Lack of time and space are two big challenges faced by events offices. One can lead to the other, or they can be overwhelming on their own. Recently more and more councils are facing the issue of having more event requests, than days in the year will allow. How do you choose who will be granted the park space? More importantly, how do you make this a fair process so that unsuccessful applicants may be irritated but not feel unfairly discriminated against?
Even if you don’t have an event every day of the year, councils still have to turn organisers away if they don’t have enough manpower to process the applications. There can sometimes be space in the relevant park, but not enough time to work through every applicant that wants to hold an event there; not only is this frustrating for the applicant, it could also result in lost revenue. So, how do you choose? Do you have a matrix that you work from? Or is it first come, first served (within reason….)?
This article looks at the different ways you can use to decide which events to prioritise and how to decide who makes the cut and who you will turn away. Councils who use the following methods effectively often find that incompetent and non commital applicants are weeded out naturally. Thus removing a selection of the pool that needs prioritising…. Given that it’s these applicants which usually take up most of your time, you have a double win!
Have a robust application process (and SAG?)
Do you know what your exact application process is from start to finish? Do you have markers in place at certain dates? Understanding and laying out the exact process at the very beginning means both parties understand what they have to do. An organiser may realise at this stage that they simply can’t meet a council requirement that could easily come up weeks into the organisation (and consequently after significant work from both parties).
You should have set markers for when you must receive certain information. It should be clear, that if these markers are missed, the event may not go ahead.
Your SAG process should be clearly defined, both on your website and at the beginning of any process with an organiser. Any contacts that need to be shared, should be done early on and if there is a part that is tricky (or will require a lot of work gathering information), you should prepare the organiser for it.
Ask organisers how their event meets your councils overriding objectives
This could be a question in your original event application, or something that you discuss in the early stages of planning. Where there is competition for space and time, it’s important that you spend yours with organisers who not only understand your wider council objectives, but are eager to hold an event that supports them.
Seek references for new organisers
Many organisers will have held events before. Use your database to look up any previous events and check the feedback you received. If you have never worked with an organiser, the chances are another council will have. Put some feelers out, particularly for larger events.
Use an Economic Impact Calculator (EIC)
Several councils use an economic impact calculator to help them prioritise events. The onus should be on the organisers to complete one and share it with you and your SAG. EIC’s can provide a broad idea of the scale of economic impact that an event might achieve. Like many similar tools, the results will only be as good as the original data entered, so it’s worth stressing its importance to your organisers. If you find real value in a tool like this, you should consider writing it into your contract as a necessary part of the application process.
Use feedback to ensure continued improvement and repeat business
Several of our clients have been looking at ways to automate feedback and make evaluations compulsory. If you don’t have a system for feedback after an event, this is something you should implement with urgency. If you do have something in place, but struggle with take up, you could consider writing it into the contract that you have with organisers. Feedback is a fantastic tool that contributes massively to repeat business. If you can deal with any negative issues that arose at an event, it not only means they will likely come back, your reputation will continuously improve also.
Ensure you have appropriate charges
Your time is precious and it should be paid for adequately. Administration time, site visits, SAG meetings all add up. There are also a large number of organisers who you don’t charge for events, so your land hire charges for those that do pay must be adequate. Benchmark your fees against other similar local authorities. This will also help you weed out individuals who are not serious about their event.
Create a matrix
Whether or not a matrix works, will differ greatly between different councils. An events Matrix can ensure that you use your days effectively, however it can also make your process rigid and result in some good events not making the cut. Perhaps consider ensuring you have followed the above steps, before you put significant work into creating one. If you do, try to keep an element of flexibility.