Activate Event Planning Guide
Who you target, where you host and how you promote your event will all depend on the type of event you’re running.
- Decide which activity you will run
- Estimate how many people will attend
- Define objectives
Find a venue
When considering where to hold your event, look for a comfortable, flexible space that’s appropriate for the number of participants you expect. Be creative – cafes, community centers, co-working spaces, libraries and hackerspaces are great places to start. Since your event will hopefully have more than one or two people, you’ll need tables for each participant and room to move around. Ensure there is reliable Internet, enough power outlets and good lighting.
Design a fun experience
Your event should feel like a party! A few simple tricks to help create a welcoming, creative atmosphere include playing music, bringing snacks and providing name tags. Having an intro activity or icebreaker is a great way to get everyone socializing.
Plan your schedule ahead of time but be flexible; your participants might surprise you with interesting questions or challenges to explore. Identify early on what materials are needed for your scheduled activities to run smoothly. A checklist of things you will need for set-up/during/after is very useful. Don’t forget to leave yourself adequate prep time and if you’re a Rep don’t forget to set up the event on the Reps Portal (instructions).
There are many ways to promote your event that will create attention and draw more attendees.
- Decide on your attendance goal. how many will you have to invite to make sure that many people RSVP? make a list of people you will invite. decide when you will call/email. ask people to make a hard commitment. Email everyone who RSVPs during 48 hours before event to reconfirm so fewer people flake.
Online Promotion and Press
- Be sure to create an event on Meetup.com or Facebook so you have a quick link you can share to invite people.
- Share your link on other websites, like in student press, event calendars, and among other local organizations.
- Your network is a powerful thing! You can also post photos on Instagram or enlist your Twitter followers to help promote your event (don’t forget to choose a hashtag!).
- Send event details to local forums or listserves that have an audience who would be interested in attending.
- Don’t underestimate the value of a flyer as an informal way to educate others about your event.
When you’re teaching the web, having the right tech set-up and a good plan B is vital to the success of your event.
Determine your tech needs early on and decide whether you need laptops, projectors, AV equipment, extension cords and power cords. Some events are BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) in which case it is good to send a reminder to individuals to not forget their laptops the day before the event. If individuals are unable to provide their own laptops, consider using a space where you can access a computer room or laptops. Another idea is to contact local tech organizations or community computer labs that have access to computers and ask them to sponsor equipment for the event in exchange for promotion. When deciding how many computers you need don’t forget that you can have participants working in pairs or bigger groups. It’s a good idea to try and have an extra laptop on hand for participants just in case of any technical problems.
Unfortunately, tech problems are an all too familiar part of events. No matter the preparation, wireless networks or computers can cause unexpected issues. If a few computers are malfunctioning, perhaps ask participants to buddy up on computers and work in groups. We suggest having a couple offline activities prepared in the case of an emergency.
Running Your event
When preparing for event, be sure to arrive early to set-up the space as needed. Doing a walkthrough before the event will make things much easier when it’s time to go. This will allow you plenty of time in case unexpected issues arise. Remind your co-leads to welcome newcomers, and make sure your co-leaders know what their jobs are.
Welcome & Registration
A good first impression goes a long way towards helping someone feel comfortable and happy at your event.
- Thank everyone for coming. Welcome your new and old participants and make sure to do introductions for new people.
- Once your event gets going it may be very difficult to keep track of who is there. Setting up a sign-in table gives you the opportunity to catch people when they first arrive so you can get the names of attendees and contact details so that you can send out thank yous, links, updates, and invites to future events. You may also want to give out name tags so it’s easier for people to meet and start talking. You can play the name tag game and ask people to list their favorite technology, video game, tv show etc. under their name to help get conversations started. Don’t be afraid to get creative and help people break the ice!
Events happen quickly and it’s often impossible to capture or get links of all the awesome things being made. Identify a process to capture and share makes early on and share it with volunteers, facilitators and attendees.
When it’s time to wrap-up, your attendees will be feeling inspired, energized and ready to share what they’ve learned. You’ll want to take advantage of this moment.
- Set aside time for organizations to share each others’ activities and exchange ideas. At the end of the event, bring everyone back together in a circle. Celebrate what participants made. Invite a few people to share their work. Encourage the group to post their work online with your club’s hashtag.
- Ask participants for feedback. What did they learn? What did they enjoy? If they have suggestions for improvement, be sure to take notes or invite them to blog about it. Be sure to ask what the participants would like to do next. Provide links to the campus websites where they can continue learning new skills. Later, conduct a debrief with participating organizations and volunteers, if you had any. Gather feedback and ask if the event was a good way for them to serve their communities. Discuss ways to continuing hacking together to keep the momentum going.
- Build and maintain a good relationship with your venue by making sure you leave it as clean as when you arrived. That way, if you want to run another event next year they will be thrilled to have you back.