The suggestions below were written for an education technology audience, but they could apply to any event.
Parents' evenings, ICT open days, local conferences, "away days". As a leader of educational ICT you are bound to have to organise such an event at some stage in your career. What can you do in order to ensure that it is successful? Here are 12 top tips.
1: Know what "successful" means
At the risk of stating the obvious, every event should have at least one objective. Friendly get-togethers that are amiable but also aimless simply waste people's time. But even if they are not a waste of time, they may look as if they will be, and that will deter people from attending.
2. Limit the number of objectives
In my experience the most successful events have a limited number of objectives, no more than four or half-a-dozen. Having a relatively small number of aims means that the event is kept focused.
3. Choose the right time of year
OK, there never is a right time, because there is always something going on. So perhaps this should have been expressed as "choose the least bad time of year"! Try to avoid obviously difficult times such as the very beginning of term, or examination time. But equally, the slack times, such as in the last week of term, can also be difficult. Often, teachers are too tired by then to want to attend something where they need to be creative, or they are involved in activities such as museum visits.
4. Have a variety of activities
See Twenty One Ideas for an ICT or Technology Co-ordinators' Day for some ideas that you can adapt for different types of event.
5. Plan ahead
People tend to be very busy these days, and so their diaries get full. If you are planning to bring in an external speaker, this is especially relevant. So book the event as far ahead as possible.
6. Tell people about the event
I can never understand it when I receive invitations for conferences with a week's notice. Since the event had obviously been planned some time ago, why didn't the organisers tell me about it ages ago?
7. Keep reminding people about it
I do not mean send them spam. Sending them a reminder a week or two before the conference is fine -- it's when the first notification is a week before the event that I think it's unreasonable.
8. Give them reasons to attend
Not your reasons, but theirs: what will they get out of it, and why is that better than what they'd have gained by not attending the event? For example, how will attending help them address the new curriculum, a particular course, or a new government initiative? If it's an event aimed at parents, how will attending benefit them and their child?
9. Bribe them!
If you can get funding, perhaps you could send each attendee away with a freebie of some kind, something useful to them -- such as a usb stick full of resources or a printed book. Yes, I know such things are ‘old school’, but in my experience people love tangible products, even now.
10. Feed them
People often judge the success of an event by the quality of the food they are given. Pay attention to this.
11. Park them
The other thing that people judge by is how easy it is to get to, and the parking. If possible, it's a good idea to arrange for some parking spaces or parking permits to be available, if this is a relevant consideration.
12. Create a community
This won't be appropriate or easy for all types of event, but sometimes creating a website or blog can generate and maintain interest. Before the event, it can help to generate ideas and anticipation, whilst after the event it can help to keep the discussions going, and keep the event itself alive in people's minds.
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