Choosing Your Event Location, Location, Location

The location changes everything when it comes to event planning.

 

Talk to any realtor (or any normal person quoting a realtor) and you’re bound to hear the phrase, “Location, location, location.” Why? Because it makes a difference. Be it a house, a business, or an event, location plays a huge part in its success. The location sets a tone, affects outreach and visibility, and determines overall accessibility and appeal.

 

When the sky’s the limit, you ask, “Where should this event take place?” You dream a minute. Suddenly you’re on a nice sandy beach in your mind before this winter cold snaps you back to reality. Okay, so it’s important to dream big and start a creative brainstorm, while still staying grounded in some of the limitations and intentions behind your event.

 

Top things to consider when planning an event:

 

Availability

There’s no sense getting your heart set on a place if isn’t available how or when you need it. Is the maximum capacity there smaller than your projected attendance? Are there enough rooms that suit your needs? Is it perfect but you’d need to change your date?

 

Cost

More likely than not, you’re working on a budget, maybe even a tight one. What is the cost of all of the possible locations under consideration? Will the cost put too big of a dent in your budget? Is there room in the budget to cut down on costs in another area so more funds can be available for the location? Or, will the location provide food or security or some other segment of your budget that you had allocated elsewhere?

 

Outreach

Is this an area with high visibility? Or a location that is highly desired? Does it carry a “wow factor” that may draw more people? If not, how can you address that or add to its appeal? Will this location expand your reach so that more people are aware and interested in your event than before? Does this location further the mission and align with the goals of your organization?

 

Sponsorships

You may have others who have skin in the game here and therefore a few thoughts on where the event should be held. Be open to suggestions, but also be willing to make an ask. Sometimes business can obtain a sponsorship designation by way of providing the location and features for the event. Not only does that help you in finding a venue, but it broadens their reach in the community as well.

 

Distance

Consider the drive time (as well as public transportation and/or walkability) it takes to get to the event for your target audience. Will a faraway destination provide appeal or deter people from coming? What other local businesses and amenities are nearby? This goes for both the people attending the event and the people volunteering at it.

 

Impact

What kind of impact will a certain location provide? Will it help the community and boost the local economy? Will it cause traffic in an already busy area, making locals dread your event and their longer commute time? Will the aesthetics of the location cause a distraction to attendees or be a source of inspiration? Think about the positive and negative impact the event location will have on attendees, volunteers, staff, and the local community.

 

While we all have certain ideals and dealbreakers, you may have to compromise on some things. Know where you can and should be flexible with your expectations. Prioritize these different elements as best you can to find the location that will be the best fit.   

 

*No control over the location? Sometimes you have say in where your event takes place and sometimes you don’t. But even if the streets for your run are already approved or the conference rooms are already booked–you do still have a lot of control over the location of where your welcome desk is, where the volunteers check in, and what the flow of your event consists of. Be sure to make a new map to reflect the changes so everyone knows where to go. Maybe you’re stuck in the same location as you’ve always been, but there’s a way to be more efficient or effective with the setup of the route, the food, or the volunteer stations.

 

 

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Best Preparation Practices for the Big Day

Clipboard? Check. Volunteer contact form? Check. Sanity? Kind of.

 

There are a million and one things a volunteer coordinator needs to remember the day of an event. Setting a plan, preparing for potential obstacles and keeping everything on course is just the beginning. To help our volunteer coordinators out, we’ve whipped up a few of our best practices for prepping for the big day.

 

Communication is Key

Emails, texts, Facebook groups and even old-fashioned phone trees are all great ways to communicate early and often with volunteers. Clearly stating arrival and dismissal times, expectations for behavior and dress, and other pertinent details are crucial to making sure volunteers show up informed and ready.

 

Be Realistic

Volunteer coordinators should always believe in their volunteers, but they’re not superheroes. Can three people really set up your entire event before the rest of the volunteers arrive? Probably not. Consider exactly how many people you’ll need for each shift and then add a few more to be safe. Volunteers are ready and willing to help you, so let them!

 

Know Where to Go

When you’re in the middle of managing a group of helpers, chances are you won’t have much time to direct volunteers to the bathrooms. Making a detailed map of everything a volunteer might need to find (bathrooms, water station, breakroom, etc.) will provide a quick reference point. And if they still ask you where the bathroom is, take a deep breath and kindly point to the map.

 

Self Love is the Best Love

Coordinating volunteers can be incredibly rewarding – all these people giving their time to help your organization?! – but it can also feel like herding giant, human cats. So, our biggest suggestion to help you prepare is to take care of number one. Meditate, listen to music, eat all the chocolate in your house. Do whatever you need to do to show up at your event calm, collected and ready to coordinate.

 

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Connecting with Volunteers Before, During, and After Events

So, you’re a volunteer coordinator.

 

There’s software to keep you organized and spreadsheets to print out and timeslots to fill. But how do you manage volunteers in a way that makes them feel like more than a number? After all, you couldn’t make things happen without them.

 

Build a relationship with volunteers

 

Learning what makes your volunteers tick is the first step towards leveraging their strengths and abilities. Once you know what they are most excited about or what made them want to volunteer with your organization in the first place, you might be able to really connect with them on a deeper level. Instead of puzzle pieces that need to fit in various roles and schedules, remember that volunteers are people. They have other jobs, family, passions, hobbies–all sorts of interesting things about them.

So start by getting to know them. Maybe it’s taking them out to coffee to hear their story or learn about how they got connected with your organization. Maybe it’s sending out a silly questionnaire including questions such as “What’s your spirit animal and why?” or “Where and how do you spend most of your free time?” You might learn about special talents that could be used or their unique quirks. Make sure to jot these notes down so you can keep them in mind for the future.

Building a relationship with volunteers is beneficial for both you and the volunteer. Not only do you get to know them better, but they get to know and trust you. Trust is an invaluable trait to have if and when some sort of issue comes up during an event.

 

Keep the communication clear and open

 

You’ve probably been on both the giving and receiving side of communication, and you know it’s vital to keep all communication clear and easy to understand. Of course you have countless things on your to-do list, but don’t let communication fall to the bottom of the list. Communication can come in all forms–emails, texts, phone calls, trainings, and even one-on-one meetings in person. Keeping volunteers in the know leads to more personal investment from them, better interactions with them, and a higher likelihood they will continue volunteering in the future. You are their primary point of contact with the organization, and they rely on you to learn what they need to know in order to do their job successfully. Make sure this line of communication is open on both sides by being available for questions or comments from them along the way.

 

Follow-up

 

Keep the momentum going–and follow-up! After an event there’s a lot to sort out, but make sure you reach out to volunteers soon afterwards. Thank them for their time, and ask for their thoughts about how it went and what can be improved next time. Host a debrief and thank you celebration night with ice cream for volunteers or send a personal thank you card in the mail. If you can’t manage that, send a thoughtful email with a survey to capture feedback for future events. Use the information you collected at the beginning and send a birthday card when the time comes or reach out with a friendly email when you find out they got a promotion at work, bought a new house, or rocked it at open mic night. Anything you can do to show volunteers how much you care about them goes a long way.

 

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