opinions about resumes displayed on the screen, so the attendees could answer questions in real time. We also used the chat feature for attendees to critique resume samples.
Tip #3: When choosing the format for your event, consider the best way to engage your attendees and to give them the information that they need.
4. Find a presenter.
Now that we had solidified the format of our event, it was time to decide on a presenter. Luckily, we had a connection that was perfect. Sarah, our executive director, had a work connection who is a recruiter at Course Hero. Sarah reached out to her; then we had a presenter who was willing to create programming for our event!
Tip #4: When choosing a presenter for your event, ensure that they have the correct qualifications and can effectively transmit information to the attendees.
5. Market the event.
Now that we had our event planned out, it was time to open up registration and market the event! To do this, we used the events feature on our website. From there, we were able to create tickets, send out email marketing campaigns, and publish the event to the website.
We sent out an email campaign to introduce the event, and then several reminders on Slack and email, with the final one to attendees three days before the workshop.
Tip #5: Use built-in email marketing campaigns and any platforms you have available to reach your intended audience.
6. Choose success metrics.
Finally, we had to decide how we would measure the success of our event. How many people did we want to show up? How would we evaluate the effectiveness of the presentation itself?
Given that the event was free, we decided that 70% attendance would indicate a successful workshop. We had around 40 signups, which meant 28 people needed to attend to meet our goal.
In order to measure the effectiveness of our workshop, we created a feedback survey that asked attendees whether they learned something new, whether they changed their resume based on the workshop, and how they would rate the effectiveness.
Tip #6: Create success metrics regarding attendance and effectiveness, and ask for attendee feedback after the event to gauge whether the event had the intended impact on the community.
Finally, the day of the event arrived. A month of planning had gone into it, and I was excited, nervous, and filled with anticipation. My biggest fear was still the audience. I wanted to believe that everyone who had registered would come, but the wait was nerve-wracking.
But when 3 pm arrived, a steady stream of attendees started to trickle in. As the workshop began, I was thrilled to note that it was going incredibly well! Everyone was engaged, asking lots of questions, and participating in the polls and resume critiquing activities.
At the end of the event, I waited to see our success metrics. Overall, they were amazing! We had hit our attendance goal and received glowing feedback about the event on the survey. Our first engagement event was a success!
My takeaways from this planning process are many, as seen above. Although there is a lot of dedication and hard work that goes into planning an event like this, I guarantee that the payoff will be worth it. Most of all, I urge you to put together an event that you would be excited to attend, follow these steps, and watch your successful event unfold!
One of my recommendations is A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea. The true story of a teenage girl fleeing war in her home country, the book brought me to terms with my privilege and to tears at Doaa’s strength, kindness, and bravery.