Leading the Nation

Planning Your Event(s)

Some districts might find it easy to pull together a relatively small Leading the Nation-related event or initiative. If you're willing to do a larger event or series of events, this step-by-step guide can help.

Planning a community event with the help of a committee requires strategic thinking. The steps outlined below will help streamline your efforts and help you build lasting community relationships.

Build your planning team carefully

Forming a cohesive, effective planning team takes legwork before calling the full group together. Have a strategic discussion with colleagues in your district, school, or organization to help you form a planning team and prepare for the first meeting.

  • Select a district point-person to lead the planning process, recruit planning team members, network with the community, and possibly serve as overall spokesperson for the ongoing work.
  • Identify whom to invite to join your planning team. Include school staff, students, and community members; include diversity on your team.
  • Determine the roles of planning team members and how you will communicate them.
  • Develop a tentative timeline. Although the planning team will have the final say on the timeline, a rough estimate helps prospective team members know what their commitment would be.
  • Set an agenda for the first meeting and send it to all prospective planning team members at lease one week before your first meeting.

Meeting 1: Introducing the idea and laying the groundwork

Your first meeting should focus on the goals of the local event and getting the committee to agree on basic issues.

Meeting 1 Goals

  • Ensure that all planning committee members understand the purpose of the event, their roles in the process and what is expected of them.
  • Discuss tentative date, time, and place.
  • Decide strategy for generating an invitation list.
  • Identify host, key presenters, media strategies, etc.

Essential Action Items

  • Briefly outline the nature and format of your event and highlight its major themes/messages.
  • Propose an event timeline and alter it as necessary to suit the needs of planning team members.
  • Choose an event location that makes the most people feel comfortable. Consider logistical issues such as accessibility, public transportation, and parking.
  • Decide whom you want at your event and the best methods for reaching them. Be sure to identify important people in the community who might not hold official positions of leadership but whose opinions matter. Assign a team member to generate a mailing list for invitations.
  • Identify hosts, key presenters, etc. for the event and assign team members to engage these people.
  • Identify media opportunities and formulate ideas for press outreach.
  • Set up/agree upon the next times for the rest of the planning meetings.

Meeting 2: Shaping the content and structure of the event

Shape the event and finalize logistical details. Reemphasize the goals of the event.

Meeting 2 Goals

  • Finalize time, date, and place.
  • Propose the agenda for the event.
  • Raise all logistical questions and assign their solutions to members.
  • Create a plan for publicizing the event.

Essential Action Items

  • Shape the tone of the event by explaining its focus on the achievements of public schools and their students.
  • Those who took on tasks report back to the team.
  • Make final decisions on the time, date, and location of the event.
  • Propose an agenda for the event and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Raise logistical questions and assign their solutions to team members. Consider audio and video equipment, food, and other issues that may take time to resolve. Think about what your community can offer free meeting space, donated food, event sponsorship, video equipment, etc. College partners, nonprofits, and other institutions may have public relations professionals who can help you with publicity.
  • Create a plan for ensuring strong community participation. Publicize the fact that this is a unique opportunity to show people locally and more widely that all students can succeed in school, graduate, and go on to college or a career. Announce any special guests or community leaders who have been invited.
  • Consider hosting a reception with refreshments before or after the event. Feature students, special guests, community leaders, local journalists, etc.
  • Think about what would make it difficult for people to attend, and then solve those problems. Consider transportation, work schedules, carpools, the need for reminders (calls and emails), directions, and child care.
  • Invite participants and confirm key presenters.
  • Think about any signs you may need. These can include banners to hang behind a podium, directional signs, poster-board signs on easels, etc.

Meeting 3: Finalizing logistics

By the time this meeting ends, tie up all loose ends and ensure that all planning team members are clear on their roles for the day of the event.

Meeting 3 Goals

  • Arrange and confirm all logistics.
  • Make sure the host and key presenters are prepared and ready.
  • Finalize the agenda, discussion questions, and activities for the event.
  • Make sure press materials are ready to be delivered.

Essential Action Items

  • Team members report on logistical tasks for which they are responsible.
  • Prepare materials you will have on site.
  • Assign final details, such as preparing name tags, event signs, evaluation forms, and participant lists, to team members.
  • Finalize audio and video equipment and have cameras on hand to document the event.
  • Decide who will arrive at the event early to set up the room and greet guests and key presenters.
  • Make final decisions with the host and key presenters to finalize the agenda and event activities and ensure familiarity with all the issues.
  • Review the press materials prepared by planning team members. Make appropriate changes and determine how to disseminate the information.

Meeting 4: Wrap up, review, and setting the stage for next year

After your event, the planning team meets to talk about how the event went. Also use this meeting to publicize the event further, solidify new partnerships, and examine the possibility of future collaborations.

Meeting 4 Goals

  • Review and summarize evaluations and reach agreement on the possibility of future projects.
  • Thank special guests and donors.
  • Plan post-event publicity.

Essential Action Items

  • Review the evaluations gathered from participants and guests at the event. Discuss common themes and summarize the results. If future projects have been proposed, make concrete plans for starting discussions about them, including strategies for bringing in new audiences.
  • Assign team members to thank special guests and community organizations that donated space, food, or logistical help. Send handwritten cards/notes.
  • Review press releases and photos from the event. Determine who will contact the media to encourage post-event coverage.
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