10 Vital Elements You Don’t Want to Forget When Planning a Large Event
If you’re planning an event and expect 2-3 times the number of attendees than you normally have on a Sunday, there are several extra items you’ll need to consider. These tips come from lessons learned meetings I’ve conducted after big events.
If you’re expecting high traffic volume for this event and want to close part of a road to outside traffic, coordinate with local police / transportation authorities for road closures. This may require applying for permits, so make sure you know the timing involved in submitting and receiving approval on those permits for your area. Also, consider requesting officers to direct traffic before and after the event.
#2 – Parking
All those cars need a place to hang out during the event. Consider how many attendees, staff, and volunteers you expect vs. how many parking spaces you have available.
If demand exceeds supply, talk with local businesses or property owners about possibly using their parking lots during the event.
#3 – Security / Emergency Preparedness
We don’t like to think this way, but it is possible you’ll have an emergency at your event. An attendee may become seriously ill, severe weather may strike, an argument could become violent, etc.
- Plan ahead for having security team members / volunteers on-hand during the event.
- Review emergency evacuation procedures or shelter-in-place plans and update as needed.
- Communicate emergency plans to all staff members and key volunteer leaders.
Your attendees will appreciate the calm and confident leadership of event staff should anything go awry.
#4 – People flow/movement
When you host a large number of people, you need to help them know where to go throughout the event. Use barricades, form lines like they do at amusement parks, and post volunteers at line entry/exit points to keep people moving in the right direction.
If you don’t provide structure and clear direction, the crowd will make up their own. That’s a recipe for confusion, frustration, and a bad experience for everyone involved.
#5 – Minute-by-minute
Create a schedule for the event that is literally a minute-by-minute timeline of what will happen, when, and where. On the schedule, note who is responsible for each item. Distribute this schedule to staff and key volunteers.
Create a high level view (maybe by half hour or hour) and distribute that as you see fit. Some event organizers print the high level schedule on the back of lanyard badges or display it on big screens periodically to keep attendees informed.
People appreciate knowing what to expect and when. Plus this will greatly reduce the number of questions you’ll get from staff, volunteers, and attendees the day of the event (and that’s a very good thing!).
#6 – Communication to staff & volunteers
Communication is extremely important. Get the event leadership team on the same page, document decisions, and get the documents approved.
Communicate the SAME THING to all staff and volunteers:
- Send the same details in emails
- Review the information during staff/volunteer meetings
- Provide those same details on cheat sheets you hand out the day of the event
These steps will prevent confusion and conflicting information from getting out to attendees.
#7 – Volunteer check-in
All volunteers should check-in the day of the event so you know who’s here and can provide each person with any final instructions. Create a designated area for volunteer check-in with staff or volunteer leaders present at all times.
Communicate the following to volunteers about check-in:
- What time should they arrive?
- Who does each team of volunteers report to?
- Do they need to wear a specific volunteer t-shirt or other attire?
- Do they need a security badge?
- Should they sign a waiver?
- What handouts / cheat sheets does each team of volunteers need?
#8 – Cleaning crew
This may seem like a little thing, but it makes an impression (positive or negative, depending on how you handle it).
Assign volunteers to pick up trash throughout the building and campus. Make sure they empty trash cans as needed.
Also, assign a team to keep the bathrooms clean and fully stocked. If you have 2-3 times the number of people attending this event than you see in a typical service, you’re going to have more trash and need for restroom supplies.
A clean environment shows attendees you planned for their arrival and care about the property God entrusted to you. Both are important messages to convey.
#9 – Event insurance coverage
Talk with your church’s insurance company to determine if you’ll need special coverage for the event.
#10 – Signage
Consider what types of signs you’ll need, where, and what size. Walk through the event venue and put yourself in the shoes of an event attendee. Be able to answer at least these questions with signage, rotating slides on big screens, handouts at registration, etc.
- What am I looking for?
- Where do I go to register?
- If I didn’t register beforehand, do I go into a different line?
- Where do I go to purchase event merchandise or other materials?
- If I’m a volunteer, where do I report to and whom? Do I also need to register or do I register separately as a volunteer?
- Where do I go after registration?
- How do I know where to sit?
- Where do I go if my child gets separated from me?
- What’s the schedule / timeline for the event?
- Where are the bathrooms?
- Where is food/coffee located?
Make it easy for attendees, especially those who may not attend your church, to find what they’re looking for. Also, have some volunteers posted in each key area to be available to answer questions. Give them different t-shirts with “Got Questions?” or something along those lines on the shirt. That way, if a guest has concerns they know who to talk to for help.
Big events don’t have to induce big headaches. Think through these items, talk with your team, document your decisions, and communicate more than you think is necessary (because it is). By taking the time now to consider and plan for these areas, you and your attendees will have a better experience at the event.
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