A successful event takes planning, organization, timing, and follow-up. Use this guide for tips on how to produce an effective event.
Events are most effective when they advance your chapter’s overall strategy; they provide great opportunities to recruit members, raise awareness, educate, promote advocacy, and raise funds or materials for the specific issues your chapter has chosen as a focus. Events can also be effective ways of attracting media attention, influencing policymakers, and promoting dialogue on your issue. Agree on your objectives before planning an event.
- After agreeing on your objectives, establish SMART goals. The outcome of your event should be:
Time-bound (fit to deadlines)
- Events can lead to direct action aimed at a social or policy change. If you intend to incorporate an action component, establish specific success objectives.
Examples of Success Objectives:
- Written letter from each chapter member
- Published letter to the Editor, Op-Ed (or other publicity)
- Action by Member of Congress (or other elected official)
- Formation of a coalition
Letters to the Editor
Writing a letter to the editor is a simple but effective way to make your voice heard in the public dialogue about current events and to influence public opinion. Beyond this, policy makers and legislators review their local papers’ letters to the editor to gauge their constituents’ priorities. Letters to the editor should be concise and well-written; state your main assertion in the first few lines of the letter, and be sure to proofread your letter. The letter is more likely to be published if it is written in response to a recent news item, which you should refer to in your letter. Submission guidelines differ, so be sure to follow the guidelines set by the specific publication you wish to publish your letter. To find out how to submit a LTE for your local paper visit their website. The excitement of seeing your name in print and the ability to influence decision makers’ opinions make writing a letter to the editor well worth your while.
Successful events require resources.
What resources may be in reach? Here are a few possibilities (see Develop Resources for more information):
|Within your PHR chapter||In your community||From PHR|
Build Coalitions/Work With Others
Build power in numbers. Other groups may be happy to work with your chapter on an event and just require a specific ask about how they can help.
- Coalition partners can help with planning, publicity, and participation. Be clear on what type of assistance you need.
- Consider partnering with groups such as: the student council, academic departments, faculty associations, other student organizations from your campus or other schools, community groups and NGO’s.
- Create a timeline with a breakdown of tasks (recruitment, materials, publicity, media, general, etc). Work backwards from the due date of each task to ensure all the components come together in timely fashion.
- Plan out your volunteer needs. You will need people to cover the program, recruitment, registration, set-up, folder-stuffing, copying, greeting media, audio-visual set-up, photographer, etc.
- Delegate responsibilities clearly. If you have enough volunteers, set up work teams. Make event planning fun and express the importance of each person’s contribution.
- Check in regularly with your event team to provide support and ensure they meet their goals and timelines.
Build an Audience & Publicize Your Event
- Set a target number of people you hope will attend the event. Make it an ambitious but reachable goal. Consider whether you are looking for sheer numbers and/or certain people, e.g., health professional students, policymakers, the general public.
- The law of halves: Consider that you will reach about half of the people you call or email. Of the people you talk to or reach by email, about half of those will express interest, and about half of those people will actually come. This means that if you want 100 people, 200 have to say yes. For 200 to have said yes, you must have reached 400 people, and sent out emails or tried calling about 800.
Consider the Four C’s when recruiting prospective attendees: Connect with people in a friendly way; provide the Context of the event and importance of issue; ask for a Commitment; and Common ground (relate the issue or event to the invitee.)
- Start wholesale (group emails/mailings), and end up retail (individual emails, calls, and meetings). Nothing beats individual contact!
- Recruit others to recruit for you. Utilize links from other websites and include event notices in others’ newsletters and emails.
- Publicize your event widely!
Consider: fliers, listservs, tabling, announcements in class, Facebook & Myspace, banners in public spaces, letters to the editor of school paper, announcements in publications, Evite.com, presentations at club meetings, advertising on T-shirts, public service announcements on your local radio station, and asking faculty to announce your event during class.
- Prepare a news advisory to be released ahead of the event and a news release for the day of event (see media training for how to write and distribute these and then do follow up pitch calls).
- Utilizing strong visuals will increase chances of getting media coverage and will provide a visual record of your event.
- Consider preparing and distributing a press kit (see PHR online advocacy toolkit).
- Contact PHR if you need help getting media attention, and send PHR any media coverage you receive.
- See the guides on Publicizing your Event and Working with the Media to Raise Awareness for more information.
Reserving Sites and Preparing Materials
- Reserve a venue well in advance; try to find a good fit for your event (parking and/or public transportation, price, size, neighborhood, convenience).
- Ask everyone presenting at the event what they need ahead of time (slide or LCD projector, etc).
- Be sure the message and appearance of any materials reflect your objectives and are appropriate for your audience. (Very important: contact PHR regarding guidelines for using the PHR logo before producing materials!) Give yourself enough time for design, printing, distribution, and transporting materials to the venue prior to the event. Do a separate plan/timeline just for materials.
- Have a sign-in sheet (pdf) to collect names and contacts of the attendees. Send a copy to PHR.
Evaluate & Celebrate
- In a following meeting, have an open Q & A to evaluate the event [What went well? What would you change for the next event?]
- Update contact information.
- Have a post-event celebration with the event team and volunteers.
- Send thank-you cards to all people involved in the event.
- Report your event to PHR. Send pictures and summary paragraph for possible use on the PHR student website.