The Life of an Event

A book event in 8 steps, featuring ‘The Life of a Book: with 404 Ink and Chris McQueer

Written by Kirsten Knight

Much in the way that a book can require months of writing and production to produce a living, breathing novel, events are also a painstaking process which mercilessly drain morale and resources. I’m kidding, I promise. Putting an event together is an absolute joy. The aim of the enterprise is to gather a group of like-minded (in this case, lovely and bookish) people together, and entertain, inform, perhaps even enthral them. In this wee piece, I will outline the process of creating an event using the framework of our recent event ‘The Life of a Book’. I hope that it entertains, informs, and perhaps even enthrals you.

The Life of a Book Event - people at the event

The Idea

Who is your audience and what do they want to see? These are the most important considerations to make and will ensure that anyone who comes along will have a grand old time. For ‘The Life of a Book’, we wanted to give our members the chance to hear from real-life industry professionals, giving an accessible overview of the process of bringing a book to life. From there, the decision to have a publisher and their author was a no-brainer, to specifically have 404 Ink and Chris McQueer even more so. Choose the people who are at the heart of the concept you want to put on stage.

Find Some Funding

There is so much funding available for events run by very determined people! Especially if you are a university society, like us. Knowing that this event was going to have more costs than our usual ‘pens and paper for the writing workshop’, we scoured the Student’s Association website for a fund to suit us. We found out that our event could be part of the Festival of Creative Learning, and through our enthusiasm and a clear plan, we secured enough funding to bring our wonderful speakers to the stage. Thank you FCL! (A shout out to your sponsors never hurts).

The Life of a Book - Panel

Contacting Speakers

You are the politely worded email, the politely worded email is you. In our case, we were contacting experts who we had a fairly distant connection with, so professionalism and enthusiasm were key. In much the same vein as emailing to ask for a job or internship: find out the name of the person you are emailing, be clear and give them as much information as possible (the date, the event outline, what you will pay them, etc.), show a genuine interest in what they do (you obviously have one!), and tell them a bit about your organisation and what your members will get from the event. If people know that you would value their contribution, they will be a whole lot more likely to say yes.

Venue

This one can be tricky. The best way to go about things is to figure out exactly what you want and find somewhere that caters for your requirements. We needed a stage, four microphones, and seating for around 80 people. A bit of Googling showed that the Pleasance Cabaret Bar had all of those things, so there we were! It’s good to be looking into the venue at least 2 months before the event, just to save yourself running around town like a headless chicken and eventually trying to squeeze 60 people into the corner of St. Andrews Brewing Co. Not that we would know.

Publicity

Pester your designer friend to make you a fancy banner for your event and you are off! Alternatively, pay a professional designer, or wap out Paint and give it a go yourself. We shared ‘The Life of a Book’ fairly relentlessly through our newsletter, Facebook and Twitter, increasing the frequency of the posts in the lead up to the event to drum up a bit of excitement. Getting wee bios and pictures from your speakers/performers is a great way to put some variety in what you’re posting, and always remember to tag them – they might even share the post so you can reach a wider audience!

Liaising

Make sure to keep your speakers/performers updated in the run up to your event – the last thing you want is them panicking, because then you’ll panic, and then everyone will be panicking and no one wants that. We made sure to send over updates on the content of the event, venue confirmations, information about invoicing us and any other relevant details. Keeping it cheery is always a good shout – you’re excited about the event and they should know that!

Running the Event

This is (hopefully) the easy bit. You’ve already planned it, after all! Get to the venue ridiculously early because twiddling your thumbs is always better than sprinting around like mad people (again, not that we would know). Welcome your speakers, check in with them, get them a glass of water… or perhaps a double gin and tonic, depending on the evening. Then nervously wait for that ‘2 minutes before start time’ rush of attendees, and you are good to go! At ‘The Life of a Book’, this was the point where the committee was able to sit back, relax, and watch our wonderful speakers do their thing.

The Aftermath

Be sure to thank everyone! Thank your speakers, your fellow organisers, the attendees, the bar staff, the tech guy, the person who accidentally wandered in and quickly ran back out – no person shall go unthanked! And gather feedback; a concise Google form does wonders for letting you know what your audience enjoyed, and what they’d like to see. Follow up on all the last wee things with your speakers and venue – i.e. payment, and more thank yous! Then get prepping for your next event, because chances are it’s only a couple of weeks away and you need to get sprinting (we would know).

The Life of a Book - Committee Group Photo

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