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7 Ways to Take the Pain Out of Events

Angela Spores ·

The excitement of games, concerts, and competitions is contagious. But they also bring lots of logistical stress and a barrage of last-minute requests and pleas for help when things don’t go quite the way you envisioned. Whether you are a first-time event organizer or a seasoned events veteran for your program, preparation is essential to ensuring a smooth and successful performance by your students.

You can never plan too far in advance for a big competition event. Believe me, procrastination creeps in quickly (especially when there is a really good Netflix series on!). Or even worse, you start to think, “Oh, I’ve done all of this before” and then forget how much effort really goes into event preparation. I confess to being guilty of this more than a few times and regretting it. While many aspects remain the same, getting your competition event plan together with a detailed schedule for executing it can help you avoid frustration and maintain your sanity. Here are seven important elements to keep in mind as you prepare your next event plan.

1. Know the Flow

Site visits are highly recommended to ensure you know how things will actually flow for your performance, especially where contests are concerned. Set up meetings with the site host to discuss your event day procedures and go over all of the elements that will be needed for the day of the event, such as pianos, concession, internet, volunteers, and security.

2. Know the Players

Who are the other stakeholders that will be involved in running and/or supporting your event? Competitions necessitate qualified judges and support staff. You’ll want to engage these folks early as demand can spike and consume their availability. Likewise, you’ll want to communicate with any vendors such as recording engineers, promotional products, and photo/videographers about the event schedule once it is created. It's also a good idea to ramp up your volunteer recruitment activities early on to ensure you lock in enough folks for critical jobs like set up, transportation, chaperoning, and tear down.

3. Keep Everyone Informed

Get the event dates and registration deadlines on everyone’s radar by posting the information on your program’s/school’s website and social media feeds. Take the time to prepare, post, and bookmark a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) about the event. Trust me, it will come in handy for all of the inquiries that come flooding in two days before a deadline! You should also notify and update your program members with announcements and ensure the event and registration dates are synched to their personal calendars. CutTime makes this task especially pain-free for busy teachers and booster leaders. Use CutTime’s Scheduled Announcements to set up all of your notifications and reminders in advance, plus your students and guardians can subscribe so these events appear on their personal calendars.

4. Stock Up Ahead of Time

Your students need to be fueled in order to perform at their best level during concerts and competitions. You’ll want to line up pre-event snacks and hydration stations as well as formal catering for extended competition sessions. Additionally, select your awards and check all of your gear, equipment, and incidental supplies to ensure they are in good shape. Pro tip - inspect the containers for any cracks or broken handles that may need to be repaired and buy extra Sharpies, tape, and Ziploc bags for last-minute odds and ends.

5. Map It Out

Not all event venues are equal when it comes to traffic flow and parking. If you’re doing a site visit, take time to go see where the parking is situated. How far is it from the performance space? Is it covered or open to the outside? How wide and tall? Is there a cost to park? If you’re not able to be on-site, see if a friend or colleague can investigate for you or request a virtual tour. Find out if the entrance and exits are the same and where your group can stage and prepare prior to performing. Know before you go how much walking and lugging you’ll be required to do in case you need some extra helping hands and feet.

6. Backup Your Brain

You’re going to have A LOT of details and pieces of information crammed into your head as your event dates get closer. Save yourself from last-minute panic attacks and free up more space for creativity with what I like to call an ‘Event Brain Box’. Set up a Google Drive, Dropbox, or One Drive area for all of your key event forms (registration, judging, permission, etc.), position checklists, vendor and emergency contacts, and make sure at least two other trusted people have access to it. Let me underscore the importance of having a solid emergency contact list for things such as: lights, AC/heat, water, and bathroom facilities at your fingertips when disaster strikes. Make sure you’ve agreed on a response time with each person!

7. Finish Strong

Okay, the event day is here and things are running smoothly (for the most part!). Your students are nailing their performances and everyone is smiling (pat yourself on the back). Now for the most important part, wrapping things up in a timely manner before you collapse from exhaustion (sheer joy). If you can, pre-schedule online payments for your judges, staff, and other vendors so you don’t have to worry about mailing checks. Even more, start crafting your thank you messages for your volunteers, colleagues, administrators, parents and students for all of their efforts to make the event a success. Line up your photographer and volunteers to help create a video or slideshow with memories from the competition within a day or two while the memories are fresh in your mind. A good friend of mine used a spreadsheet to ensure that each student was represented and a group of proofers to ensure the right names were attached to each photo. Priceless!

As I reflect back on my own event experiences, one very important lesson stands out. Be flexible! Things will likely change due to things you cannot control. Plan to adjust and be open to suggestions from your judges, staff, vendors, volunteers, and students. A near disaster or last-minute change can actually become your program’s greatest bonding moment and treasured memory if you take a deep breath and work together to solve it.

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