12 ways of Making an event successful

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 21 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? How can you maximise the likelihood of someone attending if you don't tell them about it until the last minute?

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 it's the first notification 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, Every Child Matters or No Child Left Behind? 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 CD full of resources.

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.

Over to you

Can you think of anything else that can help to make an event successful? If so, do tell -- make a comment in the area below.