So you want to plan an event…

A fledgling event planner shares her experience at organising a pub quiz.

Illustration: Rosie Catcheside

Organising an event is always difficult. Organising a successful event is even harder. However, organising a successful event that does not have a (student) household name associated with it is probably the most difficult. But do not despair, aspiring event-organisers, it is possible!

I have never really been one for organising events, except the occasional pre-drinks and birthday surprises. In fact, I rather enjoy not playing hostess/manager/person-running-around-like-a-headless-chicken. Last semester, that changed when I joined Childreach International’s BigBuild Nepal team. Bake sales alone just weren’t cutting the fundraising mark, so I had to start being creative.

Whether it is a pub quiz, karaoke night, or even a Bop, the first thing to do when organising an event is to give the people what they want. It is a great concept, but not easy to pull off. Most of the time “the people” do not actually know what they want until they see it. In other words, the first thing to do is figure out what you want to do (i.e. pub quiz, Bop, etc.) and then find a theme or style that will ensure participation. Some people will attend an event if it is for a good cause – in my case, raising funds to rebuild schools in Nepal – but many will only go if something in the event description catches their eye. This especially applies if attending the event will cost money.

Luckily for me, the timing of my sudden inspiration worked out perfectly: the reboot of Gilmore Girls was just around the corner, and fans were digging around for their old “Luke’s” mugs and dusting up on their Gilmore lingo. Being a bit of a GG-lover myself, I naturally wanted to show off my vast knowledge of the show. Knowing my friends did too, I incorporated the show into a pub quiz.

The next big step in organising any event is finding a date and a location that will ensure optimum attendance. The key, particularly in St Andrews, is to find a date that does not coincide with other bigger events, as clashing could have disastrous consequences for a new venture. I found that a Sunday worked best for me, as it generally does with pub quizzes; people tend to be more relaxed and more willing to sit around with a pint in their hands. Larger events like a Bop or karaoke would need to be during the week, when students would like to dance their uni frustrations away.

Locations can also present a problem. The Union is always a hassle, with the application process and stringent health and safety regulations. Fortunately, the town is full of pubs in every shape and size, and, of course, the Vic for a more club-like atmosphere. Make sure that the venue’s capacity matches your target size. Originally the GG pub quiz was meant to take place in the Whey Pat’s back room, but once interest increased and it became obvious that the space could not accommodate the number of potential attendees, I moved it to Brew Co.’s top floor. We still ran out of space, but we could at least fit in about 20 more people.

You want to be able to fit in as many people as possible, especially if you are fundraising. The best thing to do is to try to estimate the number of people you think will want to be involved (Facebook works well for this), and go from there. You also need to consider whether you are willing to rent a space or not. The Union, or any University facilities, are your best bet if you want a free space, but most pubs will also allow you to hire a room for free, especially if it is for a charitable cause.

So, now you have an event, a date, and a location. How do you get people there? As we live in the age of technology, the easiest way is through social media. Facebook events are simple and effective. Invite all your friends, and post to the various University pages and get your friends to share it on their own walls. Voila, your event is out there.

Although creating a Facebook event does spread the word around, it does not guarantee you attendees. Find entertaining things to post throughout the build-up to the event to keep the “maybe” or “interested” crowds go-ing. I continuously posted Gilmore Girls memes, had a countdown to the reboot, and opened up a few polls for banter.

Word of mouth also becomes a very effective tool in the week leading up to the event. Keep reminding people that it is happening, to the point of guilt-tripping your friends and flat-mates into coming.

What also works very well is finding an incentive for people to come. I offered gift cards to the St Andrews Waffle Co. as the prize for winning the quiz, as well as a lucky draw for a similar prize. This got the community involved by promoting a new business, and provided participants with some bang for their buck. Any event will benefit from adding a unique edge to participation. Before going all out with your promotions, you should consider every aspect of the event in anticipation of the launch. Setting up a business plan might be going overboard for some-thing as small as a pub quiz, but some form of structure can only improve the road leading up to the event.

Consider things like how much you are planning on charging for entrance, and whether participants would be willing to pay that much for what you are offering. Think about lighting, music, even microphones and speakers, if your event is of that nature. Do not plan on doing these things at the last minute, as they are the details that will usually determine the success of your night.

Lastly, have a rundown of how the evening is supposed to proceed, to make your own life a little easier. Next thing you know, it will be all over, and you will hope to never go through that drama again.


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