Running an event

Have you got a great idea but you're not sure about how to organise it? Perhaps you need a meeting to start it off? As you will see from our events page many of us have experience in how to run events and it isn't very hard. Here is some advice to start you off. If you would like to ask specific question, ask Nicola from the energy group or any member of the hub.

Whether you are running a talk, a discussion, a workshop, a nature walk or an art event there are a lot of features in common. You will need:

  • a venue
  • speakers/facilitators/leaders
  • publicity
  • logistics for the day itself

The venue

There are various possibilities:

Someone's home Free (usually) This is good for regular meetings like the energy group where we have got to know each other already but it is a lot to ask someone to let virtual strangers into their home. Also, most homes are of limited size. You should not publish their address on the web so you will have to ask people to contact you to get the venue details.

A pub or a cafe

Free unless you have a private room - but you will be expected to buy drinks.

Pubs are good for small groups but for larger groups you may not be able to get a suitable table. The food group used to meet in a pub but now meets in the cafe CB2 on Norfolk Street. They book a table. Pubs can be very noisy.

Outside, for example in a park Free but you need a backup plan for poor weather Only suitable for some kinds of event. You can ask to borrow the Transition Cambridge gazebo but it isn't big enough for more than a few people to sit in and is not sturdy enough for serious weather. You can also borrow a table and some chairs - see our Physicalresources page.
In a hired community hall (see list here) Costs starting from about 40 but you can ask for donations to cover this (we don't like to have fixed admission charges). Good for larger events. You will need to book it for a specific time: allow at least 30 minutes before for setup and for people arriving early and at least 15 minutes at the end for clearing up (usually more time for this is better - particularly at the end when people often want to chat, and this is all part of community building, so we usually try to leave time for that).
Transition Cafe Free You will need to liaise with the cafe people (Liz and Annuscha) to see if they would like to put your event on and when they have a free date.

If you have a particular leader/speaker/facilitator in mind, then it is best to check their available dates before you find a venue. For the event group forums we usually start with finding a venue because it isn't always easy to find a suitable hall on a particular day.

When picking dates, try not to clash with other events that your target audience will be interested in, either ours or from other organisations - so check our event calendar first. Also, days of general interest like Valentine's day or Wimbledon finals day should be avoided.

The speakers/leaders/facilitators

You may or may not need to invite someone to speak at or lead your event. If you do, here are some guidelines.

Since we are a voluntary organisation we don't normally pay any of our speakers. The energy group forums normally have 2 expert speakers and 2 from the community, none of whom get paid anything, even expenses. On the other hand, the Permaculture group often runs courses with a professional course leader who has to be paid. Under these circumstances you have to charge for places but we always have a lower cost for concessions people who are not in paid work. Such events will offer require taking bookings. We recommend using an early bird reduction to encourage people to book before the event; otherwise, people tend to book last minute, meaning that courses sometimes have to be cancelled, when quite likely enough people would have booked the day before.

For the energy group forums we have a chair person as well as the speakers. The chair is just one of us. The CCF OpenEcoHomes launch events usually have a 'celebrity' chair. This can help draw people in but you will have to let them give an opening speech so you had better be confident you will like what they say.

If you are running a workshop you may want an experienced facilitator - you could ask one of us such as Anna or Liz for advice or help with this.

You should ask your speakers several weeks in advance, at least. If they agree, check with them how they want to be described in publicity (title, affiliations, letters after the name, anything else you want to say about them).

Remind your speakers 5-7 days before the event and make sure they know when and where to come and how to contact you in an emergency. Also ask them for their mobile numbers so you can contact them in an emergency. It is a good idea to remind them how long they will have to speak and what you want them to talk about. Ask them if they need any particular facilities - for the energy group forums they usually bring a presentation on a memory stick and we will have a laptop and projector etc.

Publicity

Getting people to come can be the hardest part, and doing the publicity usually takes as long as all the rest of the organising, so don't underestimate this part. You need to be clear in your mind about why people will want to come (ideally make absolutely sure your topic is reasonably popular before starting). In your publicity, be sure to make clear why this event is interesting/exciting/useful to people (try to stand in their shoes - what aspects of this do people want to learn about and why? Then design your publicity to make clear that they will get this at your event). You have lots of options for publicity. The first few are free and may well be sufficient. If not, there are more possibilities but some of them are expensive.

Using the Transition website and bulletin

  • An entry on the Transition website events pages: just submit using our events administration system. As well as the website page your event will also go into the weekly email bulletin to over 2000 people in Cambridge and the surrounding area. This usually goes out on Mondays. It is best to put your event in at least 2 weeks before (by the Sunday night before you want it to go out). Such advertising will likely bring in an audience of 5 to 15 people, but this obviously depends on the topic and how you describe it.
    • We usually ask Cambridge Carbon Footprint to include some of our events in their bi-monthly newsletter too. You can contact CCF directly about this.
  • Create a web page on our website and link to this to give people more information (include pictures if possible!). If you belong to a group there should be someone there who knows how to do this and has access. If not, ask any of us for help. You can link to this page from other media such as twitter and blogs (see below).

Using Social Media

  • Promote your event on the Transition Cambridge facebook page, ideally creating a facebook event within the Transition Cambridge group.
  • Ask us to tweet about your event (or tweet yourself, linking to @TransitionCambs, and we will usually retweet it).
  • Contact your friends and family directly - this is often the most effective way of ensuring an audience, and very often these people will bring along their friends too. They may also be willing to spread word via social media or put up posters near where they live or in their workplaces. This can be made easier if you have a leaflet to give them with all the details.
  • Write a blog post about it for the Transition Media blog (contact any of the contributors) - or your own.

