Events: Planning

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Jo Cunningham: Think about the kind of event it’s going to be. Are we going to employ a freelancer to help us run the event? Or is it something we can do from our own resources? So we would think about that. We would think about what the budget would be, what the materials might be that we need, and then we would have start thinking about promoting it to the right people.
Jenny Beale: For every exhibition we have an interpretation plan and an audience plan so we’re thinking about which audiences will engage in different ways, so we might organise tours and talks for adult audiences, and then for family groups it might be more artist-led workshops. So this time with it being such a focussed group it’s trying to build those relationships with those audiences that perhaps weren’t quite as strong as they could have been beforehand. So that presents challenges with timescales because obviously when you’re working with new groups you’re wanting to build up those relationships over time and with an exhibition run you only have two to three months to do that.
Doris Pearce: I try to pencil out my events up to a year in advance so that you’ve got time to remember things you’ve forgotten and for big scale events you I’d probably start trying to pin things down six months in advance so you’ve got time to invite people, have them reject your invitation, invite the second rain of people and get them to say yes. You’ve got time to generate copy, you’ve got time to talk to the curators. I mean, I think what’s really important about the adult programmes and the learning programmes in general is that we’ve got the support of the institution behind us. We don’t want to do anything that would antagonise any of the curators or the front of house staff. We want it to be positive for the whole gallery. So, giving yourself a good six months is a really good idea. Obviously is doesn’t always work like that. But yeah, we do six months in advance so you’ve got enough time to invite people, think about the balance of the night – so you want some talk, you want some music, and you want a bit of engagement as well.
Rachel Moss: So, for example, we’re doing a dance project in the summer and I’ve been talking to, for example the curator of the room, also I’ve been talking to visitor services, I’ve been talking to conservation, around if we’ve got people dancing in there in terms of how that will work. So, there’s lots of people to talk to in terms of particular spaces in the gallery. But for me it’s about starting with the artwork itself and being involved earlier in conversations around display is always really helpful.
Doris Pearce: We are the National Portrait Gallery so I feel we have to respond to the breadth of the nation, if you like. So, I’ll look at a drop in, short events where you don’t have to invest a lot of time or energy into accessing it, to more academic lectures and I work with curators and other external parties to put on three day conferences, so, we’re looking at pleasing the whole of the audience with a whole range of events.
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Organising is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.

A.A. Milne, Author

Organising an event requires creativity and audience specialism. You need to understand your audience. You need to know what they like, what they do in their free time, what they’re interested in. You need to work as part of a team, organising events that respond to exhibitions and the collection and offer different audiences exciting, interesting and engaging ways to participate. The gallery space is like a classroom with paintings and objects all around you to inspire you. What event would you organise to animate them and make them come alive?

What do you want to achieve?

  • What is your key objective?
  • What is the exhibition about that you’re planning an event for?
  • Who will manage the budget?
  • Who will write an event schedule?
  • How many people do you want to attract?
  • How will you ensure effective communication between you, the performers and the venue?
  • How will you ensure deadlines are met?
  • Think about what might possibly go wrong and how you will manage it?

Who do you want the event to appeal to?

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How could you find out what they would be interested in?

Who will you work with to ensure the event is successful?

  • How will you organise the logistics of the event if you need seating, sound or lighting?
  • How will you look after the performers? How will you ensure they have rehearsed and know the space?
  • Will you charge for entry? How will you monitor ticket sales?
  • Who do you need to speak to, to ensure the exhibition space is safe during the performance?

How will you know if your event has been a success?

  • How will you get audience feedback?
  • How will you document the event to provide content for the event report?