Planning Your Next Public Event: Pre-Event

by: Susan Auchterlonie, Senior Communications Consultant

There can be a lot of moving parts when it comes to public engagement – but the rubber really hits the road when you’re creating an event where you are asking the community to participate.

The events we coordinate at ZINC range from “Inform” to “Involve” on the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation. From traditional open houses to tours, presentations, community forums, and engagement exercises to celebrations of completed projects, the primary intent is always to provide stakeholders and the public with up-to-date and accurate information about the project or program, and give them an opportunity to ask their questions and be heard.

Over the years, we’ve learned that event planning isn’t necessarily complicated, but it does require strong attention to detail and follow-through. One fact that holds true consistently is that the success of an event directly corresponds to the quality of work completed before-hand.

A good first step when planning an event is to kick your strategic brain on, put pen to paper, and draft up an event master plan. This plan acts as a guiding resource as weeks progress, and allows everyone involved – clients, colleagues and suppliers – to have a clear understanding of tasks and responsibilities. This plan should include logistical details, goals and messages for the event, promotional plans and a detailed day-of schedule.

So, with your plan in hand what are our top three “don’t forgets” when it comes to event planning?


These people may be busy and have lots of pressure on schedules. If they’re critical to your event, don’t assume an unanswered message has been read. Confirm.


While presentations and display boards are a key focus, make sure the smaller bits are ready too. We’re talking everything from sign-in sheets and feedback forms to directional signage. Nothing’s too small for the list.


While this event is circled in red on your calendar, others may need an extra boost. Personal invites and reminders go a long way to getting people out.

Now, you’ve reserved a venue, finalized timing, crafted a strong message and the message is out – people have clicked “attending” on the Facebook event, they’ve heard the radio ad or received their invitation – and RSVPs are rolling in. So, what’s next? There is still a lot to do in the days right before an event, on event delivery day and of course, post-event. We’ve put together part two of Planning Your Next Public Event with details on important steps for these critical days. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to read on, and bring your event planning strategy full-circle.

What do you ZINC about this pre-event planning checklist? Send us a note at with your thoughts/ideas.