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After the Festival Ends - Lessons Learned

After the holidays, it has been a whirlwind with a festival that I have been working on. Now the balloons have been filled with helium and brought down the street, the smell of funnel cakes, hamburgers, and hot dogs have left the air, and the merchandise has been sold and final inventories taken. As always, it is time for a debrief meeting and some lessons learned. I realize these are not rocket science, but some things we as festival and event people sometimes take for granted.

Plan, Plan Plan
Planning is vital to the success of any event. This planning should include basics as site layouts, timelines, task lists, and supply lists. Having it in your mind is one thing, but having it written out in a master planning document with due dates, times, detailed tasks, and responsible party can help in those moments you are putting out fires. The main work still needs to be done and all the major planning should be done at least two to three months before the event.

It Is All About the Attendees
No matter what anyone says, the attendees have put out time and money to attend your event. It is important to keep them in mind with your plans. They are the most important guests at your festival. The board and staff of your organization should be making sure that the attendee experience is the best it can be – after all, without those attendees there is no event nor audience that sponsors can engage.
The attendee experience begins from deciding to attend the event. It include the marketing messages, how they arrive, where do they park, how they enter the location, what they do at the festival, how they are entertained, and how they depart. It is your chance to shine and tell your story. It is important to walk through the site multiple times so that all scenarios can be covered.

Decisions Are Not Autonomous
Even with multiple events as part of your festival, all the elements tie together. The audience understand the festival as a whole – and not by parts. Therefore, the parts all need to be consistent and elements and events run the same way. It is one organization with one reputation. Inconsistency reflects badly all elements and factions – vendors, sponsors, the brand, and the organization as a whole. Vendors and suppliers want one contact – and not multiple contacts for various events in the same day or the same festival. Disorganization and miscommunication are difficult reputations to overcome so it is better to remain consistent and organized with one voice and a chain of command that is understood by all involved.

Flexibility
Some days it is easier to be flexible than others. However, since you have that plan completed, being flexible can take on new meanings and new opportunities. Working on sponsorships, I found that by having a set plan for activation areas allowed for greater flexibility for any late minutes vendors or sampling agencies. This allowed for some activations being signed on in the last month and helped with some bottom line costs of the festival.

Communication is Key and Vital for the Sponsors
As part of your plan, develop a calendar to communicate with sponsors. They want information and they typically want it way in advance. They have to plan out when to send information to their employees and you need to be prepared for the questions that arise. I have started to create checklists for myself and the sponsor to make sure we are all on track. In addition, I have been building standard communication tools based on questions that have arisen so that next year, I have the information in advance. This is extremely helpful when there are multiple events and multiple sponsor activations.

Proof and Proof Again
Some last minute marketing situations occur, along with the ability to have interviews that happen in the next 15 minutes. Tasks are set aside – and final proofing of some last marketing materials do happen. To help make sure there are no errors, remember to pass along information to others to review and give yourself some quiet time to proof items without being disturbed.

Firefighter Mode
During those last six to eight weeks, everyone is in firefighter mode – solving the issues that arise right then and there. As a staff person, it is vital to have your materials together and plans set so that you can deal with the marketing, calls from the public, or changes from the committees or board. These will happen and it is best to be prepared as much as possible.

Even after over 20 years of event management, I am always learning. There are ways to do things better and more efficiently and effectively. Without a good debrief and reviewing what occurred, you will not change how you operate and the event and organization will become stale and stagnant.

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