Setting Up an Event for Success

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Many of us are responsible for creating events for our programs: whether it’s a parent meeting, a student performance, or a family fun day. No matter what type of event you might be responsible for, there are a five simple things that you can do that help ensure you are setting up an event for a greater likelihood of success.

  1. Advertise Early

Scheduling in today’s society can be at best, complex—at worst, well, a nightmare. Families are often juggling multiple events and obligations every day. So, the earlier we can advertise about our event, the better. As soon as you’ve secured a date, prepare a flyer that goes home with your students and communicate it directly with your parents, via email or whatever other means you’ve set up. Make sure the information is hanging somewhere visibly where your families can see it when they enter your building. As the date gets closer, send out reminder flyers and emails.

  1. Consider the Environment

Considering the environment is probably our number one tip on every list we create, but it’s there for a reason—it’s such a powerful factor, and it is so often overlooked. Let’s say you are hosting a parent meeting. Is it clear what door your parents should enter? Is there someone at the door greeting them and pointing the way? When they enter the meeting room, is it bright and welcoming? Is there music playing? Are any relevant materials easily accessible? Are there enough chairs set out? Have you considered any “extras” you can offer your attendees—water or coffee? Snacks?

  1. Pre-Prepare: Think It Through

Let’s use the parent meeting example again. How much have you prepared the agenda? Do you have a loose list of talking points on a post-it note, or have you sat down and plotted out a rich schedule? If it’s a student event, have you written out your opening remarks or are you just planning to wing it? Did you remember to start by introducing yourself? If your event lasts an hour, have you made sure that your time management is on track? Have you made sure that every moment of the event is thought out so that it does not feel like wasted time for our already-busy families? Have you considered things that might interfere with the event, from impending weather to an unexpected traffic jam to a sports event that many might want to watch? “What Else?” are two words that you should be continually asking yourself, to make sure you’ve thought through as much as possible.  

  1. Be Surprising

What can you do to make your event a breath of fresh air for your attendees rather than just another thing they have to trudge through? Can you get some swag donated from a local business? A post it note or water bottle or stress ball that everyone can receive? Can you get a larger donation that you raffle off at the end, like a gift certificate to Costco or a local grocery? Could you include a student speaker or performance? In other words, what could you do that would make your parents say “Wow—I’m definitely coming to any event these guys host.”?

  1. End Strong

If it’s a parent meeting, make sure your meeting not only ends on time but that it ends with a recap of what was discussed and action steps for what’s next. Then, follow up with an email additionally recapping what was discussed and decided. If it was a student performance, end with appreciation for the students who performed, the volunteers who worked to make it happen, and the parents who attended. Then follow up with some pictures of the performance sent to the parents and showcased at your site. If it was a parent enrichment workshop, email them any relevant materials and resources that might continue their learning once the session is over. Beginnings are important, middles are crucial, but endings—endings are what determine how your families will feel and remember about the event that just occurred. How do you want them to feel?

Intentional and thoughtful planning will dramatically increase the success of any event you are planning, no matter how big or small. What would you add? What tips and tricks have worked for you? Share your best practices with us in the comments below or

Still struggling? Voice that frustration below! We’re here and happy to problem solve with you.



"Setting Up an Event for Success", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2016


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.