I’ve done a few events in my past, but they were always small scale or I did not play a hugely critical role in the planning of the event. As the SFU Food Bank Coordinator, I took on Trick or Eat. Trick or Eat is a nationwide event where volunteers go to houses and collect canned goods on Halloween, instead of candy. I was absolutely serious about doing an amazing job with this event, and Trick or Eat quickly became my “baby”. For half of September and all of October, I basically lived and breathed, “trick or eat”.
Events take a lot of planning, and the bigger the event is the more details you need to plan. So, how did I tackle this huge event?
1. Make a Plan
One thing that has been consistently important in my (minimal) event planning experience is to outline a plan. If you are preparing for “big” events like Trick or Eat, tradeshows, or an event run by a large organization, they will often supply you with a timeline, which is really helpful! This timeline will typically outline the deadlines that you need to meet, and it might cost you if you don’t pay attention to it. IE: You might be charged more for signing up for something late, you might not get the materials you need, etc.
Whether you use a timeline, a to-do list, or your amazing brain, you need to know how you are going to prepare for your event. I personally found it helpful to use the timeline that was provided by Trick or Eat, and combined it with other things that I needed to do specifically for my event. I also had a daily to-do list, which I found helped to keep me on track. With this event, I made sure to do things early, giving me ample time to prepare. From promoting the event, recruiting volunteers, contacting new sponsors, and working out the logistics of the night, there is a lot to think about and a lot to do. So the best possible advice I can give you is to start early!
When it comes to event planning - no matter how much of a superstar you may be, I suggest delegating tasks if you can. I was so fortunate to work with an amazing team of Food Bank Assistants and they were able to help me SO much for this event. In my “planning” phase, I sorted out roles that I needed help with. For instance, we needed people to help register volunteers at the event, or a couple “drop off” points for all of the donations we collected, and we also needed a photographer. This really made a huge difference in the organization of the event, because I was not doing everything and running around like a crazy person. I was only running around like a mildly crazy person!
On Halloween morning I dawned my Panda costume and I felt pretty darn ready! I thought I had planned out every incremental detail and felt like the event should run smoothly. The fabulous Food Bank team knew their roles and were incredibly enthusiastic. The volunteers that signed up for the event were also really excited, and did a great job!
What Did I Learn?
I learned a couple of lessons that night. The first was a reminder that events never go as planned. There were a few details I didn’t think of, as prepared as I thought I would be. But, with all events, you need to roll with the punches, and just go with the flow. Just remember that sometimes there are unexpected situations that will happen, and you are just going to have to make do. So, basically events will keep you on your toes!
A really cool realization I had that night, is that volunteers are absolutely amazing. The volunteers that came out on the night of Trick or Eat were ready to help and were excited to the point where I was really surprised and impressed. I had volunteers ask for more routes to collect donations, I had a volunteer tell me she looked up her route on Google maps the night before so she would lead her team well, and I had another volunteer tell me “give me the longest route!”. Who knows, this excitement, may have partially been spurned by the competition for whichever team collects the most donations, but I think it’s because these volunteers wanted to help out for a great cause. This is what impressed me the most.
As a result, our 50+ team of volunteers visited over 500 houses to collect over 500lbs of donations. (Apparently, we liked working with deviations of 50 this Halloween). We had some amazing volunteers, an amazing Food Bank Team leading the event, and our time was well spent for a good cause.
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