‘We should make a fortune’

How do you go about organising your first event? What better than asking someone who’s been there, done it and got the T-shirt – in this case, Andy Cotton, founder of TAO Productions, one of the most respected companies in the events business

‘We should make a fortune’……these famous last words come from a lot of people who are new to event producing! If you’re looking at planning one of your first events whether it’s a party, festival or exhibition, the very first thing that needs to be looked at is a draft budget, whether that’s for a public or private event.

When budgets are set against the numbers of tickets that may be sold, a good rule of thumb is that the break-even should be around 65% - 75% of capacity at a smaller event.

So, the budget makes sense: now do we need a licence for our event? Will the event need a full licence under the Licensing Act 2003, or if it’s a music event, is it exempt through the changes made by the Live Music Act 2012? Either way, it is important at the early stages to assess the need for a licence and any costs that this may incur.

I need to now look at my plan for the event. Whatever the event, like everything else, there is a life-cycle. Like everything in life, there is conception, birth, life and death. With an event there are plans, the build, the event and then the de-rig.

The planning should look at everything from medical needs to traffic management; suppliers to structures; staffing to noise nuisance. It is always sensible at the early planning stage to appoint where possible your main contractors, as their advice and knowledge may save you many a sleepless night.

A team of good contractors can give you their experience and knowledge, and work together to make for a safe and successful event. When selecting them, personal knowledge is a great thing, but always ask for references, insurances, health and safety paperwork and terms. Remember, one day you may have to prove you have used your due diligence to employ competent contractors.

Whilst all this is going on, if this is a public event, do not forget that your event should not be the best-kept secret in the events industry. The marketing of any event is one of the most important things you will ever have to do. If people do not know an event is on they can’t come and support it!

This may seem obvious, but advertising and marketing is a skill in its own right.

As the event approaches the build phase, remember the need for the event not only to be a financial or business success, but to also be safe - not only for the attendees, but also all of the people working on the event in all the different functions, whether contractors, volunteers or employees.

In all the planning, there will be some consideration for contingency plans. However, as you start to build an event, especially an outdoor event, the great British weather can come into play! Adverse weather can put massive strain on crews, safety and equipment, and it can also affect the audience or attendees’ travel plans or even their desire to attend. It may be an idea to get your tickets for a public event sold early, therefore not leaving your audience numbers being adversely affected by bad weather.

With all the planning done and good contractors in place, your event is built and happening; the attendees have arrived, and all of the outside agencies you have been discussing the event with are happy.

As the event moves forward, you need to have regular update meetings with outside agencies and your senior personnel, but never forget that you are the boss if you have planned and are running an event - ultimately you are responsible for the decisions taken.

So, the event is over and the guests have left; everyone wants to go home or move on to the next event. All of your suppliers are working at the same time to get out, as opposed to nicely scheduled on the way in! This is probably one of the most dangerous periods of any event. Don’t rush, manage the ‘out’ safely and don’t spoil a great event with an accident on the last leg!