Monday, December 28, 2015

55 Questions to Ask Before Opening a New Event

Event organization is an act of MAGIC!

A friend of mine from the festival community asked me and a few other event organizers what he ought to think about as he plans for a brand new event he is thinking of arranging. I've helped other friends with this, but I'd never made a list of basic questions -- until today.

These are the starting point. You will find others that are particular to your event, your venue, your community, your helpers, your state and its laws, etc.

Start with the venue. Do some fact-finding from your potential locations before you commit so you can get an idea of what your expenses and staffing needs are going to look like. 

1.       What does their fee structure look like?
2.       Do you get any free admissions that you can use for organizing staff or special guests?
3.       Do they handle registrations, or do you need to provide staff, cash to start the till, forms, waivers, etc?
4.       How is parking handled?
5.       Is sanitation included?
6.       Who is doing maintenance of the bathrooms/portajohns?
7.       Who is doing the maintenance for the showers?
8.       Do you need to purchase supplies for bathroom and shower maintenance?
9.       How is trash collection handled?
10.   Is there a fee for a dumpster pick-up?
11.   Is there food available onsite?
12.   If not, can food vendors easily set up?
13.   Are there grills, campfire rings, or a community kitchen for attendees to prepare their own food?
14.   Does the facility charge extra money for vendors?
15.   How many vendors can the site hold?
16.   What are the accommodations for disabled persons? (This includes ramps, handrails, and electricity for assistive devices, just to name a few.)
17.   How are the bonfires handled?
18.   Do they provide staff, or are you expected to bring your own firetenders?
19.   What about security staff and first aid staff?
20.   What are their requirements for people you provide who staff those areas? (special training, certifications, etc)
21.   Do you pay a fee for safety personnel, or are is their fee waived?
22.   What is included in venue’s overnight facilities? (primitive camping, electric and water, cabins?)
23.   What might your attendees need to bring with them?
24.   What do the presentation and performance areas provide in terms of space and equipment?
25.   Do you need to bring additional tents or structures to accommodate your vision?
26.   Are there are features of the venue that might be hazardous?
27.   Are pets allowed by the facility?
28.   Do you want to allow pets?
29.   If so, what are your rules regarding their supervision? (Tags, shots, leashes, poop, behavior)
30.   Are children attending?
31.   Are they allowed to attend with someone who isn’t their parent/guardian?
32.   Do you need wristband or tickets with stubs or badges (some way to identify people)?
33.   Does the facility provide those identifiers, or do you need to arrange printing?

The answers to these questions aren't as obvious as they might appear at first glance. You can't assume that anything is included. Joe and I have been responsible for every aspect of the above questions for Babalon Rising at both of our locations. Midian has a certain level of staff that CAN be available, but they can also bugger off if a festival doesn't need them. Chrysalis Moon, for example, came to Midian with all their own staff -- from gate to maintenance to security to first aid and beyond. We had our own people in the kitchen (because that’s how we run it), some of our firetenders stepped in to cover Midian’s basic requirements for fire safety, and we had a couple of Midian directors onsite to be a resource for the festival organizers. Other facilities may handle things differently, and very little is “standard” in this industry.

If you have an idea for an event, there are probably a few things you already know you need to cover. If you've ever presented or performed at an event, a few other logistical concerns will be evident. I'm going to assume that you're starting from scratch, though. You have a vision and a location. Here's what you need to think of next:

34.    How many and what sort of performances and workshops do you want?
35.   Are you working around a theme or concept?
36.   Is there a flow or feel you want?
37.   Who is communicating that line-up, flow, and culture/atmosphere to the presenters and performers?
38.   Who is communicating those things to the attendees?
39.   Are you providing a printed copy of the schedule?
40.   Are you providing a mobile version of the schedule?
41.   What about maps of the facility highlighting various event locations?
42.   Do any of the presenters or performers require payment?
43.   Do they need you to provide lodging, food, and travel?
44.   Do they have special needs based on their health?
45.   What set-up time, assistance, and equipment do they all need?
46.   Will they have a point of contact once they're at the event?
47.   Do you have someone who can fill in if someone doesn't show? (Someone ALWAYS bails at the last minute.)
48.   If children are attending, do you have activities for them?
49.   Are you providing supervision for the kids, or are their parents solely responsible for their entertainment and safety?
50.   How do you intend to handle children who break the rules of the facility or event?

Most start-up events don't have great methods of receiving feedback from all the stake-holders, but feedback is critical if you intend to hold your event on a recurring basis. It’s better to consider it from the beginning, working it into the fabric of the event, rather than tacking it on as an afterthought after they’ve gone home. 

51.   What can the performers and presenters help you improve?
52.   What did the attendees love and hate in terms of facilities, content, etc?
53.   What did you staff notice working well or working poorly?
54.   What blind-sided you?
55.   What criteria are you using to determine that you were successful?

Most small, first time events consider themselves a rousing success if they stay in the black in the ledger, and that is valid. But maybe you don't care about that. Some folks care more about a particular aspect of the experience. Figure out a way to measure what matters to you.


Unknown said...

I would add something about figuring out how to respond to adults who break the rules, in particular coming up with a very detailed policy on how to deal with reports of assault.

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