By: Kyra O’Dell (@Kyra_Shea_ODell)
I have always been somewhat interested in event planning and all of the different parts that work together in order to put on an event. We have all planned a surprise birthday party for our dads, or invited people over to our house for a themed Halloween party, But what goes into planning those large events that we see all over Grand Rapids? That is where Evette comes in…
Evette Pittman, the events coordinator for the City of Grand Rapids paid a visit to the members of PRSSA a few weeks ago and blew us all out of the park with a detail-oriented presentation on event planning, or more specifically–successful event planning. She originally graduated from college with a degree in broadcast media and communications. Right out of college, she got a job in radio broadcasting. When she started missing her home state of Michigan, she found a job up here as a marketing director in Grand Rapids. As she moved out of radio and in to marketing and management, she formed a love for planning and implementing events. One phrase that really stood out to me during her presentation was, “If you’re a hard worker and you’re dedicated, people will see that.”
Anything that happens outside in Grand Rapids goes through her office. The yoga sessions on the bridge, the Jazz Music Festival in August, even the Beers and Tots Festival. Over 600 events are put on by the city of Grand Rapids between the months of May and October. But you aren’t reading this blog for me to brag about Evette’s awesomeness are you? Let’s get down to the event planning.
The first step to event planning is determining the goal of the event. And no, it cannot be “to have fun.” There must be an outcome your wish to accomplish. Is your goal to raise a certain amount of money for a cause? To bring awareness to the local puppy shelter? To relieve the stress of Grand Rapids residents (Have you guys checked out Relax at Rosa? It’s a thing.)
The next important point for successful event planning is to assign committees. Committees offer volunteer opportunities, develop leadership skills, and allow volunteers to network within the community. As the cliché saying goes, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” When planning an event, make sure to assign volunteers or workers to roles in which they will succeed. If everyone works well together, sticks to their job, and does well at their job, your event will go smoothly.
Before planning an extravagant event two months from now, you need to nail down your budget. If your don’t have the money for an extravagant, over-the-top event, you need to plan for something else or get some help. Having a budget isn’t all about the money you do or don’t have in hand, it is about the opportunities that you can build with connections. Look for donors, or sponsors to help with the event. Figure out if you are the best fit for their company’s donation and sell yourself to them. Another idea could be to sell tickets to the event. Figure out the budget for the event, and stick to it.
The next step, and also the most important step, is creating a timeline. Plan out the entire event. What are the expectations, tasks, and responsibilities of everyone? What is the full schedule of the event itself? Check for conflict. When do the save the dates come out? Evette showed us her “short” list for one of her events and it was a six page excel worksheet of everything that was happening with the event. Her advice for this section was, “Name every column, and make sure it is clear to everyone what their roles are. Hold their feet to the fire.”
Then, there is the implementation. Make sure your event does what you said it was going to do. If you promised to show tremendous results for your donor and you do not deliver, the next year, they won’t give you money. As you implement the event, make sure all of your details are covered. Double, triple, and quadruple check the schedule and stay focused on the goal and outcome.
Finally, finish well. Your job isn’t done until you have evaluated the success of the event. What loose ends need to be tied up? Where can you improve for next year? Who is going to send out the Thank you notes? When you evaluate the event, it allows you to avoid making the same mistakes for the next year. Once all this is over, you can take a week off, but then you must get back to planning for next year! Good Luck.
You could tell as the night went on, that Evette Pittman knew her stuff. So the next time you decide to attend one of those amazing events happening downtown, keep in mind the creative genius behind it all. Thank you Evette! You are Awesome!
Kyra O’Dell is a senior at Grand Valley majoring in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in Elementary Education. She is an Account Executive at the student run PR firm on campus—GrandPR. After she graduates, Kyra hopes to pursue a career in a PR agency and become a proud dog owner.