festival planning series: window glass wall light art installation for public arts festival

One Week Out: A Festival Planner’s To-Do List

Alyssa Perna has over a decade of event operations experience for leading multinational business-to-business conferences, festivals and trade shows, press conferences, large-scale fundraisers, complex social events, and more. She is the founder of Experience Events, the Managing Director of Ingenuity Cleveland, and the lead instructor (and tutor!) for QC’s Corporate Event Planning Course. This is Part 2 of the Festival Planning series documenting Alyssa’s experience planning IngenuityFest! If you missed Part 1: How to Plan a Large Festival in 1 Year, click here!

We’re less than one week out from IngenuityFest, and as you can imagine, it’s crazy busy! I spent both Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend working. I was mostly pitching-in and helping to prepare the festival footprint for game time.

The Marketing Manager has been stuck at the office with our graphic designer. They’re working hard to confirm final signage and put the finishing touches on the printed program books and maps for festival-goers. They need to go to the printer as soon as possible.

honeycomb light up tiles at arts festival

The Artistic Director has been running around the festival site coordinating artist installations. They’ve also been walking the grounds to make sure that all of the vendors and exhibits will fit within their assigned spaces. The Artistic Director was also finishing the CAD drawings (computer-aided design) for each festival village. These layout plans ultimately need to go to the City of Cleveland and the Fire Department ahead of the event.

There is no shortage of things to do, and every hour is precious.

Beyond this, there are some tasks you can only do the week prior to the festival. Keep reading for a brief list of tasks you’ll need to set aside time for.

Familiarize volunteers and staff with their roles

Key staff and volunteers must be prepared for their role on the day-of. For example, we hosted a volunteer training session where we reviewed the festival’s history, safety and security, how to escalate issues to higher ups, and various roles and responsibilities. We also made sure everyone had a walkthrough of the festival footprint so they feel comfortable navigating the space.

Send final reminders to vendors regarding logistics

Over the past six months, we’ve booked vendors, musicians, exhibitors, theatrical performances, food trucks, and beyond. At the time, we communicated general logistical information to them. This included festival dates (and opening hours), a rough set-up time, and we answered commonly-asked questions.

food truck catering organized by festival planner

A few weeks out from the festival, we sent out a comprehensive email with logistical details about the event. We outlined load-in/out times, parking information, primary point-of-contact information, and many more details. The goal is to ensure our vendors feel prepared for their arrival onsite. We marked each vendor/exhibitor space with their name and booth number so they could easily find their space.

Throughout the week, I’ve made many phone calls to check up on orders, from the ice delivery to the Coca Cola beverage delivery to the largest amount of alcohol I’ve ever ordered. We needed to confirm that the vendors’ delivery times matched up with our schedule.

Lastly, for those last-minute sponsors and VIP’s, we distributed tickets and event information with a personalized touch.

Arrange signage displays

Next on my to-do list is placing the high number of signs we have in the perfect locations. Here are just some of the signs we still need to put up:

  • Handful of large banners
  • Artist installation signs
  • Festival village schedule of activities
  • Stage schedules

The final marketing push

radio personality advertising community festival event

Marketing really ramps up in the final days before the big festival. Our radio ads are playing across Northeast Ohio. We have many television interviews scheduled for the coming week. We’ve already distributed 35,000 postcards have been distributed. We’ve issued print ads in publications across our region. And we’re promoting the event on social media like crazy.

With one week left, our marketing is full speed ahead and is about as robust as I’ve seen. Especially since attendees don’t have to buy advanced tickets to attend. We are relying on the marketing strategy to bring in foot traffic.

What’s next?

Tomorrow we have a group of volunteers from Dominion Energy visiting our festival footprint to fill in potholes, spread out gravel, build accessibility ramps, sweep and paint. A contractor is coming to weed the grounds, and I’ve also repainted some of our stairwells to accommodate the site for those with disabilities.

Many of the deliveries I ordered will come in over the next couple of days. On top of everything else, we also need to receive all the festival operational equipment. This includes freezers to store ice for the bars, radios to communicate with the team, and iPads to take payments at the merchandise counters, bars, and entry gates.

We have a final festival operations meeting with festival leaders coming up. We will firm up and review roles and responsibilities as well as finalize the on-site logistics strategy. If we’ve forgotten any equipment, we’ll make a few final shopping trips.

stage set up adjusting performance lights for musical performance at a festival event planner

There are so many moving pieces and parts of festival planning. If it weren’t for our amazing contractors, vendors, and volunteers, this festival wouldn’t be possible. I’m sure the ramp-up throughout the rest of this week will be even crazier, but it’s all in good fun. This is exactly why I decided to go to event planning!

Have you ever attended a poorly-planned festival? What could have been improved? Let us know in a comment!

Hidden and unexpected costs can quickly drain your event budget. Learn how to deal with these 7 event budget busters and become a better event planner!

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