Events - a bit of planning will go a long way

Wellington Dragon Boat Festival

Events is a broad term that could mean something as simple as switching on the Christmas tree lights right up to a full-on festival involving thousands.

Events can be the responsibility of a local business association or could be delivered by the local shopping centre or by a professional event company. They can also involve a wide showcase of people – volunteers, council staff, contractors or just you!! Some have huge budgets and others are delivered on a wing and a prayer.
But whatever kind of event is planned, how can you be sure that the event will deliver the value that you need? However funded, events can be a real burden on financial and human resources without always being able to demonstrate tangible returns on investment.

We know that they can create a “feel-good factor,” but how long does this last, how do you as event organisers measure this and how does that translate into more sales for businesses that are in town 365 days per year?
What is often overlooked, right from the start, is to establish the purpose and desired outcomes of an event. If you don’t know what you are setting out to achieve, how will you know if an event is a success or not?
Equally important is understanding whether our town and city centres can be sustainable without events. Fundamentally, events draw people to them, they are a destination in their own right, and when they take place at the centres of our communities, they are footfall and sales generators for nearby businesses (provided those businesses choose to take advantage of the opportunity offered to them!).
For many places, the retail offer alone is not sufficient to draw visitors into a centre, especially with online, out of town and city centre retail offering such compelling reasons to go elsewhere. But events provide an opportunity for centres to compete with alternative destinations, often drawing in first-time visitors, people from a wider catchment area and local residents who have become disassociated with their place.

So if we agree that event in towns and city centres are important, how can we be sure that they are sustainable? We feel that they can be with a little entrepreneurial spirit – something Kiwis have in spades....
Sponsorship opportunities abound, as do other routes to commercialisation – something we are only too aware of – and any income that events draw in can and should be reinvested into ensuring that future events are more sustainable, more effective and more colourful than previous ones.
With any project, evaluation and measurement will demonstrate an event’s success and therefore sustainability. It is increasingly straightforward to monitor footfall during events (this is only one part of the jigsaw) and this can be used as a benchmark. Both qualitative and quantitative feedback is essential and, again, is easier than ever to compile: but without doing this, or having an anticipated measure of success beforehand, you won’t know if any events you put on are either successful or sustainable.
(parts of the article provided by Alison Bowcott-McGrath,2017)