Cement Australia's fireworks display at the Gladstone Harbour Festival.
Cement Australia's fireworks display at the Gladstone Harbour Festival. Christopher Chan GLA070412NITE

Follow simple coordination rules for a fabulous event

STARTING from the moment you enter the world, you start celebrating milestones with events.

Although planning is part and parcel of life, taking on the organisation of a function from the concept to inception can cause anxiety rather than excitement for the inexperienced.

Through careful event planning, the easy mistakes that many people make in an inaugural year for an event - whether that be big or small - can be avoided.

But how to start the process? It's all about visualisation.

Prior to finalising the date and starting on details, it's important to determine the event objectives; what returns will be received on the day and in the long run; and who the target audience is.

Event co-ordinator for Gladstone Festival and Events Angie Bettridge said the first thing their team did when it came to planning an event was to brainstorm new ideas.

With iconic events such as the Gladstone Harbour Festival, Jazz'n Shiraz, and the Gladstone Wedding Expo under their belt, Gladstone Festival and Events has become synonymous with event planning in the region.

Event manager Kathy Andrew, general manager Michelle Stafford and  event coordinator Angie Bettridge make up the team at Gladstone Festivals and Events.
Event manager Kathy Andrew, general manager Michelle Stafford and event coordinator Angie Bettridge make up the team at Gladstone Festivals and Events. Brenda Strong

"People in our community know and trust that we have experience in event co-ordination and can put their faith in us to deliver a fantastic event."

Ms Bettridge said the most common mistakes she had seen people make was not following a budget and not following up on bookings.

Her top three tips for ensuring a successful event are to: write "to do" lists and document everything; confirm all aspects of the event at least one week prior; and set a budget early in the planning stages and stick to it.

When to start setting things in motion depends on many factors, but as a general rule if there are more than 25 attendees it's best to give yourself more than a mere month to prepare.

The more time the better, as holding a perfect event is all in the details.

It is far easier to be creative or hold sponsorship conversations over time than if you leave things down to the wire.

"The main challenge of event co-ordination is thinking outside of the box for new, innovative and exciting ideas," Ms Bettridge said.

If your event is open, make sure you start organising publicity surrounding your event as soon as possible.

Two tools for make the planning process easier is a budget with a tentative list of previous year's costs if applicable, projected costs and actual costs as time goes along, as well as a timeline with deadlines.

One easy program to use for this purpose that is on most desktops is Microsoft Office Excel, as it allows numerous workbooks, sorts data and has formulas for the mathematically challenged.

Make initial visualisation lists as robust as you can, and then reach out for pricing quotes on all of your deliverables.

If it's an event's inaugural year it can be beneficial to find a sponsor to back the hard costs until you can make it sustainable.

There are many scenic outdoor areas and multifaceted venues in the region.

When deciding on a location, consider what venue and theme will best accommodate guests and support getting the objective across to the target audience.

Event coordinator Angie Bettridge, event manager Kathy Andrew and general manager Michelle Stafford make up the team at the Gladstone Festivals and Events.
Event coordinator Angie Bettridge, event manager Kathy Andrew and general manager Michelle Stafford make up the team at the Gladstone Festivals and Events. Brenda Strong

If the event is being held outside, make sure there is a back-up plan in case of bad weather.

It is also best to discuss event requirements with the venue as often the owners will have preferred caterers and audio-visual providers.

If your event is open, make sure you start organising publicity surrounding your event as soon as possible.

The methods you use to promote your event will depend on its purpose but consider a timeline as the development of advertising pieces, news releases and other materials takes time.

A running sheet should be developed with every aspect of the day, including responsibilities listed and contact details.

On the day of the event, hold a briefing session beforehand for those involved and have a copy of all signed agreements on hand.

After the event has been held it's important to thank contributors.

And if the event works, start to confirm details for next year.

Think of the planning as an extension of the event itself and have a good time with it.

Don't be scared of shaking off conventions and using your imagination.

The sky's the limit on what you can do, but simple can equal success too.

Lisa Maynard loves a well planned event, and the fact that the Gladstone region's offering to the events realm can mix it with the best. She previously worked in event co-ordination for The Walkley Foundation for Journalism. Have a question? Contact: lisa.maynard@gladstoneobserver.com.au

Strengths of proper event planning

  • Provides an organised layout to help contribute to a successful event
  • Helps ensure the objective of the event is reached and targets a particular audience
  • Brings to light details that would not be considered when organising an event at the last minute

Do you have a tip for planning an event? If so, comment below! Or if you're currently organising an event make sure you list it on The Observer website here.



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