When it comes to daunting and stressful activities, planning an event probably falls right up there with moving house and dealing with in laws.
I recently read a piece by blogger Seth Godin that was titled, “It’s not a problem if you prepare for it”. Taking this title out of context I would say that with proper planning, pulling off an event will not be as daunting as dealing with in-laws. Over the years, I have dealt with thousands of event planners and the one thing they all have in common is this: They need to pull a crowd. That’s no mean feat but more often than not, it’s easy to tell right away which ones will be hits and which will be misses.
Here are some common sense notes I have taken over the years:
1. Plan early: A month before is already too late. If you want yours to be a success, give it a minimum window of 3 months. Planning early will mean you will be able to get the word out sooner than your potential competition.
2. Get the word out asap: I cannot tell you how many event organisers send their events to KenyaBuzz the day before the event, “Can we publicize this on your website?” An email reads. “Of course you can”, we always respond, because that is what we do, publicise events. The truth is though, had we received the event information 2 months or worst case scenario, 1 week before it would have gotten way more eyeballs than it will in 24 hours.
3. Create kickass publicity material: Because human beings are drawn to visuals, make your artwork appealing and for heaven’s sake don’t fill the poster with text that no one can read. On KenyaBuzz, we always include a description, time, date and venue with your poster so don’t try and cram everything in it, we’ve got you covered.
4. Include a functioning phone number and/or email address in your communication: You will be surprised to find out how many people spend colossal sums of money on their marketing but give a phone number that no one answers. Potential attendees need the option of being able to reach you when they need to.
5. Make advance ticket sales an option: They tie your crowd to your event. Once someone has bought a ticket it’s hard to back out. Just make sure you incentivize them with discounted rates. Now we know how Kenyans love their discounts, we also know they are last minuters but here’s the thing: there are some who are organized and like to plan in advance- like you. And these days there are no excuses with so many options to sell advance tickets online.
6. Consider the weather: In April we have the long rains, in November, the short rains, it’s been like that in this country since you were born. It is ill advised to plan for an open air, outdoor festival in April.
7.Think about the kids: unless your event falls under nightlife or something similar, consider the population that has kids. Believe me, its huge. And since most of the time, parents only get to spend quality time with their kids on weekends, you will be able to meet this need and subsequently, draw in a larger crowd. How do you pull it off? Hire some bouncy castles, trampolines and all those usual things that kids tend to go goo-goo-gaa-gaa over.
8. Don’t rip people off: The entrance fee should largely depend on what you are offering. If you are charging 2000 bob per head you better be offering something worth the 2000 bob. People know when they are being ripped off. And if you can avoid charging kids under 8 years old, please do. Their parents end up spending so much money on the balloons, candy and face painters as it is, there is no need to assault their wallets any more than necessary.
9. And don't lie to them either: Don’t promise your potential audience that you will deliver Mark Zuckerberg when the closest tie you have to him is Facebook. Don’t promise your sponsors that you will get a crowd of 100,000 people and end up with a handful of relatives. Don’t tell them you will put their logos on your marketing material when you have already printed and distributed your flyers. The saying under promise and over deliver has never rang truer than it does when it comes to pulling off events.
10. Get your food and drinks right: I cannot overemphasise the importance of having a good food vendor, on that note get two or three different ones so the attendees can have choice. I remember attending one event where the only food that was being served was oily chips and cold, shriveled up chipolatas and there were no restaurants close by. I chose to stay hungry- and leave early.
11. Look around you: Are there other events similar to yours taking place on the same weekend as yours, or the the one after? The crowd might sacrifice yours, especially if the other is more established. So if you are just starting out and having a Jazz concert on the same weekend as say the Safaricom Jazz Festival, you might be disappointed to discover that Safaricom will eat into your potential numbers. To prepare in advance, you can check out comprehensive listings of events in Kenya and Uganda respectively on KenyaBuzz.com and UgandaBuzz.com
12. Don’t play dirty: Hating on other events and event organisers that you deem your competition isn’t cool, actually it’s pretty shady, the best thing you can do is learn from them or better still find ways to collaborate with them.
13.There is nothing new under the sun: So get some advice from those who’ve been in the game longer than you, take notes, figure out what worked and what didn’t then add your unique flavor to it.
To get insights on how some notable events in Kenya have gone down, check out our galleries page here