Five Steps to a Great Event

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Silas Maxwell Switzer, Writer

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Are you looking to run a great event? Maybe something to help out the community or something just for fun? On March 3, 2018 I ran an event at a coffee shop that raised over $250 and brought in 50-plus people. It was an open mic night for LGBT+ youth in Pittsburgh called Speak OUT. I named, organized, and hosted the entire event myself. Here’s what I learned in the process:

1) The Idea

It’s all about finding the problem. It’s about looking around you, looking within your communities, finding out what’s wrong, and finding a way to fix it. I chose to look at the LGBT+ community to find a space or an event or an educational or creative area that seemed to be missing. After looking for about five minutes I found one extremely important thing missing. There wasn’t a place for LGBT+ youth to come and express themselves artistically in a safe and comfortable space. After figuring this out, I got to work.

2) The Organization

Start by planning out your event: what you want it to be, where you want to hold it, if you want to raise money for something, and any other possible details pertaining to your event. I knew what I wanted my event to be the second that I found what was missing. I wanted to host an open mic night for queer youth in Pittsburgh, held at a coffee shop that was LGBT+ friendly, with all proceeds being donated to the Pittsburgh Equality Center.

3) The Setup

Once you know what you want to do, the next step is to find your venue, check if there are any costs on your part, and gather all of the necessary equipment and materials. When I was searching for a site, I sought out a place that I had always known to be queer friendly: Tazza d’Oro in Highland Park. After I pitched the idea to them, they not only offered to host the event free of charge, but also offered to give a free drink to anyone who paid a three dollar cover charge that would be donated to the Pittsburgh Equality Center. Bottom line, they hosted the event even though they were losing profit by doing so. Now, with event organization you will not always get this lucky. Be prepared to pay a fee to use a venue, or to go to multiple venues with some form of pitch flyer to find one that likes your event and is willing to host it free of charge. Think about places that would be sympathetic to your cause and your community, like Tazza d’Oro is to the LGBT+ community. After this, make sure you have any and all equipment that you need, whether is is donated by the site or by people willing to help your cause. Equipment can also be things that you simply have in your own home. I, for example, needed things like a microphone and an amplification system, which I luckily had at home. Once you’re sure that you have or can get everything you need, move on to the next step.

4) The Publicity

After you’re settled with your site and all your equipment needs, it’s time to start publicizing your event. Even though Facebook might seem like an outdated form of communication, it’s great for setting up an event. The setup page is fairly straightforward. Put in your event title, date, time, and information for your event. Then, you invite people that you’re connected with on Facebook, and you’re off! Make sure to take that Facebook events page and post the link to it on all of your other social media platforms as well as on anyone else’s who would be willing to help you publicize. Make sure to post and repost it frequently; post at least once a week leading up to the event. Remind people of the date, time, and what the event is all about. Link the post to the Facebook page for more details. If you can, reach out to prominent people in whatever community you are trying to help to see if they would be willing to aid in publicizing the event. For example, I reached out to the head of the Oakland library Gender and Sexuality Alliance. They sent out an email to almost every LGBT+ organization in the area to let them know about the event and distribute information for it. This greatly helped with gaining attendance for my event; 50-plus people came!

5) The Event

Make sure to bring all the necessary equipment with you when setting up the event. Come at least an hour early or whatever time you negotiate with the venue. If you want, bring some friends to help you get ready. Set up your space in whatever way you see fit for your event, while remaining within whatever limitations (if any) that the site gave you. Before my event, I had to choose what area of the coffee shop I would use as a stage, do a soundcheck of all of my equipment, set up signs and a donations box, and ensure that there was space for people to sit or stand. When the event starts, make sure to greet people, give them any last minute information, and charge them a cover fee if necessary. An example of an opening spiel pulled from my own event went something like: “Hello, welcome, here’s your drink ticket, the drink list inside and the open mic sign up is in and to your right. Thank you so much for coming!” Keep this speech short and simple; only add information that is absolutely necessary. When running your event, make sure to keep a good attitude, pay attention to the interest level of the audience, and make sure to go with the flow!

Side notes:

  • Make sure to overcompensate on everything. Bring more signs than you think you need, show up earlier than you think you have to. It’s better to have too much time than not enough.
  • If you’re looking for donations, don’t be afraid to ask. The worst case scenario is that someone says no and the best case is that you receive a donation!
  • Make sure to thank the venue and the people that came to the event. This will make everyone feel better about supporting your event, and it’s also just polite!
  • Don’t overcomplicate things that you don’t have to. If this is your first event, keep everything as simple and direct as possible to make sure that there are no mishaps and to ensure that you have the best event possible.

By following these steps and adding some of your own personal flare, you are sure to have a great event. After the success of my own event, I am now making an effort to make Speak OUT a quarterly event that happens once at the beginning of each season. Planning and running this event was truly a great experience. If you have an idea for your own event, do it! It’s always worth a try.

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