It’s all in the details

Martha Mberu

My work at Advocacy Accelerator involves developing trainings, planning for them and making sure it all goes well. I never imagined that this would be part of my career path. My ‘baby’ as we call it here, is the Resource Mobilisation Training. Resource mobilisation is the activities involved in securing new and additional resources for your organization. It also involves making better use of, and maximizing, existing resources.

It’s been an interesting journey, setting up the training in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Senegal for over 60 participants. My first training was in Uganda, I was so nervous! I had never planned such a training before, where I had to book hotels, conference rooms and flights, make sure the class was full and registration payments were done. Believe me when I tell you, checklists are life! It made everything so much easier.

We got 23 participants in Uganda which was amazing. Now the real work was replicating the work in the other three countries. One thing you learn setting up trainings across several countries is that each country has its way of doing things. You learn to deal with different systems and characters. The hardest was Senegal. The people were quite helpful but the language barrier was a major issue. My French is at best basic; this meant that a lot of the conversations were a challenge. Somehow, we managed to communicate and pull of our first training in Francophone West Africa!

Logistics is a challenging task, and most times you end up forgetting a few things! So here are a few pointers you can use to make the process a bit smoother:

1.Budget

You need to know how much money you have so you can know what to spend it on. How will the event be funded? If it will be funded through registration costs, establish the total cost of the event before registration prices. Remember to set prices that are reasonable for the region and your target audience. You do not want participants not showing up because of the cost.

2. Dates

So we had an experience where we scheduled a training during a public holiday! We completely forgot that for that country, the holiday is usually declared a day or two before. So we had to move the training, notify participants who had paid and booked flights and accommodation- it was a mess! Look at websites to see if there are any public holidays or events or conferences that may clash with your event.

3. Work plan

To pull off any event, you need a team. And your colleagues/event stakeholders/sponsors are the ones who will help you. Make a list of what needs to be done, by when and by whom. This will help keep people accountable and set realistic goals for the workload. If the event is to happen in different countries, ensure you have contact persons in each country who can help you plan.

4. Invitations

So depending on the size of your training, these will need to go out early. Preferably, 3 months earlier. Organisations plan in advance how they will spend their money, if you want them to attend, you have to do it early. Make sure the invitations are appropriate and give highlights of the event.

5. Marketing/Advertising

From my experience last year, market your event at least 3 months prior! It saves you the hassle of following up individuals and begging them to attend.

6. Venue

So whichever venue options you have, please do a site visit! Take into account size, lighting, space for other activities if there will be group work, security, parking space, is it comfortable, IT requirements, AV equipment, electric outlets, room set-up, signage….you need to take all of these into account.

7. Staffing of event

Make sure you have staff who will greet guests and ensure that materials such as promotional material, programmes, registration forms, badges, consent forms to capture images and videos and is available to assist participants as needed. Make your facilitators/trainers/speakers have all materials ready in good time and have an opportunity to see the venue.

8. Social Media

If no one knows about it, it didn’t happen! Social media is a powerful tool that can help get the word out on what you are doing at your organisation. Take lots of photos, get quotes, and have your hashtags ready. It helps if you have someone to assist with this, before, during and after the event.

9. After the event

Once your successful event is over, there are a few things you need to do. Update your guest list so you can send them thank you cards/emails later. Return any promotion material and equipment you used during the event. Make sure that all payments and invoices have been completed, you don’t want vendors knocking on your door for their money. Finally, hold a debrief meeting, soon after the event. Discuss how the event went, want needs to be improved and follow up on any issues that arose.

Lastly, you need to find out how your event went. The best people to ask would be those who attended it. You can have them fill in evaluation forms before they leave the venue or set up a simple online survey and send it with a thank you note.

It’s not an exhaustive list but I hope it’ll help you as you plan your next event. Feel free to share with us any helpful tips you may have.

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