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Hosting an Event

Develop Your Idea

To transform your idea from vision to reality, start by communicating with community members. Find people who share your passion and can become part of your team. Develop a vision statement that reflects the purpose and value of your event, as well as a mission statement that identifies strategies for achieving your goal.

Establish Your Team

There are many aspects to events/festivals, so you will need a diverse team to support you and increase chances for success. You may be able to partner with community members to form a committee, appointing key members such as a chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer.

Together, you and your team will oversee the entire event. There are some important functions that you may want to assign to particular members, such as:

  • Financial Management – Insurance/risk management; finance; invoices; paying contractors, suppliers and performers; gate and box office; and collecting vendor fees.
    • Fundraising – Applying for grants, seeking corporate sponsorship, and conducting fundraising activities.
    • Sponsorship – Compiling a potential sponsor/donor list, preparing letters of invitation, and determining levels of sponsorships and recognition. You can find ideas for sponsorships online.
  • Media and Promotion/Marketing – Internet (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email lists, websites, etc.), radio, newspapers and posters.
  • Programming –Scheduling, contracting and site planning.
    • Entertainment and activities – Performances, guest speakers, and any props or materials.
    • Planning and logistics – Ensuring technical knowledge, bathrooms, map production, parking, audience flow, venue stability, security, first aid, emergency procedures, a contingency plan and site risk assessment.
  • Volunteers – Draw up a plan detailing position descriptions, orientation, training, recruitment, screening/interviewing, supervision and recognition. You can’t have too many volunteers! Team up with key community organizations that can help and are keen to do so. Consider the reasons people volunteer, and what makes them come back for future events.
  • Event Safety and Risk Management


Key details to consider:

  • What do you need to make your event happen?
  • Who, what, when, where, why and how? Answer these questions in terms of your event. These are the details the public will need to know.
  • Consider any other events happening in the community, and whether they would conflict with your event.
  • Determine finances, logistics, resources, venue, media, sponsorship, volunteers and staff.
  • Set the date. As early as possible, confirm with Facilities Booking that your preferred location and date are available. Municipal Recreation Facilities
  • Develop and consistently incorporate and communicate your theme. What activities can be added that reflect the theme?
  • What is the festival/event name?
  • Define your audience and participants: list segments of the population you would like to attract. Make a plan for advertising and promotion.
  • Consider “greening” the festival or event.

Determine your location:

  • Is the venue suitable for the programming?
  • Do you need a business licence for your event?
  • Is there plenty of space for performers, activities, vendors and participants?
  • Is there sufficient backstage space and are there adequate loading areas?
  • What are the site conditions (indoor vs. outdoor)?
  • Are power, lighting, parking, bathrooms and water readily available?
  • Is the venue accessible for people with disabilities and visitors in general?
  • Does the venue have fire certification, extinguishers, alarms and appropriate emergency exits?
  • Do you need permits (e.g., alcohol, building, electrical, fireworks, gas, food)? These are covered in your Special Event Permit.
    Note: permits and licences for amusement rides are governed by the province of Alberta Safety Codes Act and specific certifications are required for this type of event.
  • If you are using an outdoor location, is it close to indoor venues in case of
  • inclement weather? Have you created a contingency plan?
  • Do visitors have to travel to the venue? Is there parking available? Is there access to public transit?
  • Are there locations that could be adapted to serve as venues?
  • Is there all necessary signage (e.g. safety, site map)?
  • Do you need to circulate information about your event to the surrounding community members, homes, businesses, etc.?

Develop a budget with projected and actual costs:

Summarize projected expenses. As you build your event program, you should be able to estimate total expenses. This is the information that you will use to update the event client and make sure that there are no surprises later on. This is done in the planning phase of the event/festival.

