How can you make the most of your author event? Jo James of Hand Held Events shares some advice
Condensing event organisation into a handful of tips is an almost impossible task. So much of the work boils down to experience and keeping a calm head when all about you are panicking. But as a basic guide, here are five points.
1 Be kind to EVERYONE, no matter who they are
You never know when you might need them. Make sure you offer thanks and encouragement to everyone involved in your event, from those cleaning the toilets to those standing on stage. Saying thank you costs nothing and can make the world of difference to someone’s day. Show concern for how they are—in terms of workload, stress, nerves etc—and put yourself in their shoes.
2 Treat everyone the same, from debut authors to superstars
There are some people out there who believe that by being imperious and demanding they are asserting their superiority. Be polite, but don’t let yourself be intimidated. If someone is rude or demanding, just remember that it’s not personal and rise above it.
3 Triple check the stock
Check that there are enough books for your event, that they are not damaged—and that it’s the right title. All three things can go wrong, and all are avoidable. Make sure you have stock on hand, or have ordered it from your printer or distributor early enough to correct any mistakes should they arise. Make sure your author knows which book they are due to speak about. It has been known for an author to prep for the wrong title.
4 Do as much marketing as you can
This means a lot of social media, but remember you don’t need to do it all yourself. Get your authors involved too. Use their contacts, websites and Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts as well as your own. Build a mailing list for events and keep it up to date. See if you can get your authors or yourself in the local media—online, on the radio or in print.
5 Double check all the logistics
Make sure you have confirmed all the event details with your authors, suppliers and event hosts at least twice. Never assume that telling anyone anything once is enough: it won’t be. Remember that people don’t really read the small print, and often they don’t read the large print either. So keep information as concise as you can, while making the really vital information—about time and place etc—very clear.
BONUS POINT: Remember that every event begins and ends in toilets
Are there enough, are they working, is there toilet roll, have they been cleaned and do they smell OK?
Hand Held Events has more than 50 years of experience of event planning—Lyndy Cooke was managing director of the Hay Festival for 15 years; Jo James has been running events in bookshops and various festivals for the last 25 years; and Paul Blezard has been moderating and curating events for the last 17 years—and between us we have probably dealt with just about every situation that can possibly arise at an event, both good and bad. We have all learned that to be a good event organiser you need to thrive on stress and adrenalin. You need to be able to stay calm—especially when with your author—and to instil an air of confidence and authority in those around you, even when you’re winging it. Then you need to be happy to stand back and let the stars of the show, the authors, shine. That’s the best bit. And don’t forget to enjoy it: if you do, everyone else will!
Hand Held Events is a new cultural events and festival consultancy founded by Jo James, Lyndy Cooke and Paul Blezard. Find out more about its work on its website.