Using local media

  • Design a poster to put up on railings in the city centre and other places. Here are some tips on poster design. This takes time, both to design it and to get it printed and put up in the town. However, people often look at posters who don't get our email. For the city centre railings you will need to print it at A3 and laminate it. You can borrow our laminator but we don't have an A3 printer. You don't have a right to put posters up anywhere you like, and there is a risk they will get pulled down. We have permission to put Transition Cambridge posters up by Great St. Mary's in the market place. It is fairly cheap to get posters displayed in the council notice boards around the town but you can get them displayed for free in other places such as libraries and cafes. There are quite a few community-minded cafes in Mill Road who may help. It is also worth targeting the area closest to the venue for your event, as local people are more likely to come as it's easy for them. Newsagents will often display small posters (A5 preferred by them) for a small charge or for free. We have some people who can help with the design if they have time, and we recommend getting at least a couple of people to proof-read and check your poster, as it's surprisingly easy to miss out important pieces of information.
  • Leaflets - If you have a poster design it is usually easy enough to scale it down to A5 and you can add printing on the back. You can arrange this 2 to a page on an A4 page for printing. However, distributing leaflets is surprisingly hard. Leafleting every house through letter boxes is rarely worth while and is very expensive, both in money for printing and in time for distribution. The energy group has found it useful to put leaflets in places like the U3A office.
  • Parish newsletters - many areas have a parish newsletter delivered quarterly or monthly which can include event listings. You will need to contact the editors, as described in the newsletter and ask them to include a short description, or a small version of the poster image. It is a good idea to target the areas close to the event if at all possible.
  • Local radio - You can ask for a mention for your event from Cambridge 105 on their breakfast show or drive time show. You could try sending a press release to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire but that is a lot harder.
  • Local press - You can try sending a press release to Cambridge News. Press releases are usually most successful if the press release is written like a press article so they don't need to edit it. It should include a couple of quotes from you, the organizer, saying something exciting or interesting about it. A picture can help too. We have people who can help you to write a good press release (please e-mail us and we will put you in touch with them (a new media group has also recently formed who will be able to help with this).
  • It is also a good idea to create your own web page for the event and we can create a short link to use in advertising.

Logistics on the day

Make a checklist so that you know what you need and if there is more than one of you involved make sure everyone knows what they need to do and what to bring.

You can borrow many of these things from us

Things to bring:

  • Depending on your venue, you may need a key to get in. Make sure you have the key in good time.
  • Posters to put up to show directions, on the door and anywhere else that seems appropriate. These should look like your advertising poster if you have them. You can put up your poster and have a piece of paper underneath with an arrow, or you can print part of your poster and leave room for an arrow. You will need white tack or sellotape to put it up and a pen to draw the arrows.
  • Donations bowl, if you want money to cover the event cost.
  • Transition stuff: the transition tablecloth with the embroidered name is usually available. You should also have a variety of leaflets and sign up sheets for people to sign up for the bulletin. Make sure they are up to date: ask Nicola if she has some events leaflets. You can borrow a tonne of stuff from us depending on what is relevant.
  • Other stuff related to your event. The energy group often has a handout sheet with some information related to the event they are running for people to take away.
  • Laptop, projector, screen and extension lead (and speakers if you have an video clips or a film). All of these can be borrowed from us (laptop only available if one of us is coming).
  • Public Address system - we have a simple one with a few mikes you can borrow if you need one.
  • Feedback forms are often a good idea. They should be very simple. Here is a sample form that the Energy Group Uses
  • Tea, coffee, milk, sugar, cordials, biscuits and tea cloths, if you want refreshments. Your venue must allow this of course and normally supplies mugs and glasses etc but you need to bring all consumables.
  • Name labels are sometimes helpful. These can be pre-printed or just bring some plain labels and get people to write their name on as they see fit. You can borrow clip on holders from us.

Put out a reasonable number of chairs and make sure you have some more handy in case you get more people. It is rather depressing to run an event with 10 people in a room set for 50.

Unless your event is very informal you should plan what to say at the beginning and at the end. This should include:

At the beginning

  • Welcome, thanks for coming
  • Where are the emergency exits and toilets
  • If you have a photographer, ask if people are happy to appear - if they are not please to make themselves known.
  • What the event is about, maybe a bit about Transition Cambridge
  • Introduce speakers as appropriate

At the end

  • Thank everyone for coming and thank the speakers
  • Ask for donations to cover the costs of running the event, if you need to
  • Ask them to fill in feedback forms if you have them
  • Announce other events coming up they may be interested in.

Do try to get some photographs if you can - it helps to make the website lively and you can use them in publicity for future events too. If you don't fancy doing this yourself ask the media group for a photographer. They can also send a reporter to write about the event.

Further advice

There is advice on running community events on www.gov.uk. This covers a lot of the ground we have already covered above but has additional information such as

  • when you might need a licence (for amplified music at unlicensed premises)
  • rules about bingo, tombola and other gambling activities, selling alcohol or giving alcohol as prizes
  • how to get streets closed off
  • safety and access considerations for the less able

Finally there is useful advice on catering and hygiene from www.food.gov.uk.

If you have any comments or suggestions of things to add to this page, we'd love to hear from you! This page has been compiled by Nicola with a few extra additions by Anna and Liz.