  • Administrative and Printing charges. Several small item charges can eventually combine to make a larger expense line item. These include invitations, name badges, program booklets, event signage and banners.
  • Wages. Staff wages and special contracting fees.
  • Site costs. As you make plans and meet with the venue sales manager, track all projected rental fees for the event and function space as well as housekeeping, baggage handling and related expenses. A deposit may be required for events on municipal properties.
  • Decor costs. Most events involve expenses for decor such as centrepieces, flowers, tent rentals, etc.
  • Food and beverage costs. This includes all food and beverage charges, along with gratuities (which can account for up to 30 per cent of the total).
  • Advertising and Promotion.
  • Gifts for volunteers and VIPs. If guests will receive gifts, track the cost for them separately. You would be amazed at how much these items can cost. You may want to include thank yous for sponsors and volunteers.
  • Transportation charges. This includes shuttles, coaches, event transfers, delivery charges, and any related expenses.
  • Entertainment and equipment fees. A common expense in this category, for example, is audiovisual (A/V) equipment. But it's also a good spot to list the cost of hiring entertainers or providing honorariums for speakers. Remember to factor in entertainment rider expenses.
  • General event expenses. If your event includes spa services or activities such as golfing, tennis, rafting, biking, etc., you will want to note the fees separately. Summarize the total cost in your spreadsheet and attach a breakdown.
  • Permits. A Special Event Permit will typically be required. Additional building, electrical and gas permits may be required, and each of these permits will have fees associated with them. You may apply for a special event permit as early as eight weeks, and up to four weeks before your event. Visit Licenses and Permits to see what you may need.
  • Post-event expenses. If an expense doesn't fall into any of the previous categories, list it as a miscellaneous expense item here.
  • Contingency fund. Depending on the size or complexity of an event, you may want to dedicate as much as 20 per cent of the overall budget. Despite the best planning, there are usually some unexpected expenses or costs that will exceed projections. This will help you from going over budget.

Set a timeline

  • Focus your thoughts – write down what you want to achieve in the time allotted.
  • Prioritize.
  • Manage your time.
  • Problem-solve early.
  • Research all possible sources for your requirements.
  • Incorporate all locations, dates, times and contacts.
  • Review.

Top Questions to Ask During Pre-Event Planning

  • Who is the target audience for this event/festival? Does it conflict with any other events in the community?
  • Why is this event/festival needed in the community? Why is the event being proposed?
  • What is the content of the event/festival?
  • Is there a theme?
  • Where is the money for the event/festival coming from? What is your budget?
  • How will the event/festival be marketed? Are your marketing plan and timeline feasible?
  • Where and when will the event/festival be hosted?
  • Do you have the required permissions/permits for the event/festival?
  • Do you have the necessary resources for a successful event/festival?
  • What are your success criteria? How will you know your event has been successful?

Risk Assessment

Once you have finalized your detailed plans for the event, be sure to complete a risk assessment. This will address questions that you may not have thought about and will ensure due diligence by mitigating any risks. For events involving more than 700 people, an emergency response plan is required. Also consider a contingency plan in case of inclement weather (e.g. poor ice conditions for an outdoor hockey event).

A sample Emergency Response Plan can be requested by email: SpecialEvents@rmwb.ca

Event Execution

  • Obtain all necessary permits and approvals.
  • Invite attendees.
  • Publicize/market the event (only after municipal approval has been granted).
  • Order equipment, materials and services (e.g. audiovisual (A/V), catering, transportation, and so on).
  • Review permits, site maps and emergency plans.
  • Clearly establish event-day responsibilities for your team.
  • Review the volunteer plan. Train, communicate with, and recognize volunteers.
  • Follow your budget.

Things to Remember

  • Plan the details, but don’t obsess over them.
  • Have a “Plan B” and maybe even a “Plan C.”
  • Over-budget and underspend.
  • Plan within your means; bigger is not always better.
  • Setup always takes longer than takedown, and setup will require more time than you expect. Allow time during setup for your final permit inspections and to address any deficiencies.
  • Find a balance between cost and quality.

Event Closure

  • Final Report: Completed by each staff and/or committee member.
  • Review the success criteria established during the planning process.
  • Accurately account responsibilities – a detailed record of the timelines, responsibilities and duties of each member/staff.
  • Finalize the budget, which is done after the event has concluded and all accounts have been paid/received. Subtotal the budgeted categories and document the actual budget. Provide an explanation if the event was over or under budget. Make future recommendations, listing requirements for the event, successes and challenges.
  • Show appreciation, thanking everyone involved, including sponsors and volunteers. If applicable, send highlights of the event as related to your goal.

This page and attachments are intended to be a tool/guiding document only. Each event presents its own distinct benefits and challenges. Please adapt this guide to suit your needs, or use as a starting point for planning your event.

For questions regarding Municipal Services and/or permitting, please see the Licences and Permitting page or call Pulse Wood Buffalo at 780-743-7000.

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