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Marketing your library – Instalment 7

Welcome to the big show: hosting an event!

If you've ever seen Giada DeLaurentiis's Behind the Bash on the Food Network you already know that hosting a gala event is a monumental undertaking. The coordination that goes into every little detail is simply amazing. While a library may not host the kinds of extravaganzas Giada gets to attend, you will still have the opportunity to show off your party skills! A library is a fantastic setting for all kinds of events from receptions to lecture series to library association meetings. Whatever type of event you host there are some key things to help you get your party off without a hitch. Let's consider the most challenging scenario possible: your director has offered to host a statewide meeting of librarians and asks you, since you have become a marketing guru, to coordinate the whole affair. Let's use a group of government documents librarians as an example.

Gathering intelligence

The first thing you will want to do is get in contact with the person in charge of the meeting itself. Find out how many people to expect, their date preference, the meeting schedule and what equipment and supplies they'll need. Armed with that information, you can begin to set things in motion. Hopefully, the library has adequate space to hold the number of people involved, the space is available on the very day the group wants to come, and you have the equipment needed. If so, reserve the room as soon as you can and don't be afraid to ask for a written confirmation! If you need to go outside your library such as to another city, school or private facility, then most certainly get a written confirmation. Keep in mind that the arrangements are a negotiation. If the group wants something that your library doesn't have, can't do or is unreasonable, don't be afraid to say "we can't do that, but we can do this". And, since the director in our example offered to host the event, be sure and keep her in the loop.

Putting things into motion

Once the place and date are confirmed, you can proceed. You know who is coming, what they need and when they need it. You will want to work with your contact person to create information for the attendees. Think about what you'd find helpful if you were going to a strange new town and library. A web page with directions to the library, hotels and restaurants is always a good idea. Parking information is also welcomed. I also recommend having people register for the day, even if the meeting is free. By having folks register, you can estimate how many handouts, name tags, etc. to make. Next, if it is an all-day meeting, you will want to see about getting those folks some food. Check with your contact person to see what sort of food they have in mind. Lunch is generally included in a registration fee or is "on your own" in town. Make sure you and your contact person have talked over lunch plans and who pays. Since your director offered to host the meeting, ask her if the library can spring for snacks. For an all-day meeting think in terms of breakfast foods like doughnuts, pastries, and fruit as well as an afternoon snack of cookies, crackers and sodas. If you have ordered food, make sure you get a confirmation and call them a couple of days before the event to make sure everything is still on track and they know where to go and what time to be there. (Tip: if you have ordered food from a restaurant, do not call them to confirm during peak hours!)

Event day!

On the day of the big event, make sure you get there early. If you haven't already put out direction signs, you can do that. Make sure the people in the library who answer the phone have the directions you distributed to attendees and know where the meeting is being held. Make sure to have all your paperwork with you so you'll be ready if there are any questions about the room or food, etc. A nice touch is to have people from your library lead groups to the different lunch spots around town. Another idea is to print out a few menus for people to look at during breaks or create a list of lunch places with short descriptions. Stay close by in case anyone needs anything or has any questions. Once the meeting adjourns, give yourself a big pat on the back! You've just successfully hosted a state-wide meeting!

More ideas

  • Reserve the room early and extend the time of the meeting. For instance, if the meeting begins at nine in the morning and ends at four, reserve the room from eight until five.
  • Consider asking local restaurants to donate food for the event in exchange for some publicity. You might be able to get a free afternoon snack in exchange for recommending their place for lunch.
  • Used themed name tags and decorations. For a government documents group, for instance, use the GPO logo and red, white and blue napkins.
  • Always have a back-up plan. Have someone standing by to run to a grocery store in case the food doesn't show. Have a back-up space in mind just in case.
  • Ask for help. Get your colleagues and your director to help.
  • Make sure to tell people where the bathrooms are!

Check out Nancy Dowd's library marketing blog, "The 'M' word: A blog designed to bring the wonderful world of marketing to librarians".